Thursday, November 6

Noitalever: The first step is to reduce, reduce, reduce!

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about consumption in general. We have a culture driven by consumption, because consumption is the thing that makes people lots and lots of money.

Two examples of "traditions" that equal consumption:

"Back to School" shopping - We are trained from an early age to want new school supplies at the beginning of every school year. Have we used our pencils and notebooks to exhaustion? Probably not. And, whereas children may outgrow clothing in a single year, college students will not. We need to examine our needs, and not just participate in this tradition mindlessly.

Wrapping Christmas gifts - Why do we wrap Christmas gifts? To deepen the suspense, some would say. Or because it makes them pretty. Okay, but what about all of that waste?

My solutions:

I have a goal not to buy a single new pencil or pen until I have exhausted my current supply. I suspect that this will take YEARS because of all of the school supplies I've accumulated over my lifetime. Yes, mechanical pencils and pens are made of plastic, but I already own them. Throwing them away would be really wasteful. I also have stopped buying new notebooks every semester. I am using up all of the notebooks I have, and when I am done with those, I will come up with an environmentally-friendly alternative like a recycled notebook.

I don't ever want to have to buy another pen. Therefore, I've switched to writing in pencil for everything except journaling and important documents (checks come to mind).

As for Christmas gifts, I am not going to wrap any this year. And let me explain what a sacrifice this will be for me: I love wrapping gifts and it's one of my favorite holiday traditions. However, this is not a sustainable tradition in its current state. Maybe my challenge will be finding ways to wrap gifts and love the earth at the same time.

Other ideas about reduction:

Have you ever thought about how much toothpaste you use, versus how much you actually need? I've been running an experiment where I only use a dab of toothpaste instead of putting a hugely long strip on the bristles (half of which always fell off anyway). This has enabled me to make a tube of toothpaste last...gasp...three times as long!

"Reduce" is not the easiest step in the cycle, but it is the most beneficial to the earth. The recycling process still takes energy, so the best thing that we can do is reduce what we consume to begin with. A good example is reducing the amount of newspapers that you buy - read the paper online or share a subscription with three or four people at work. A newspaper can be recycled, yes, but if you never buy it in the first place, you haven't used the manufacturing OR the recycling energy.

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