Thursday, December 11

Noitalever: Planning

I think that trying to live life "less plastic" builds character, just as maintaining any kind of diet or exercise regime does. I think that these things all promote self-discipline, responsibility, and vigilance. Today, I want to write about just one manifestation of this: planning.

Sometime in fall of 2006, I saw a poster that changed my life. It was trying to sell me a University of Idaho Sustainability Mug (To-Go mugs, branded with our Sustainability Center's logo), and it said "Last year, UI students and faculty threw away (astronomical number) of paper cups," and had lots of statistics. As a drinker of a daily latte, I stopped and said, "Woah." As soon as possible, I bought a to-go mug (not a UI one, because they actually leak...) and started carrying it every day.

Now, as many of you know because you have probably tried to use a to-go mug at least once in your life with varying degrees of success, to-go mugs come with their own set of problems. I foresaw the cleanliness issue, and never let my mug sit with a few drops of coffee in it. I also foresaw it making a mess in my bag, so I learned to wash it out before I tossed it in. I still maintain this habit: I wash out the mug as soon as I'm done with the coffee (or during the first available class break, etc). This does most of the cleaning for me, actually, but I also wash the mug out with dish soap and often let it sit overnight with soapy water inside. Phew!

I never forget my mug. Maybe I used to, but it has become such a habit to keep it clean and available that I am always good to go. It is now, two years later, much loved (read: battered), but I have decided that I will use it until it dies. Another issue that I had to think about was that it has a plastic exterior, but how environmentally-friendly would it be to toss it now? Instead, I decided to make it last as long as possible and then repurpose or recycle the parts somehow.

So, the life skill that I have refined is "planning."

Here is another example: next semester, I will not have a place to buy in bulk within a ten minute walk of me. Instead, I will need to plan so that I can make one trip to the bulk foods store every two weeks. This will mean planning a vague range of meals in advance, etc. Also, not buying convenience foods will mean learning to cook...

...and I am sure that I can overcome even this greatest of obstacles, and I will be healthier and happier for it.

What have you learned from your own brand of environmentalism?

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