Today is magic day. We usually call it trash day, but it often feels like magic. Thursday mornings, my neighbors and I dutifully, and gratefully, shlep our trashcans, full of decaying, odorous debris with seven days’ worth of personal waste, to the bottom of our driveways. We leave it there, and walk away. Poof, when we return, that trash has disappeared.
Our world is once again clean, clear, and more to the nose. Out of sight, out of mind. Gone. Away. And so, in our world of magical thinking, all is good.
That is what we used to think. But today we know this to be wrong. We know now that what goes around, comes around. There is no “away”. There is no there there. No place on earth is unaffected by the detritus and debris that we create through the consumption of our lives. It is reported that the Alaskan Inuit have the world’s highest levels of DDT and PDBs in their bodies – though they live thousands of miles from the sources.
Many of us have begun to respond. We try to limit our waste. We recycle everything from plastic bags to banana peels. And yet, as conscientious as we may be, we still have garbage bags every week to set out on the corner. Commercial packaging is part of the problem. Non-recyclable plastics is another. I suppose unnecessary purchases is a third. And while we can control the last, we cannot personally control the first two. Which is why living an environmentally friendly, or sustainable, life, is not something we can achieve only by our personal behavior. We need to move the movers, the makers, the manufacturers, merchants and money-lenders. We need to promote and support legislation that requires reduced waste and proper disposal.
Anthony Cortese, a former Commissioner of the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection and now president of Second Nature (http://www.secondnature.org), tells us that as Americans, we “consume the equivalent of our body weight in solid materials daily, over 94% of which goes to waste before we ever see the product or service. It takes about 2000 pounds of material, most of which went to waste, to make a laptop computer.”
The stuff that we personally consume represents only a small portion of the overall waste we are responsible for.
What to do about it? Yes, keep recycling, reducing, reusing. Keep learning and encouraging others to do the same. And, just as much, when you do go shopping, make your purchases make a statement. Buy products from manufacturers who work to reduce the waste stream they create from production, to packaging, to transportation to disposal.
Watch this fun 20 minute video to learn about moving from a linear, unsustainable production model to a cyclical, sustainable production model. The Story of Stuff (http://www.storyofstuff.com).
Then before you make your next purchase, check out the most environmentally friendly products available. For more information on a world of green products, visit http://www.coopamerica.org. Get their Green Pages. Let your purchases help change the world.