Tuesday, October 5, 2010

RRR matey

Last Wednesday we only had one bag of trash go out in the weekly pick-up can. 7 people. 1 dog. 7 days. 1 bag of trash.


However, we have a preponderance of recycling to go out this week. While I feel much better about the amount of waste headed out trapped in plastic bags, taking up landfill space, I'm a bit bothered by the overall waste we're putting out. Because recycling still is waste, just less so. It takes energy to transport, energy to process, energy to transform...and all of that takes money too. City money that might be better spent elsewhere...if I cut down our overall output of packaging.

So a reality check. The 3 R's:

They aren't in that order randomly.


I've done some of this with turning the lights off, using a clothes line, switching to cloth diapers (which also has a reuse element to it), putting in vinyl windows to reduce our heating & a/c use. I've also done a bit of this with buying in bulk, reducing packaging. We've also reduced our driving time by moving near everything we do. We used to fill the gas tank every 6-7 days. I filled it today. The last time we put gas in the van was September 10th. 25 days ago. That is phenomenal. I was hoping to make it 4 weeks, but we were just a bit short of that. Still...25 days on a tank of gas...

Now, I'm going to do something I don't often do:

Reducing means buying less. Buying things, consuming, is antithetical to a green lifestyle. Always. Doing without is the greenest option. We all have a number of things we just have to have. We have to eat. We need shelter and clothing. And when we make those purchases, we need to make them as wisely as possible to do the least amount of consumption, the least damage we can. But consumerism kills the planet. 

I may be shooting myself in the foot with this next bit, but it's heavy on my mind. (Oy! What a metaphor mishmash I've created. Soap boxes and foot shooting and mind weights, oh my!) "Green giveaways" are NOT living up to the pursuit of sustainability. I'm following a slew of blogs right now to learn as much as I can about living the most eco-friendly lifestyle possible. There are parents around the globe trying their hardest to be good stewards of the planet we are leaving our children, and I truly appreciate the work they are doing. So many of these blogs are offering giveaways. Eco-toys, eco-books, eco-make-up. And I get it. Money is tough. I'd love to help my family with my writing, and I know that sponsorship is a huge deal, as is getting free things for your family. And I'll admit I've entered a couple of giveaways trying to get cloth diapers for Girl 2. Those things are expensive, and we really can't afford many. 

But I think I have to stop. It's hypocritical. Because shipping one cloth diaper across the country is a waste. Shipping a box of wooden blocks from NYC to Idaho is a waste. Buying local is reducing. Buying less...that's even better. Asking, "What can I buy so that I'm more Earth-friendly?" is like asking, "What can I eat so that I lose weight?"  Both are fair questions, to a point. But really we should ask, "Can I cut this out? Do I really need this?" Endless acquisition is toxic.

Junk Lady from Henson's "Labyrinth"

 Minimalism is really the only true path to sustainability. That's hard for me to say. I like stuff. I want things. I hate my cell phone. I want a new one. I want new clothes, books, a bike...My computer is slow, I'd like an iPad...or even a laptop. I have five children! I'm hardly the picture of minimalism. Just the other day I posted my pages and pages of to-dos...not a minimalist lifestyle. I need to work harder to pare away the crap. 

Every single choice we make affects someone on this planet. That sounds overblown, but it isn't. What I buy affects the economy and jobs. It affects wildlife and plant life. It affects the people who see me with my new acquisition. It affects my children. Some things are small, and not a huge deal, others are significant. But every purchase/action has an effect. We talk about purchasing power, but in a capitalist society it's easy to overlook the power of putting your wallet back in your pocket.

There are two more "R's" to discuss... but I'm feeling a bit like I've shouted in church. Reusing and Recycling can wait for another day.


  1. You make an excellent point regarding the give-aways, I never thought of it myself. Part of me thinks they are great because it's helping smaller, eco-friendly companies (sometimes) get word out about their product, yet there is shipping involved. I hope the companies are using eco-friendly shipping supplies..at least that would help.

    Congrats on only one bag of trash this week! I'm only a family of 2 (well, 3 if you count the dog) and we only have 1 bag of trash most weeks. I love it! Some weeks the recycle bin is filled up, but usually it isn't. That makes me happy too.

    Congrats on going so long on one tank of gas too! I have to fill up every 6-7 days myself, and so does husband. I drive 20+ miles to work. I hate it, but work at a University that is close to the city and live in an area we selected because of the awesome crime rate and public school system. I'm hoping one day to be able to work from home though. But then..don't we all.

    I found you via the Green Blog Hop.

  2. Until this past May, we were driving about 3-4 hours a day, in half hour trips back & forth between work & home, and the kids' school & home. It was horrible. But like you said, we did it because we liked the low crime and inexpensive housing in the suburb we were living in. Moving near to all we do has changed our lives. We can do so many good things with the time we used to spend driving!

    Of course the car was broken in to the first week we lived here...but it's been good since then.

    There are always trade offs, in every decision. That goes for giveaways, commuting, purchasing...It's hard to make mindful decisions when the issues are so multifaceted.

  3. New follower here, following you back via the Green Blog Hop. Very thought-provoking post! I look forward to reading more of your blog! :-)

  4. Thanks, Shannon! Me too...but for you. :)

  5. Hi! I am a new Green Follower.
    Found you at the Green Hop.
    Living Out Loud