Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Give Your Garbage the Granola Treatment

Since so many folks choose this time of a year to try new things, I thought this the perfect opportunity to challenge you to "Granola your Garbage".

This is going to be an ongoing lecture series of posts about different aspects of reducing waste in your household by recycling, composting, reusing/re-purposing and changing your shopping habits. To the existing mantra of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, I'd add Refuse and Reach Out.

Today's post is about Refusing. Some of these suggestions are probably already alive and well in your household. If you see something listed here that you haven't tried before, think it over. Every little bit honestly does help, so where's the harm? ;)

Ways to Refuse to contribute to over consumption and waste -

*When shopping -

*Refuse to have your item/s bagged at the store if you have just one or two items or for something that is already well packaged. Why do I need a plastic bag to contain my 4-pack of toilet paper again?

*When you're buying produce - do you really need one of those flimsy plastic bags for a two apples or a bunch of bananas? If you really do need one, consider bringing a few from home instead. I even use old bread bags to hold my more loosey-goosey produce or bulk items. Granola-friendly places like food co-ops and farmers markets won't blink twice when you pull out your crinkly old bread bag or reusable plastic container to carry your green beans or walnuts home in.

*Use sustainably produced reusable shopping bags whenever possible. This one falls in between reuse and refuse. The main problem with reusable shopping bags for most folks is that they often forget to bring them into the store when they shop. The way that I manage to remember to bring mine shopping is to fold them up and jam them in my purse just as soon as I empty them at home. Then, the next time I go anywhere in the car, grocery store or not, they go back to the car with me via my purse and are tossed onto the front passenger seat, where I can see and (theoretically, at least) remember them. The bottom line here is, refuse to create waste by using reusable goods whenever possible. For every plastic bag you take home, another one has to be made. Take yourself out of that cycle.

Remember too, that reusable bags aren't just for the grocery store. I also bring mine into Target, the library, Costco, etc.

*Refuse to buy items with excessive packaging. This doesn't necessarily mean that you have to buy in bulk, though you can save money and materials when you do. You can refuse to pay for wasteful packaging by buying bagged refills for things like hand soap, household cleaners (if you don't make your own), etc.

Kids' toys are a real killer on the packaging front too. It has been my personal experience that the more tie downs, wire twists and styrofoam inside of a toy's package, the more that-

a) That toy is likely cheaply made (but not cheaply bought), less sturdy, non-educational and generally devoid of redeeming value. It'd also probably survive a nuclear holocaust intact. I'm lookin' at you, Barbie.

b) You can bet your sweet bippy that that toy came from the other side of the planet and was thusly packaged for it's incredible journey.

*Refuse to buy goods made from endangered, war-torn and virgin sources. I've been buying recycled paper products for several years now, and according to this sign I saw in (of all places) the bathroom stall at the Seattle Aquarium-

I'm saving trees left and right! :) Our household uses recycled paper, tissues, toilet paper and paper towels and I have no complaints about their quality.

On the dramatically darker side of this same coin, we have the other two categories, endangered and war-torn sources. I myself would a million times rather go without than think about anyone or anything suffering for my comfort. My husband has an acquaintance from Sierra Leone who has told him before that the movie "Blood Diamond" wasn't too far off from what was happening in his hometown. That put me off of diamonds for good! Baubles are pretty, but people are dying for our vanity.

The same goes for endangered plants and animals and anything else that is irresponsibly harvested or produced. If you can get by with a kinder, gentler alternative, or better yet, just go without, why wouldn't you?

I'm certainly not perfect and don't expect you to be. I'm just asking you to consider consuming with a conscience. Pause for just a minute before buying and think of your kids, your grandkids, etc. Is this moments comfort worth losing a given resource forever? Is it worth some else's having to go without?

Up next in this series - Reach Out. :)

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