So you’ve probably already decided on your new years resolution this year (maybe even on more than one). Lose 15 pounds, go to the gym more, eat healthier, stop spending so much money & start ACTUALLY saving; take that trip you’ve always wanted to go on, learn French. Donate to a charity, start going to church like you used to. Something cheesy about being happy every day of the year.. Well I’m here to convince you to change your mind and pick one single resolution (Which may help you reach most of those other resolutions I mentioned..). The resolution I’m talking you into is to waste less in 2015.
The average American produces 102 tons of trash a year.
And the number one source of trash? Unnecessary packaging.
You might be saying “Oh I recycle though! It’s fine!” or “I save leftovers!” or even “I reuse bottles and glasses!”
That’s great. But here’s the ugly truth: that’s just not enough.
1. You’re Recycling: Recycling isn’t as angelic as it’s made out to be – yes it’s helping to some extent, but a large portion of what you send out in your recycling bin is made of so many kinds of plastics and metals, it’s almost impossible to recycle and many times just goes to the trash.
2. You’re Saving Leftovers: Good! You’re working on not wasting food… (haha maybe… how many times have those gone bad in your fridge?). What do leftovers come in? Packaging! Plastic or styrofoam. Which go straight to the trash. Styrofoam NEVER degrades. EVER. And plastic.. well plastic uses/creates so many toxic chemicals when being produced, and when put into a landfill, those chemicals seep everywhere ( plus a large portion of plastic materials don’t make it to the trash/landfill – they end up in the ocean.)
3. You’re Reusing: Seriously, that’s awesome. That takes effort. But how many times can you reuse something before you eventually throw it away?
Why not just restrict the packaging and the products altogether?
When you buy something, you’re voting. You’re voting to keep the packaging on all those products. You’re voting for all that packaging to go straight to the landfill.
There are only two man made structures visible from outer space without magnification: The Great Wall of China, and the largest town dump in the world in NYC.
Disgusting right? The two things visible with your eyes from space; one showing mans achievement, and the other showing its possible downfall.
Think of that storage unit you have downtown. Do you really miss any of it? Do you miss those extra sets of dishes? Do you miss your 12 pairs of shoes that hurt your feet or that you never wear? How about that old furniture? Do you ever miss any of the knick knacks in there? Have you even touched them in the last 5 years? Is there a valid reason you still have them? Probably not. But you bought it all one day.
Over the past few years, and especially in 2014, I have noticed how much I find myself being sucked into the consumer “Buy buy buy!” mindset. But I’ve realized there’s a power in saying no and not putting something in your shopping cart. There’s a power in saving your money for an experience or for something more special than what’s on that rack. There’s something so freeing about getting rid of half of your closet, and having more space to create, more time to do what you want to do. Not to mention all of the money you save.
Many people may think it’s depriving yourself to say no to things you may think that you want in the moment; like you’re sacrificing something. But, refusing things (disposable things) should not be confused with sacrifice. It used to be that it was a sacrifice to buy something. You saved your hard earned money to buy something you needed or really wanted. Now it’s thought of as a sacrifice to not buy something.
4 out of 10 of the dollars we spend every year are wasted on things we don’t need, or even want.
That means you could be saving 40% of your money. Forty percent. Almost half. What would you do with that money? Buy a new car? Go back to college, pay for your kid’s college? Go on an awesome vacation? Start a business?
So yes. “Reduce, reuse, recycle” is good. But here’s another even better word: “refuse”.
Ask yourself: Do I actually need this? Do I actually want this? Is it worth it? If not, then refuse it.
“Let’s say your shirt is $24 and you get paid $8 an hour. You are wearing three hours of your life”. Let this change your idea about money, and about material things altogether. Is that item worth paying a portion of your lifetime for?
Here’s what you should follow (in order)
- Refuse (What you don’t need)
- Reduce (What you do need)
- Reuse (What you consume)
- Recycle (What you can’t refuse, reduce, or reuse)
Next time someone offers you a pen at a conference, or a flyer on the street, or some little knick knack you’ll throw in a drawer and never see again until the day you throw it away, say no. Refuse. It’s as simple as that.
It’s the same attitude you need when purchasing an item. Refusing to buy something is the ultimate step to help the planet, and yourself. You’d be reducing the amount of trash that goes into that huge landfill seen from space. You’d probably start appreciating what you already have a little bit more. It’s not about becoming hippies. Living with less does not mean living poorly.
If anything, having less makes you richer in what matters.
As the saying goes, Waste not, Want not.
xoxo, Little Bird ❤
I guess you could call this part one of “A Different Kind of Resolution”.
My next post will go in depth about how to start this resolution. Obviously not everyone is going to give up all of their possessions and live monk-ly lives, or stop buying things altogether. However, there are many things all of us can do to declutter, and lean towards a waste-less-ness life.
A little something to start you off!
4 SIMPLE WAYS TO BE LESS WASTEFUL THIS YEAR (and every year)
1. Buy in bulk. It eliminates packaging + can be a lot more economical in the long run. (Check out the blog recommendation below to learn how). Along with this, think twice about buying plastic products.
2. Gift giving – give people experiences instead of package-ridden toys or presents. Your loved ones will remember a trip or outing, a hike, camping, movies, museums, amusement parks, etc, much more than a present they will soon add to their pile.
3. A little unrelated, but – One question many people are confused how to answer: “Paper or plastic?” PICK PAPER. Plastic is just terrible. It needs its own blog post to really get into the details. But paper is the better choice. It can degrade easily in landfills, and is easily recycled.
4. Refuse Junkmail! You know all those advertisements and coupons you get in the mail that automatically get thrown away? Stop the waste before it has the chance to be sent to you. You can refuse a lot of junk mail on dmachoice.org and catalog choice.org.
Much of what I wrote in this post was learned or summarized from an amazing book I’ve recently read! All credit goes to the author.
1. Garbology: Our Dirty Love Affair With Trash by Edward Humes
In Humes’ book I learned about the amazing story of Bea Johnson’s family who have reduced their yearly un-recyclable, un-compostable, un-giveawayable, un-repurposed trash consumption to only a mason-jar-full.
2. If you’re interested in taking up this New Years resolution of wasting less, I highly recommend checking out Bea Johnson’s blog, The Zero Waste Home. She also has a book, which I am very excited to read, as well as an app you can download for free called Bulk. These will help you learn to buy in bulk and live a Zero Waste Life.
3. Another great resource is a documentary called “Addicted to Plastic”. This is available on Netflix! Again, highly recommended.