Musings

Waste Not, Want Not

My summer reading usually consists of more books than I can realistically gobble up during the summer months but I still stock up and keep the optimism alive that I will get through them all. This reading of mine falls into three basic categories: light, medium and heavy, which is also how I generally feel on any given day during the summer based on the humidity levels.

Light: pure entertainment. I’ll admit it here that I do love a good “beach” read, consisting of stories of girlfriends, relationships and mini-dramas in seaside towns. No “romance” novels, though-I do have my bar.

Medium: Great reading and writing by these authors. Think The Kite Runner, The Girl with the Pearl Earring, the “classics” that I somehow skipped over in previous years and new, amazing authors. It’s continually staggering to me the incredible stories that so many folks out there are walking around with in their heads.

Heavy: These usually fall in the zones of food, health and eco-minded lifestyle for me. Social issues, food issues, health issues. You get the jist. Currently on deck, The China Study and The Edible Schoolyard, although there will be more, I’m sure, as it’s only mid-July.

I did also picked up another “heavy” book called The Zero-Waste Lifestyle, by Amy Korst. As someone who is about to embark on a big home renovation, one of the by-products of shifting your home in every direction is the opportunity for purging. And serious purging, too, as we will have a giant dumpster taking up residence in our driveway shortly. Big things can be dumped with the greatest of ease. Old tvs! Big, cheap bookcases that we have hung onto for far too long! Weird hand-me-down pieces of furniture! Good bye to one and all!

The Zero-Waste Lifestyle book, obviously, is a radical one. We are talking about people here who, despite the average 4.43 pounds of trash that the typical American “makes” on a daily basis, have whittled their trash output  to a staggering one pound (or small bag’s worth) per year. You heard that correctly. Per year. Radical indeed, but these folks have mastered the art of thinking before they buy (do I really need this? do I need to purchase something in this packaging (maybe buy in bulk?)? What will become of the packaging when I am done with the product?), recycling, up-cycling (ie, turning old stuff into usable stuff), and composting.

This got me thinking and has propelled me to finally start using the compost bin that my in-laws gave me a few years ago. It’s been sitting out by our garbage cans and this week, when I noticed it being overtaken by vines, I realized that I had to swing into action and start using this thing once and for all. For starters, in reading just a few chapters of this Zero-waste book, it spurs you to think differently. A few morsels:

-just 75 years ago, Americans lead a virtually trash-free lifestyle
-There is a giant floating mass of trash 2x the size of Texas located roughly between Asia and North America consisting mostly of plastic. Horrible enough of a thought but if you think that that plastic degrades, breaks down into small particles (microparticles) and then these microparticles absorb “persistant organic pollutants” such as DDT AND THEN they are ingested by sea animals and guess where they go next…onto our plates and into us. Blech.
-The largest percentage of our trash can be easily and mindfully disposed of: food scraps, yard trimmings and plastic. The first two can be composted (by us, not a landfill. Even on a landfill, it can sit and not break down for years and years) and the third can be recycled, which is a start and better than ending up on that floating island.

This is just the tip of the iceberg of realizations within this book, which although a fabulously geeky read for me this summer, is proving to be very thought-provoking. Call me a geek, which also leads me to the task of setting up my compost bin this week and hopefully, by this time next summer, I’ll be harvesting my own “black gold”. I sound like one of the Beverly Hillbillies. As a gardener, I can think of nothing better for my flowers and yard (ultimately economical, too, as I won’t be buying top soil any more!). And as someone who would like to try to avoid contributing to the growing size of that floating island and our landfills which are reaching insane proportions and contributing to the breakdown of our lands with the seepage and pollution, this also sits well with me.

Hey, at some point, we all have to put the breaks on our consumption. It can’t just keep going the way it’s going, to put it simply.

So, to top off this post, a friend of mine recently posted one of the best You Tube videos I’ve seen in a while. It brought tears to my eyes and complimented my heavy reading perfectly. Although, as you will see, if some items did not end up in a landfill, this video would not happen, BUT it’s also a perfect argument for using what we have or have been given and also making something out of seemingly nothing.

I hope these thoughts and this video clip starts your week off on the right note, pardon my pun~

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