Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Talking (Less) Trash

By: Judi Stuart
Port Discover - Visitor Services Manager

Talking (Less) Trash

Difficult times changes people’s values. Looking back at history, you find that major events usually refocus the way that we see our world. I hope that one of the results of the Great Recession is that we learn to value experiences and people, instead of things.

The material excesses of the American way of life are overdue for an examination and overhaul. Bea and Scott Johnson and their two sons of Mill Valley, California are setting an example for all of us. Their effort to reduce their household trash to zero was featured in People Magazine recently.

According to the article, the average American produces 1,051 pounds of trash per year. Even with all the talk of creating an eco-friendly world, experts know that our habits are not sustainable and that we must change.

Ms. Johnson suggests specific techniques for eliminating trash on her website, www.thezerowastehome.com. The ideas presented are extremely useful and focus on the four R’s—refuse, reduce, reuse, and recycle.

The concept of refusing was new to me. When the Johnsons purchase something that is wrapped in too much packaging, they unwrap it and leave the trash at the store. The message to the manufacturer is to use less packaging. They also buy things in bulk and take their own reusable containers to stores.

A great deal of planning goes into every aspect of life when the goal is to reduce our carbon footprints. Most of us find it difficult to spend time making the effort, no matter how much we want to behave responsibly toward our environment. We tend to take the easy way out and continue to live our disposable way of life.

The Johnsons recommend buying used items. For the last three Christmases, my adult children have engaged in an activity they call “Craigsmus.” They draw names among the six of them and try to find a useful gift on Craigslist for a limited amount of money. The results have been hilarious, creative, useful, and memorable for the whole family, but also rewarding in many ways.

A key technique is to organize your possessions, so that you know what you have and won’t buy things you already own. We all waste a lot of food because it goes out of date before we can use it, or it gets lost in the back of the pantry.

The Johnsons reduced their actual trash to a large mason jar full in a year’s time. That’s extreme, but we can all make an effort to consume intelligently. Doing something is better than nothing. You can make some small adjustments and, as the Johnsons report, be “happier, healthier, and richer.”

Margaret Mead, American Cultural Anthropologist, said, “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever has.” She’s right.

Check out this video from the The Huffington Post:

Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

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