Experiment #10.2: Aware

For the past month, besides the intermittent crying, feeling like humanity is moving backwards 30+ years, and desperately trying to understand who wanted this and why (some for better reasons than others) -- I've been experiencing an unanticipated side effect to the election: I've become increasingly aware of how much I personally waste each day.

To be honest, I have no idea where this started. Maybe it was in third grade when the teacher explained that we put paper in the recycling bin instead of the trash because then trees don't have to get cut down. Or maybe it was at LANL when I went to a mini-Ted Talk series and a young woman talked about "Straws Suck" (not the TED talk but similar to the contents) and became a full vegetarian a few weeks later (Exp #2).

Courtesy Ars Electronica and this blog
But what formerly I would call environmentally conscious has exploded into environmentally empathetic - to the point where I feel awful every time I throw something in the trash. Why awful? The chain of thinking goes something like this:

Every time we use something plastic and we don't recycle it, we put it into a landfill. It takes hundreds of years for plastic to decompose . Really stop and think about it (ignore the title of this blog) - that innocuous plastic bottle you just threw out will be on the planet, intact, after your grandchildren have lived full lives and died. My body and spirit and memories will be long gone and forgotten, but that plastic bottle will still be around. That single plastic bottle.

The  joy at realizing the air bags
in packaging are recyclable
And suddenly, my thinking expands - how many hundreds of plastic bottles have I thrown out over the course of my lifetime? We put so much time and effort into funerals, building gravestones and caskets to remember our loved ones, when in reality, our little footprint on Earth will essentially be immortalized by our plastic usage. Every bottle, every plastic bag, every straw... hundreds of years it will be buried underground and some of it producing volatile organic compounds which are NOT GOOD for us.

So I will leave the Earth a shrine to me that it never wanted - one I've been working on my entire life by using things like cough drops, contact lens solution, Beanie Babies, and so much more. It will take up more area buried underground than my body will. One day our future relatives will probably dig up the crap to mine it for petroleum and express horror at our cavalier usage of oil and plastic in general. "How could they just throw away a toy fire truck made of plastic like this?"

I'm not even going to pretend this is healthy at this point, but I have become so acutely aware of recycling plastic and plastic waste that it's changed the way I buy things. I try to find things that don't come wrapped in plastic (i.e. cereal - it comes in a plastic bag. ARGH) and instead might come in a compostable bag or one labeled recyclable.  I won't buy pasta if it comes in a plastic bag or a cardboard box with plastic parts. I am trying so hard to not use plastic... to reduce that disgusting shrine I'm building to me. I can make an impact, even if small, that matters. All life has value, and I am trying so hard now to show my respect for the life of things now and of things that will come.

Next step: vegetable garden.
Picture from: here
This is not a blog post to shame others into recycling more or to reduce their own waste. This is not statement about how I'm doing everything right. A cynic might say "your impact is trivial compared to the collective waste of the world right now, why bother?". This is valid, but this experiment is a statement and promise that I need to lead by example.  It's like paying down a loan, you start with small pieces that build to something bigger - you can't expect to pay it off all in one move. If I live a minimized waste lifestyle, then I have accomplished a small goal that may lead others to join. However, I can choose not to leave a shrine. We can choose not to leave a shrine. 

If you have ideas or things you think me/others should be aware of, please leave them in the comments. In many ways, I feel like I have woken up and want so badly to do things right this time.

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