I didn’t put a source for this quote because I have seen several sources. It is mainly attributed to Mohandas Gandhi or Mohatma Gandhi but I have also seen other names attached.  Knowing how accurate the web is (sarcasm alert), I am not going to take the chance of attributing it but will just say…it is a great quote.

In this season of consuming, it is important to think about what we buy, where it comes from and how it is made.  The United States is among the worlds most prolific consumers, utilizing resources worldwide to keep our ever constant demand supplied.  But our demands negatively impact people’s lives in the third world by purchasing goods made from slave labor, sweatshops, and resource depletion all in the name of feeding the god…Consumerism.

Today, take a step back and rethink what you give for Christmas or Chanukah.  Think about giving of yourself, your time, or an experience over a material item.  Afterall, memories are the only thing we take with us, in the end.

Reduce Waste

February 14, 2008

Americans consume a lot.  We also waste a lot with enormous landfills and barges sent out to sea with our trash to end up somewhere else, just not here. 

I have one challenge for each of you.  Reduce waste.  Think about what you buy, the packaging it comes in and how you can either do with out it or figure out how to reuse it.

Some ideas:

Find a recycle center in your area.  Our municipal recycling is limited and time consuming.  We use it but we also use a separate recycle center called Ecology Action that accepts far more recyclables with a lot less work.  Our muni recycling will only take 1 & 2 plastic in bottle shapes, Ecology Action will take all 1 & 2 packaging such as the fruit packing berries come in as well as unbound cardboard, newspaper, phone books, cell phones, and pressed cardboard like cereal boxes.   We keep bins in our garage and just throw the stuff in it.  When it is time to make a run, we combine it with another errand in the same area or we use it as an opportunity to go out to lunch and enjoy an afternoon in the city.   My son loves this, he has such a great time sorting the recyclables and making sure everything gets where it needs to go.

Re-use glass jars.  Sure you can recycle glass – it is the most widely accepted recyclable material but it still takes resources through energy to recycle anything.   You can recycle by finding alternative uses for those pickle jars or spaghetti jars.   I like to store beans and rice in them.  They also work well to sort nails, screws and bolts in our garage.  My son uses them to hold treasures like seashells and sand from various beach vacation.   If you have found a jar for every use you can think of, list them on your local Freecycle or Craigslist and send them on to someone who could use them.

Find alternatives to paper.  A tree had died to give you every bit of new paper you use.  If you need “new” paper, buy 100% post-consumer recycled paper.  Wrap gifts in nice bits of fabric or reuse those gift bags that you get.  My family has been passing around the same Christmas gift bags for five years now! 

Spend a little more money to buy quality or look for real wood used furnishings that can be restored.  Quality furniture, hopefully made from wood grown in a sustainably managed forest, will last far longer than cheap particle board wood type furniture and will ultimately reduce what finds its way into a landfill.   I tend to look at garage sales for quality wood furniture that, while not immediately attractive, can be remade into something beautiful.  I have restored a Mission Style Spindle Bed, a few free chairs that were in good shape except the upholstery was ruined, and a few tables.   My sister and I make decorating our homes on the cheap with quality a game and we help each other restoring our finds.  It gives us time spent together and helps us build and maintain our relationship while also creating beautiful homes. 

Reducing waste is definitely a simple life virtue.  First, doing without but also ensuring you use what you buy and leave as little behind as possible.