Thursday, May 31, 2012

June's Simply Living Challenge: Waste not, want not

Rubbish dump

This month's challenge is one I have been considering for some time. Now that television is switching over to digital I have wondered what will happen to all those analogue TVs. When I flush the toilet I wonder why we use precious drinking water to get rid of our waste. And what about all that toilet paper? Oh the trees, the trees! And if it is recycled - what about the resources it took to recycle it?  As I take yet another plastic bag full of rubbish out to our green bin, I wonder how we can cut back. Hah - it has just occurred to me that it is funny that the bin is 'green' - because our town isn't. We don't have recycling bins. Is this the only town that doesn't?

And the word travesty comes to mind. A child who lives on a tip in a developing world would be horrified to see the waste I generate. I throw my kitchen 'scraps' in the bin for goodness sake. And why do I have so many scraps anyway?  I am ashamed by my total lack of respect for what my waste could have been, other than landfill.  I waste time. I waste money. I waste the world's resources. I waste my energy focusing on things that are trivial or not life giving. I waste, waste, waste.

Well I am declaring war on waste. I'm starting small, with baby steps, but I know those steps will mature into bigger steps as I grow more and more intentional in this area. So here are my first tentative steps today -

 Step one: I am going to use the car less. Now that one is easy. I have just left my job so I don't need to get to work any more AND my car has conveniently died. It has been stranded down the road for the last few days, where it gave up the ghost. We are unsure about whether or not my 20-year-old plus car will be able to be resurrected. Either way I am going to use transport more wisely. We don't have public transport here so I will be walking, riding (perhaps - I have to confess I am scared to death of bike riding down a hill), catching a lift or sharing my husband's car, inviting people to my home and making good use of each trip to town.

Step two: I am a big tea drinker. When I boil the kettle I will use it immediately (instead of re-boiling) and I will cover it with a towel to keep the water warm, so I don't need to boil it so frequently. Maybe I will get myself a flask. I may even use a pot or kettle on my wood burner!

Step three: I will turn everything off at the wall.

Step four: I love this one - one candle lit night a week, when we try to do without electricity as much as possible and we focus more on one another. We have already started this. Dinner looks better (lucky thing as I am not a great cook). I am sure I look better to my husband too - that lovely soft glow! We congregate together in front of the fire and  sleep comes easier. I can't help pretend that we are living inside Pride and Prejudice! My daughter and I think it's a lot of fun. I'm not so sure about the men.

Step five: Until I have a better solution I will cut down on my generation of scraps, and I will take what I do have to my friends who have hens.

Step six: I'm going to educate myself about this topic of waste. I have so much to learn. I will also read as much inspirational 'stuff' as I can. Today I started with writings from Wendell Berry and I have jumped right into Jen Hatmaker's book '7: an experimental mutiny against excess' starting half way in, at the month on 'waste'.

Step seven: I will waste less time on Facebook, and mindless trawling through the Internet. (I just noticed I have chosen seven steps - perhaps Jen Hatmaker is rubbing off on me already.)

I will finish with some words from Wendell Berry on waste. Mediate on them with me and let's see what we can do to make a difference.
...all of us, have become a kind of human trash, living our lives in the midst of a ubiquitous damned mess of which we are at once the victims and the perpe­trators. We are all unwilling victims, perhaps; and some of us even are unwilling perpetrators, but we must count ourselves among the guilty nonetheless. In my household we produce much of our own food and try to do without as many frivolous “necessities” as possible — and yet, like everyone else, we must shop, and when we shop we must bring home a load of plastic, aluminum, and glass containers designed to be thrown away, and “appliances” designed to wear out quickly and be thrown away.


  1. I really like your declaration of war on waste, Asta! It's a constant reminder that we are responsible for ourselves, our neighbors, children, their future and how filling up the land fills affects those we never see in small countries where our waste is dumped. We are fooled if we think that our trash will never end up on our front door step. There are lots of documentaries that prove this. But like I've told my son about how to eat an "elephant sandwich" have to eat one bite at a time. We can only start by making changes in our own corners of the world and then see where that takes us. Change has to start somewhere - the hardest step to take is always the first one.

  2. This is a great post, Asta! I definitely need to cut back with our waste, especially in areas that are now going to cost us more, ie: carbon tax, ugh! Time is a big one for me to waste, and I SHOULD appreciate the brevity of time much better than I do. I shall have a look at us and see where we can begin making improvements too.

  3. It is a great star.
    i have intense dislike for anything plastic.

  4. My mother has a saying, that the great thing is to maintain and progress, and I think this is key here. What I am finding is that small persevering change is more realistically effective than large sweeping change. It is surprisingly difficult to leave old habits and create new. The habit energy is very strong.
    If I try too many new things at once, I get in a muddle and give up easily, because daily life has such a plethora of things in it that it's exhausting to do them all consciously - again it's the habit energy that carries us along.
    It seems to me that the things you have outlined are practical and realistic, and you should be able to stick to them. Well done, that girl! xx

  5. Mamamia - it will be good to journey with you! Share, share, share.

    Wimmera, I feel like you about plastic. I don't like bright plastic toys for a start, and I get really upset about all the packaging that products come wrapped in. It is even almost impossible to buy fruit and vegetables, as well as meat, without it being pre-packaged in plastic. Unfortunately we don't have much choice in country Western Australia. It seems like such an odd thing that we don't have a market here.

    Ember, your mother is wise. I really like that saying - 'maintain and progress'. They say it takes 21 days to develop a habit so I am hoping that by the end of June a lot of these things will have become second nature.

    I am so encouraged by your comments. A x

  6. I too waste too much time even on thoughts which are not productive...past mistakes, things I could have said. I also waste too much which still can't go in my compost barrel. I fill my recycling bin and yet they only take it away every two weeks and by then I filling my neighbors half empty bins by moonlight! Still way too much waste. Today I met a friend down at the waterfront park and instead of driving into tourist traffic and circling looking for parking, I parked 22 blocks away right off the freeway and walked. My friend was stuck in traffic and circled for ten minutes only to pay $20 to park for the afternoon. I parked for free and got some exercise. I too am declaring war on waste in all its forms. Thank you Asta for beginning my waste revolution!