Thursday, December 1, 2011

Simple Suggestion #103... Avoid disposables

Four years ago during my Master Composter/Recycler course, you could say I got up close and personal with garbage, to the point where the already avid recycler within became almost manic. (I've since toned down some, you'll be happy to know.) Visiting Edmonton's World Class Waste Management Branch facilities woke me up to the humungous masses of garbage our city's population produces and all the effort it takes to deal with our waste. If you've never given it much thought, you might like to see this:

And most cities don't have this kind of stuff!

Today's suggestion comes out of the awareness that we can waste less. Our society has become far too reliant on disposable items, forgetting that single-use stuff, no matter how small, has to go somewhere. I remember being totally disgusted when Swiffer (the floor sweeper people) came out with single-use wet towelettes for the bottom of its little mops. What ever happened to the good old washable rag and a pail of hot, soapy water?

If you look around life these days, you'll see hundreds, if not thousands of disposable items that the big corporations want us to depend on (read: use without thinking), everything from cameras to make-up applicators to single serving restaurant jams and salad dressings, to LCD TV wipes (again, where's the rag?) Unfortunately, a lot of them have already become so ingrained in our lives that we never give them a second thought. Consider: plastic cutlery, paper cups and plates, soda cans and water bottles, paper-towels, etc. If all these things weren't so darned convenient, and if human beings weren't quite so -- dare I say it? -- lazy, these things would be outlawed because they use up the earth's resources, and send them directly to the dump.

There are many ways to avoid single-use items, but they all require a bit more effort on our parts most of the time. There can also be simple solutions... if we use our heads. 

Christmas wrap and gift wrap are often single use... not only that, but they're not easy on recycling programs, as they can jam up machines, or may have tinfoil in them that's impossible to extricate from the paper portion. Our family's solution? Using colourful newspaper comics saved through the year (which our girls tend to reread as they wrap gifts, enjoying the humour the second time around) or reusing gift bags from years gone by.

These are just waiting for use in 24 days or so.

One of my sisters-in-law sewed a few fabric bags that have made the rounds a few times, which is really great. Wrapping a gift in something useful, like a tea towel, is another way of ensuring less wasted paper.

What's the craziest single use item you've ever seen? And how do you avoid creating excess stuff for our landfills at Christmas time, or any time of the year? Leave me a comment if you like. I love to hear original (and not so original) ideas, because they give me hope, something we can all use during these dark days of the year!

"Hope begins in the dark, the stubborn hope that if you just show up and try to do the right thing, the dawn will come. You wait and watch and work: You don't give up."
- Anne Lamott  from Bird by Bird: Some instructions on writing and life

P.S. Looking for more Simple Suggestions? Try here.

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