I think of myself as a fairly environmentally friendly guy. I recycle every week; I bought recycled blue jean insulation to re-insulate the attic of my 90 year old house (that I purposely purchased in a neighborhood with extensive amenities within walking distance); I keep my thermostat at 60 all winter; I use biodegradable bags for my dog’s business; when I eat somewhere that doesn’t recycle I bring my cans and bottles home; I eat almost exclusively organic; I don’t use synthetic fertilizers or weed killers on my lawn; I have shade trees surrounding my house; I don’t eat meat. I know there is more I can do, but I think of myself as more environmentally conscious than the average guy.
Its funny how one day, you can be content in who you are and how you live and the next you see or hear, or do, something that makes the walls of complacency and self satisfaction come toppling down on your head – making you wish you wore a helmet. I had one of those days last week. It started as one of my favorite days at MOM’s, new magazine day. This is the day that we get boxes and boxes of magazines delivered. It is like Christmas every month! I love magazines and I eagerly await each shipment to see what’s new in the world. After hungrily tearing open a box and digging through the contents, I came across Dwell. I’ve always been a fan of Dwell mainly because I’m a fan of all things weird and useless, and Dwell is usually chock full of weird and useless stuff.
The main headline on the cover said “Rethink Recycling.” That intrigued me, so I started to flip through and on page 72, I came across the most striking photo. It was a picture that showed a city with garbage piled every where, you can see it through the windows of buildings, on the street and on the roof tops. This is a neighborhood on the outskirts of Cairo, and the people who live there collect all of Cairo’s trash. They are able to reuse or sell 80% of all the garbage received, which – ask any urban planner or waste management company in the nation – is an amazing feat.
The picture stopped me dead in my tracks, and I’ve been thinking about it for days. My wife and I produce about 6 bags of trash a month. Its not as much as I used to, and not nearly the 8 – 10 bags per week that my family produced growing up, but add that up and its significant. What really blew my mind was thinking about what I would do if I had to fend for myself with my trash. What would I do if the garbage man didn’t come every Wednesday and whisk my waste away to a land of magic, where I no longer have to think about it? What would I do with the plastic wrap from my left overs? Or the old sponges I can’t use? Or the kitty litter, when I change the litter boxes? What would I do if I had to live with, and in, my garbage? I don’t really have an answer, but now I’m going to do something I’ve never done before – really think about my household waste and how I can eliminate it, especially the stuff that can’t be recycled or reused, because I do that already.
I decided that this is a problem I need to start addressing now. I gave myself a modest challenge, by the end of February I will only contribute ONE bag per week to the magic land of “out of sight, out of mind”. I’m not sure yet how I’m going to do it, but when I get home tonight, I’m going to dig through that trash and figure out just exactly what it is I throw away.
Dan works at Rockville MOM’s.