Saturday, April 23, 2016
At work this week, there was a presentation about waste minimization. Among the facts, one that stood out for me was about the amount of food waste incurred. If we went on throwing away food the way we did, our landfill island, Pulau Semakau will be filled within our lifetime. Ok, now I'm a bit more guilty about throwing away that leek that was going bad...
However, as I went about my day, I also realised just how much trash I threw as an individual consumer. I bought a drink, trashed the drink packet. I received junk mail, trashed it. I bought toiletries, trashed the packaging. I marked some worksheets done badly, trashed... just kidding. ;p
My house is full of incidental trash. This includes trash that I created in consuming another good, sometimes a necessity. For example, I bought shampoo, which resulted in a plastic bottle becoming trash. I bought sanitary napkins, resulting in the packaging becoming plastic trash. Plastic is also difficult for me to upcycle. With varying success, I can turn paper into various things but plastic is difficult to bend and mold into shape.
Incidental trash also comes in other forms that comes to me unasked for. I might receive gifts from a friend. Sometimes, I can upcycle the packaging, sometimes I cannot. I forget to bring recycle bags to the supermarket and I end up with more plastic bags than I can handle. Junk mail comes, totally unasked for. I receive free gifts in the forms of stationery sometimes at work and I now have enough notebooks to record my memoirs and maybe those of my future children. Sometimes, these free gifts come in plastic packaging, you guessed it - Trash.
I try to make my small way about recycling and reusing. I bring lunch to work in my electric lunchbox instead of disposable containers. I refuse plastic bags. I try to salvage paper products into other stuff. But yet I feel like the onslaught continues.
Which is why I salute people like Lauren Singer. She is a 23 year old singer in NYC whose trash in 4 months equals to the volume of a jam jar! I found her in a magazine which led me to her blog Trash is for Tossers. (I do doubt the true impact of her actions, though, because while you may not produce that much trash personally, the pursuit of your career may produce more trash than you think. But to each his own.)
When I read her efforts, I look around my overstuffed bookshelf and I feel very guilty. Maybe I shouldn't have bought that last bout of stationery......
She does make a point that I can resonate with. That we should evaluate our lives and think of how much and what we really need to be happy with. It brought me back to the days of holiday. I had the time to cook at home, saving on outside meals. I borrowed books from the library, I did art at home, I refused to add more art materials and instead raided my existing supplies. I decided not to throw away magazines but sold them to others, giving them another lease of life and earning some money as well.
That's when I realised that, to be truly contented, everything I needed was already around me. I had to see it for myself and tell myself to do it, rather than thinking I always needed to buy something new.
Realization is the first step. Action is the second and hardest step to do. Again, though, start easy, start small and remember that even the smallest actions do more good than doing nothing at all.