Tuesday, February 13, 2007

Reuse vs Compact

Over the last several weeks I've been making growing lists of crafts and little homemade projects to do with old balls of yarn, cloth (a la Wardrobe Refashion), paper and more. At the same time, I'm giving away Seven Things a week. I'm simultaneously trying to wean myself from consumerism by not buying any new non-consumables.

Today I had a near emotional revelation-slash-breakdown. I came to two realizations:

1. I've been saving scraps and making more stuff

2. I'm trying to reduce the amount of stuff in my life

These two are like Scylla and Charybdis - how will I ever get through?

If you read the AMAZING book Hooked: Buddhist Writings on Greed, Desire, and the Urge to Consume , you find that the urge for STUFF is irresistible. Even the Dalai Lama has felt it! So I want to be aware of what I consume, and to try to reduce my consumption.

Still, it is simultaneously important to do the three R's: Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle, in that order.

Reduce: We are trying to remove the things from our lives we don't need. That means not necessarily KEEPING less, but buying and USING less.

Reuse: This is where the dilemma comes in. If I have 100 sheets of one-sided paper. Should I try to reuse them first in my printer before recycling them? Yes. What if I have 1000? 10,000? It comes down to practicality, for most things. But now, if I have 50 balls of yarn that I hope to use, is it just clogging up space or is it really of value?

Recycle: These days we recycle with ease. We haven't yet set up composting but I hope to return to it soon. We are lucky in that our curbside recycling takes styrofoam and plastic bags and more. However, when do I know when to put something in the recycling bin? When I have too many to use? When it tears? When it smells funny?

I've come up with some guidelines to try to follow in this regard:

Reduce: Seven Things is helping with this. I'm also trying to "use up" things but that means maybe using up stuff more slowly. Like not repeating with my shampoo, and filling the laundry detergent to the line until I start making my own. Also important is buying less packaged stuff. For example, Costco sells certain fruit only in plastic (BAD!). We should also return their cardboard boxes or bring our own.

Reuse: I plan to reuse something until it is unusable and not buy any more of it. Plastic bags will be used again and again and again until they can't be used (or are given away as packaging for gifts or something else). Same with cling wrap and plastic things that fruit come in and other such things.

Recycle: Recycling ought to be a last resort. Things like styrofoam peanuts I get by mistake, or shredded plastic bags.

Finally, the trash should really be trash - nothing that could have been recycled. After all, why do we still have anything to throw away anyway after reducing and recycling and composting?

(Image from Shambala.com)

1 comment:

Croq said...

Hi Rani! (I just typed out a long comment and then lost it - eek!). I would love to reprint this blog entry in CROQ zine - our next issue is about recycling. I really love the way you discussed things in this entry. Payment is a byline w/your name & web address, and a free copy of the issue your article appears in. Let me know if this is something you would be interested in! You can find out more about the zine at croqzine.com, and my email is yardenxanthe@yahoo.com

Thanks! Heather, CROQ Zine