Tuesday Open Thread ~ The Capacity of Abundance
“Should consumerism be the last thing we accomplish as a species, after all this evolution and the miraculous series of accidents that granted our sentience? Would that not be an utterly dull and inane end to our history?” ~ Robert Wringham, Escape Everything!: Escape from work. Escape from consumerism. Escape from despair.
As someone who does a lot of cooking, I have a lot of leftovers. Back in the old days, my large collection of Tupperware was my first go-to in terms of food storage. But as the years passed, I eventually began using Ziplock plastic bags. My reasoning? They were easier. So imagine what my attempt at sustainability looked like as I proudly handed over my food scraps each week in several brand new Ziplock bags to Christine Lenches-Hinkel of 301 Organics as she helped me with my composting?
To her credit, she never said a thing. Instead, after she emptied the plastic bags out, she would subtly fold them in half, hand them back to me and quietly say, “for next time”. The first time she did that, I vaguely remember understanding the intent but conveniently forgot about it after she left. We are, after all, creatures of habit and I just didn’t see myself as a person who was “crazy” enough to wash out Ziplock storage bags and re-use them. I mean, the whole idea of using them to begin with, or so I thought at the time, was so that I didn’t have to wash them, right?
Fast forward to the following week and there I am handing Christine another pair of spanking new plastic Ziplock bags filled with food scraps. I can only imagine what she was thinking but whatever it was she never gave herself away. Again she emptied the contents into the composting bin, neatly folded the plastic bags in half, handed them to me, and quietly said “for next time”.
Week three and I’m in the kitchen ready to place my food scraps inside a new Ziplock bag when I thought to myself, “Christine is going to know I didn’t use the ones she gave back to me from last week; this bag looks way too new”. So, what did I do? Well, at first I let out a big groan, and then with a good deal of irritation, I scrounged around my trash bin looking for a used Ziplock bag. Begrudgingly or not, what started out as simply re-using my plastic bags has now grown to a greater awareness of the other things I buy, use, and waste in my household. Suddenly, as I did more research, the ramifications of over-consumption began to sink in.
“In the past three decades alone, one-third of the planet’s natural resources have been consumed. Gone. We are cutting and mining and hauling and trashing the place so fast that we’re undermining the planet’s very ability for people to live here. Where I live, in the United States, we have less than 4% of our original forests left. Forty percent of the waterways have become undrinkable. And our problem is not just that we’re using too much stuff, but we’re using more than our share. We have 5% of the world’s population but we’re consuming 30% of the world’s resources and creating 30% of the world’s waste. If everybody consumed at U.S. rates, we would need 3 to 5 planet. And you know what? We’ve only got one.” ~ The Story of Stuff
The Chinese philosopher Lao Tzu once said, “watch your actions, they become your habits”. Or as my Mother used to say, “If you want to change your life, change something you do every day”. Maybe quoting my Mother alongside the ancient wisdom of a Chinese philosopher to talk about re-using plastic bags might seem like a bit of a stretch, but what if we applied that idea to the vast population? Because that’s what it would take. One person at a time. Whether you observe your actions as it relates over-consumption, or what steps you need to take towards zero waste, laying the foundation towards fostering better habits begins with what you are doing today. Baby steps, folks. So how about in addition to washing out our plastic bags, we begin to think about what we buy, use, and throw away?