So all my piracy has left me with a large gap in my life...no, it's not the lack of human contact, that was there already. The large gap was/is the time I'm spending NOT shopping.
Now you are probably thinking horrid thoughts about how much I must have BEEN shopping in order to now have so much time filled with non-shopping. All perfectly deserved, but even so, I was never as high an offender as most. I may have to rewind a bit to explain.
I don't know where I should start, with my overcrowded closet and the moment that I felt my heart soar as I contemplated what it would be like to just get rid of it ALL, or with the visit to the thrift store that made me realize I could NEVER buy a "new" outfit again and be completely and sufficiently clothed for the rest of my life by way of other people's cast-offs, or with the website The Story of Stuff
that made me re-evaluate my contribution to environmental harm not just in terms of what I brought home, but by the effects and environmental expenditures production and transportation put into those items, or should I start with my first knitted shopping bag?
I knit my first shopping bag about a year ago. It was cotton and pretty and stretched really big to fit groceries in it. But I needed more bags for the amount of groceries I was buying. So I started bringing my knit bag inside of a tote bag...and then another bag, and then I got a thermal bag...and now I probably have about 7 or 8 "grocery bags". Baby steps. I loved not taking bags while I was at the store, and even more I loved not having huge bags of bags growing each week in my recycling pile.
Then I started doing "Eat to Live" during the summer. The diet is largely vegetarian/vegan and the staple foods are lots and lots of veggies and fruits. So as I began doing this diet I began visiting the grocery store once or twice a week instead of once or twice a month. But instead of increasing my garbage I was actually reducing it. I started a compost bin and would go out every week or two to bury the compost in the garden. I put all the plastic containers, tin cans, and cardboard boxes in with my recycling and reused the thin produce bags whenever I could. Very little excess packaging remained. My trash bin filled up once a month rather than once a week. It was inspiring. I started looking at what I was still throwing away and despising it. I began looking at styrofoam trays and plastic bags that had to be thrown out from the corner of my eye--they were personally offensive, they were making me look bad by creating an environmental footprint where I wanted there to be none.
I began noticing that when I went out to eat and was given plastic utensils, Styrofoam cups, plastic containers for salad dressing, cheese, sauce, etc. it was usually without my permission and forcing me into creating a footprint from one meal that might equal a normal week from my at home eating, or a month from people in other countries.
Then I watched The Story of Stuff. And honestly it made me snap out of a delusion I was in. I felt I was doing well. I thought "well look here, I'm conscientious, I reduce, I reuse, I recycle, I don't buy animal products as much, I'm shopping at places that are supporting local and organic farming. I'm way ahead of everyone I know, so surely that's enough, right?"
Let me tell you a side story: When I was in Africa I stayed a number of places with a number of people and usually when first arriving offered some money or food to help facilitate my stay. I was never asked for this, but offered anyways. It was only after I had been in Malawi for 5 months or so that someone asked me how much I had given and I had said "as much as they would take". I was then told that I was supposed to have INSISTED on giving them more, and that most likely the people I stayed with in villages suffered hardship in trying to feed me for the amount of time I had stayed. My heart hurt. I was crushed. People already poor and already burdened suffered without telling me. How could I possibly make up for this? It was truly impossible.
It was a similar feeling, of being crushed by the notion that I
was a burden, that I AM a burden, when I watched The Story of Stuff. It was all there. I was buying things...lots of things, here and there, random things, little things, cheap things, unimportant things...and those things were having social and environmental tolls that I could not see or possibly calculate. Every little piece of junk I had ever bought had some price that I had NOT paid. A price not necessarily in dollars, but in fuels burned, natural materials squandered, labor exploited, toxins released into the air and the water, and that those items still had within them more toxins and more material for the landfill unless I could keep them in use. And I have a house FULL of this stuff
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Labels: americans, compost, consumerism, environmentalism, recycling, reuse, vegetarianism