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Where Is This Away You Speak Of?

Where <em>Is</em> This Away You Speak Of?

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Contemplating Our Throw Away Culture

It’s been a while as I have been distracted by various projects. If I seem to be veering a bit from my usual health and healing topics, allow me to assure you that truly I am not. What impacts the Earth, impacts every being on the Earth. This health and healing impact includes humans, despite the dominant culture living outside of this wisdom for quite a long time. I invite you to step back into this Earth Centered Wisdom.

Many years ago, I wrote a Co-op newsletter article on reducing our household garbage production. This was back when our newsletters were actual paper copies and US Postal mailed to Co-op members. The article is somewhere on a floppy disk and if I could revive it, I would. Interestingly, I feel the ability to prevent garbage creation has become harder over the years: packaging, throw away products, etc.

What stirred this revisiting of “away” was looking at an Instagram account I follow. This account displays homes from around Europe. I love looking at the way European homes, that have been around a long time; are designed, decorated, and furnished. The kitchens seem to be more about practical and usable, over the long haul, than our US made homes that seem to require updating every decade or so to remain in some semblance of domestic “fashion.” Cooking appliances in these longstanding European homes look like sturdy relics that have stood the test of time, a long time, as opposed to our modern, planned-obsolescence appliances that need updating to match the current, cultural kitchen fashion. I think of my approximately 15-year-old cook stove, out of commission for over a week now, as I continue to cook on the wood stove. Will the part needed for repair be available? Will the part and repair job be so expensive that purchasing a new stove would have been cheaper?

Rein it in Paula… what is your point?

I have been contemplating our throw away culture and wondering how many people actually think about this idea of throw away? Where is this elusive ‘away.’

For decades we have dug deep holes, garbage dumps, throwing our unwanted items down into and in time rolling soil over it to bury it all. That has proven to be a soil and ground water disaster.

We have dragged garbage out into the middle of the great, blue ocean and literally just dumped it. Did we consider that this garbage would not just disappear, never to wash up on our shores?

We transport our technology waste to foreign countries and dump it into their lakes.

We haul garbage to incinerators and burn it up but do we really know the impacts on the air we breathe, how it rains back down to the Earth and impacts soil and water?

Am I being grim? I try to be on top of offering solutions to health concerns, individual and collective. Garbage production is a huge health concern for all of the Earth and quite frankly, there is no “away.”

Steps to take to reduce household production of waste headed for landfills and incinerators:

  1. Contemplate how much you really need the product.
  2. Consider what it is made of, where the raw materials must be “harvested” from, how raw materials are transported to be made into things, etc.
  3. Consider what the packaging is made of and where all the raw materials to make packaging come from. My image, below, is of my spice jars I have used for at least 27 years of bulk spice buying. They have made many trips to the Co-op with me preventing the throw out of McC or other brands of ‘toss out when empty’ spice jars.
  4. How will the waste packaging be handled? Can it be recycled? Will it be recycled?
  5. How long will this product last and what happens when it is no longer useful? How is it disposed of, recycled?
  6. Food items: what is the packaging?
  7. Bring your coffee mug with you to stop using disposable cups and plastic covers.
  8. Say no to disposable eating utensils with take out food. Keep real utensils in your glove box.
  9. Buy second hand products.
  10.  Recycle everything you can. Purchase with the ability to recycle in mind.
  11.  Reduce everything you can.
  12.  Reuse everything you can or gift to someone else who will use it.
  13.  Donate all used goods to thrift shops, garage sale businesses, etc.
  14.  Buy local and directly and take home in your own packaging and reusable bags and boxes, like we do at the Co-op.
  15.  Work from the space that there is no away. Simple changes in our perspective can create big change in our lived actions.
Spices in re-usable jars

A garbage dilemma example:

My compost bucket: I get asked, on occasion, why I do not throw this out and get a new one?

When asked this question, in my head I am thinking: “Where is this out you speak of?”  

I don’t always voice this question when asked, I have learned to read my audience.

The cover was broken by one of my kids; who know how many years ago. The plate on top keeps the dog and fruit flies out of the bucket.

And… It has a crack that sometimes leaks fluids on the floor. The plate underneath solves that dilemma.

The bucket… it is going absolutely nowhere until it is 100% completely useless as a compost bucket. Maybe then I will scrub it up and see if a local artist can use the ceramic pieces in some creative art work.

Many resources are available for looking into the impacts of garbage production and ways to work on reducing our garbage. Let me know if you have ideas.

Let me know if you see mistakes in my writing. I am happy to go back and fix things up!

https://www.epa.gov/international-cooperation/cleaning-electronic-waste-e-waste

https://www.businessinsider.com/the-worlds-tech-waste-lake-in-mongolia-2015-5

https://www.clientearth.org/latest/news/the-environmental-impacts-of-waste-incineration/

https://www.conservation.org/stories/ocean-pollution-facts

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