Friday, August 2, 2019

Reducing Waste - What is Waste Anyway?

What does that mean for you?
What images come to mind when you hear this word? has quite a bit to say regarding this word. 34 line entries to be precise.

This is a word that I have heard used in an almost accusatory manner in our modern culture. It seems currently to be used with so many underlying meanings that indicate that the person or entity it is applied to are of lessor intelligence, care, or cultural moral standing. And while that may be true in some cases, I'm not convinced that is appropriate as an absolute. And in a time in our culture when blanket terms are so liberally used to categorize, and thereby compartmentalize people, it makes me sad that innocuous words can be turned into weapons. Much like any other inanimate object, it is not harmful without the direct and purposeful intent of the actions of a human being.

Is that a wasteful use of our language?
I have a sense that this word, and many others, can be applied subjectively.
Disregarding clear conditions of waste.

What one person sees as a waste of time, another person might see as productive.
One person's wasted money might be another's investment.

My challenge for you today is to consider what the word *waste* means to you and in your life.

Are there areas where you could be less wasteful? For example, would planning your dinners for the week ahead of time when you go grocery shopping help you waste less money at the store? Create less waste in packaging, and trips to the store or drive-thru? Waste less time and stress thinking and planning dinner as an after thought at the end of an exhausting day?

Are there areas where you could look at something you currently consider waste and change your perception? An example: That pile of food scraps leftover from cooking and eating dinner. Is that waste? Trash? For some it is. Straight into the trash can. Others might see compost, or food for the chickens. Perhaps that towel that now has a hole torn in the middle looks like trash or waste at the outset, but could it be cut into smaller pieces and hemmed for hand towels or cleaning rags?

Can you think about what our parents or grand parent, or even great grandparents might have done in a time before plastic food storage and plastic wrap? I believe there is much to be learned from our pioneer and depression raise ancestors about how to reduce the creation of waste.

Archeology shows us that every where on the planet and in every age, there is always a place where the trash goes, often to be buried to rot away (or become preserved forever). But, what level of use happened before an item was relegated to the trash pile? And there are now multitudes more humans on this planet now than ever before, and those numbers are not going down. And so much more of our cast off is now made to be thrown away.

That's an interesting concept isn't it!? The creation of waste. There are industries around creating things for the intent of throwing them away! Think of the packaging that so many of our products come in! Someone is getting paid to design and make those things. What is it's TRUE purpose? Is it necessary? Maybe to keep things from getting broken. Sometimes just so that the things can be stored and shipped more efficiently. It's easier to stack boxes of the same size and shape on a pallet than 100 coffee pots. If it is necessary, could it be made from other materials that could have another life after it's current job was over?

There is such an opportunity to reconsider the merchandise on the market. Can we fix it when it's broken, instead of throwing it away and buying another? Can we use it or part of it for something else? Can we choose products that do not have unnecessary packaging that needs to be discarded?

Can we as the consumer change the economy by choosing our products differently? What about things that are made closer to home and require less transportation and packaging? Or products that are packaged more thoughtfully?

Waste used to be the off cut from things, the fabric trimmed away in the creation of a dress; the wood scraps left from building a house. But were those things truly waste? Some might argue that case, but how often did our predecessors sew those fabric scraps together to make a quilt, or stuff a pillow or bed? Wood scraps might have been used to heat the home or cook food.

Waste is everywhere! We cannot avoid it. But what can we do? How can we encourage as the consumer to help reduce the amounts of it that are not getting repurposed.

It begins with our own selves. We do not need the government to tell us. We know. We can adjust our consuming. We can adjust our own repurposing. We can adjust our perspective. We can think like our ancestors. We can be creative. One person, one household, at a time.

Let's think about that next time we are about ready to throw that thing in the trash.
In a time when everything is extra, that extra does not have have to be waste! Consider how you can made it a BONUS!

Have a beautiful day Living Well!