Because how we spend our days is,
of course, how we spend our lives. Annie Dillard

Producing As Little Trash As Possible

30 Day Challenge by Heather on August 28, 2014


In today's consumer-driven, disposable, and fast-paced world, everything we need or want at any given moment seems to be right at our fingertips. 

Hungry?  Go to your favorite lunch spot down the street and order a sandwich.  Thirsty? Grab a bottle of water at the convenient store around the corner.  Bored?  Drive to the mall and buy new toys.

The convenience of this accessibility makes life comfortable and easy, but what happens when we no longer need all those things we've acquired?

When the sandwich is eaten, into the trash goes the uneaten crust, the wax paper wrapper, some napkins, and the plastic to-go bag. When the water is drank, into the trash goes the 8 oz plastic bottle.  When bored of the new toys, into the trash they go, replaced with even newer toys.

I mean, it's just all too easy. Buy the things, use the things, throw the things in one of the endless trash receptacles in our vicinity, and repeat.  The waste disappears forever, no longer our responsibility, and we move onto the next form of instant gratification.  I mean who cares, it's just one piece of trash, right?

From that deep and dark trash bin, however, that one piece of trash may one day wind up in a toxic landfill polluting the surrounding land, or it might litter a sidewalk, tainting the otherwise lovely neighborhood, or it might float among sea life in the ocean, where it just might complete the long journey all the way to the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Wherever it ends up, if it is plastic it will exist for hundreds of years before decomposing.

And it's not just that one piece of trash that sticks around, actually outliving you.  It's tons and tons of it, actively accumulating every second of every day by our overpopulated human race.  

I don't know about you, but for me this truth provokes a terrifying mental image of that polluted, desolate, and uninhabitable earth of the future from Pixar's Wall-E, minus the adorable robots falling in love.

As an outdoorsy, earthy-crunchy nut who adores everything our planet has to offer in all its natural splendor and beauty, this just doesn't sit well with me, and it anguishes me to know that I am part of the problem.

On a daily basis, I carelessly use and throw away countless tissues, paper towels, empty Frappuccino plastic cups, crumpled up pieces of paper, rotten produce, plastic forks, knives, and other non-recyclable materials.  Like I said, it's just too easy.

So, instead of continuing to practice those habits I am so shameful of, contributing to the global waste problem, I am going to make a change.  

I have decided that my next challenge will be to produce as little trash as possible for the entire month of September.

As the previously stated earthy-crunchy nut that I am, I already work hard to recycle and I avoid buying plastics, but that really isn't enough.  For the next month, whether at home, at work, or on the go, I will consciously do the following:

  • Use canvas bags when grocery shopping
  • Begin composting (which I am so excited to finally learn)
  • Use rags instead of paper towels for cleaning
  • Use towels or my pant legs to dry wet hands instead of paper towels
  • Bring a water canteen with me everywhere
  • Donate unwanted items instead of toss them
  • Eat lunch at locations that use real dishes instead of plastic plates or utensils
  • Eat lunch at locations that have recycling and compost bins
  • Bring a reusable cup to Starbucks
  • Save and reuse zip lock bags
  • Save and reuse produce bags from the grocery store
  • Recycle EVERYTHING
  • Save food in containers instead of plastic wrap or foil
  • Eat food before it spoils
  • Save batteries in a jar to be disposed of correctly
  • Buy products with minimal packaging
  • Use less in general
  • And whatever else I can think of!

Yes, this list is extensive, and each duty will take a serious amount of mindful effort throughout each day, but for the sake of the planet I am determined to stay motivated and focused.  And anyway, any habit practiced consistently becomes a second nature, so I anticipate these learned habits will gradually become just another set of new additions to my (generally) harmonious lifestyle.

I hope this challenge will not only result in a reduction of my consumption and waste, but also will calm the part of my brain that has been adversely conditioned by society's materialistic pressures and standards.  I hope it will sooth my constant need to consume and buy things, I hope it will show me to live less selfishly, and I hope it will teach me a new level of mindfulness.

If you feel intrigued or inspired at all, feel free to pick and choose a couple items from the list above to practice (or even ALL of them) and join me September 1st!