Saturday, February 5, 2011

Garbage Day.

Every week, someone you probably don't know comes along  and takes stuff that used to belong to you. Stuff that you don't want anymore, and makes it vanish from your life forever.
The old garbage disappears and makes space for the new.
As various cities have shown, when garbage collectors go on strike we get bogged down pretty quickly.
There's two reasons for this. Part of it is our responsibility. We waste a lot of stuff. The other part is that our culture and our systems make it the default to waste a lot of stuff. Systems like the the grocery store and the garbage man.
Imagine, for a moment, how your consumption patters would change if you had to keep all of your garbage. Then go watch the movie "Garbage! The revolution starts at home" to see how it played out with people who actually tried this.
Where does garbage go? Away. The trouble with 'away' is that it doesn't really exist. Everything has to go somewhere, and whether you burn it or bury it, it's never really away.
We are well trained consumers though, and by now most of you have made the leap to recycling as part of the solution. Recycling is good, but it's really only our third choice.
Take bottled water, for instance. The benefit you're looking for is really just to be able to drink safe, clean water.
You don't need a bottle at all. With fountains, or hypothetically, clean wells or springs, you could drink water without ever needing to use a water bottle. It's not always convenient, but it's a possibility.
Next best is to reuse the bottle, and that's where your Nalgene, Sigg, or CamelBak water bottle comes into play. The bottle provides convenience and portability without requiring the tons of plastic that bottled water does.
Some glass beer bottles are reused as well. The glass can handle being returned, cleaned and resold, and systems are in place to handle it. Plastic can't handle that sort of treatment. Other systems like glass milk bottles were effective as well, but have given way to cheaper lighter, less reusable materials. 
Recycling is at best, a third option, but it's still better than the trash.
The takeaway message here is to buy consciously. Prioritize your three Rs, and reduce your contribution to society's waste. Reduce first. With enough reduction, maybe one day we can make garbage day a thing of the past.
Bonus points: If everyone reduces their garbage enough, you may be able to get your property taxes reduced, thanks to the reduction in tipping fees.

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