I have been thinking, again, about things that i have tended to think about a lot: consumerism, wastefulness, The Story of Stuff. This is something i have always tended to think about; i tend towards moderation by nature, and for a middle-class sort of American, i am very conscious about stuff. Which is to say that i have a ton of junk, produce a ton of waste, and am viewed as a crazy hippie by most of my acquaintance.
I have become more and more clear recently that i am not happy with my state of consumerism – i want to be more conscious of my actions and their consequences, but that has always seemed somehow too overwhelming. Well, it suddenly and for no reason i can pinpoint doesn’t seem so anymore; i am confident and excited about the process of reducing our waste stream. Though, clearly, it is going to be a process, and a long one (read: forever).
It feels like this is one part in a complete transformation; i feel like everything has changed for the better in our life. Very little has actually changed, but i feel headed in the right direction. Maybe it’s just the weather, which is ridiculously amazing.
Step one is a cursory inventory of our waste stream. I am sure it is missing things – probably many things – but i feel like it pin-points some simple and clear improvements (as well as a lot more ambiguity).
- Beverages – We got a Sodastream a while ago – it makes fizzy water and i love it. I has greatly reduced our soda consumption, and thus the bottles and cans that go with. The CO2 canister in it is traded in and sent back to the manufacturer for refill. This is a good step forward. Of course, we still drink some branded sodas (Jamie: diet Dr. Pepper. Me: IBC cream soda (with bourbon)). I think the best solution is to shy away from plastic and towards glass and cans along with, of course, consuming less.
All of my alcohol comes in glass, so there is that, but i am not terribly inclined to reduce consumption, and don’t have the time at the moment to try my hand at home brewing.
- Food – Our food consumption has changed a lot recently. That, with the success of our small canning venture last summer and my (foundationless) optimism towards our coming garden, bodes well for our options here.
- Step one is to do a full inventory of items we use which are available in bulk at our Whole Foods (grains, beans and flours are for certain, but some stores also have olive oil, syrup and peanut butter, and i’m uncertain what else we’ll be able to find). We store all these things in glass anyhow, so it will be simple to make a big restocking trip once in a while.
- Step two is to take proper advantage of our pressure cooker, which can make dry beans in about 30 minutes (including cool-down), thus eliminating the need for canned beans.
- Step three is to take advantage of seasonal vegetables, our canning ability, and our chest freezer – and other ways we can make instead of buy things. That, and take out stock in mason jars.
- And, of course, we just need to pay closer attention. We have and use re-usable bags – except when we forget. And we buy overpackaged shit we don’t need, of course.
- Cleaning goods – I feel like we are pretty well on track here. We make laundry soap, and most of our cleaning is done with a vinegar and lemons mix and the occasional baking soda. I can’t see any real alternative to the giant plastic bottle the vinegar comes in, and there are a few other things we could probably produce ourselves, but overall this one is going well.
- Toiletries – This one seems more difficult. I think the key here is going to be experimenting with the number of things we can make ourselves. But i don’t hold out much hope for hair care alternatives for myself (believe me, i have tried a lot of different things that don’t work).
That’s round one. Well, i think round one was to stop buying crap we don’t need. Being kind of broke has done wonders for that habit. Well, that and actually paying attention. I’ll evaluate this stuff in more detail as we move along. I suspect round three will be to figure out how to take better care of the big-ticket stuff i don’t know anything about (cars and computers, namely) so that they last as long as possible.
"All Aboard" - Allison Moorer