Amy Studzienko's "Want my advice on how to avoid trash?"
Amy Studzienko, July 22nd, 2018
Want my advice on how to avoid trash? It’s actually fairly straightforward. Don’t buy it. Nearly ALL my trash this month was purchased. My gallon jar tells a story of trash topped coffee; trash glued to other trash for the purpose of a going “bloop” at the cash register; and big poofy trash delicately accompanying my Amazon purchases across the globe. Some trash sneaked casually into otherwise neutral purchases. Tubes, neon yellow, who spent a fraction of their lives serving the grand purpose of transporting a few fluid ounces two inches north into various pie holes. I didn’t ask for you, but here we are; now you’re mine. I own you. I am taking accountability.
You came home with me June 30th. I cleaned my car July 1st. I didn’t even drink cocoa, I reasoned, staring at my pristine one gallon jar, sitting next to Jessica’s also pristine jar. It’s not really my trash.
Taking the high road, I deposited the plastic tops and lids into their new habitat, where they’ve lived the last 22 days. Since then their ecosystem has developed. Labels off wine bottles, a lemon squeezy, and a rainbow of lids who used to belong with glass or #1PDE clear with neck plastic bottles, who were carefully selected, lovingly used, delicately washed and have now gone on to serve a higher purpose. They seem pretty happy as they look out at me from their terrarium community of various polymers. The exact same as they did 22 days ago, and the exact same as they will 22 days, months, years, and decades from now. The jar is my big, little living room window into a landfill: a colorful, dark place frozen in time.
Here is a peek at a what’s known in geometry as a ray. A narrative. A one-way, irreversible, permanent formula. Crap goes in. Crap sits. The end. That’s it. Finito. Or more like Indefinito. No kaleidoscope of microorganisms to break it down. No nutrient return. No miracle-cycle which includes special effects such as lightning depositing bits of plant food from the air into soil. No, the other miracle, that of human ingenuity, which forged these non-latex gloves stops with their single use, and fails to give them continuing purpose- unlike every. single. iota. of. our. natural. world. Maybe my great, great, grand babies will figure out what to do with the hundred or so gloves I discard every year- seeing as the pile will still be here in flossin’ their equally brilliant purple, stretchy selves to meet my unfortunate kin. The human miracle here is if all my waste stays put, and OUT of our natural cycles.
A lot of trash, we can simply not buy. I saved a boatload this month avoiding to-go food and BS from the mainland, internet, or grocery store. I only sort of missed my chips, cheese and kalamata olives with their lids who live forever. Similar to my “Eat Local Challenge,” it is a trying moment such as this where I most appreciate Barn Owl bread, Goosefoot produce, and Sunnyfield cheese for filling my stomach without filling my jar. And of course some props to my own garden. It’s no coincidence we ended up doing this in July. I ate well this month. Inherently, if it comes in sustainable packaging, in bulk, or in a shelf stable pile: it is fresh. It is healthy. It will likely need to be cooked. So I’ve been cooking, which is GREAT. That is, it’s great in July, while I’m not simultaneously grading papers, responding to emails, setting up field trips, going to meetings and preaching sustainability to little ones.
While I’m saving $ and eating well, living “0 Waste” is hard. Partially it takes more time, but also there’s a lot of “other people’s crap” to navigate. It’s hard in that it is unavoidable. Three hot cocoa’s left in my car (after three amazing young activists spent three merciless hours in the rain). My six foot deer fencing which came wrapped in two pounds of garbage. The very first day of my challenge I helped a friend with a dump run, and took an entire truckload to rest. Just like 100 other truckloads, every Friday- Monday from 10:00 to 2:00. Just like 100 other bubble-wrapped set of cat collars which travelled 10,000 miles across nations, oceans and continents to wind up lookin’ so fly on my KiKiMeowMeows. It’s easy to point a finger at Amazon, at BigCorp Incorporated. It’s just as easy to bring rinsed out yogurt containers to Blossom. My silly grocery hacks may look adorable in the face of the mammoth mechanism of our industrialized, prepackaged, bubble wrapped world, but you know darn well I’m going to keep doing them.
But seriously, perhaps folks want less stream of conscious, and more practical advice. Here you have it, some helpful tips for O Waste living.
More receptacles- Good for you for having compost and recycling vessels in your kitchen, alongside the trash. I realized that I was un-stoked to carry my paper towels from the KiKiMeowMeow room, my Qtips from the bathroom, and my pocket’o’receipts from the bedroom to the hub upstairs. Often non-trash items were ending up in the can b/c lazy. Now we have more recycling and compost around the house. I especially advise bathroom compost.
Shopping vessel kit- I was inspired by my home girl, Libby. She has her jars, bags, twisties and whatnot live in her car, so she’s never caught in a grocery aisle, moral dilemma. Then you can feel all proud and fancy as you crouch in bulk section of Blossom and fill your jars with deliciously crunchy granola, ya hippie.
Garden- Not only do you get to eat fresh, unpackaged food, this is a “waste” loving zone. You can mulch with paper/cardboard. And of course you can make use of food waste and clean carbon in your compost.
Compost- ok I know I just mentioned compost, but it really deserves its own category. So compost goes beyond just your veggies. I put in everything “natural”. Qtips, newspaper, coffee filters, tea bags, egg cartons, tissues and even some fabric. Your pile probably wants more carbon, more loft.
(Your pile probably DOESN’T want “compostable” keurig cups, utensils, cups, to go containers, etc. To me this is the biggest green marketing scam ever. Being cellulose based does not mean I want it in my garden, and as I’ve discovered, it also does not mean it breaks down in a reasonable amount of time. And most likely folks just trash the stuff anyhow.)
So, want my advice on how to avoid trash?
It’s actually fairly straightforward.
Don’t buy it.