the superhero in you
My parents taught me to always leave things better than I had found them. For example, whenever I had a sleepover at a friend's house, I was taught to always make the bed the next day and help clean up after meals. Sort of zip in and zip out like one of the shoemaker's elves, leaving the place spotless.
Last Forth of July weekend, a friend and I went to a beach cleanup at Ocean Beach sponsored by Ghirardelli Chocolate. Since we went on Sunday, I figured most of the trash would have been picked up by Saturday's crew. As we walked halfway down the beach our large black heavy duty trash bags were almost mocking us - flapping like kites in the wind, unfazed by our attempt to fill it with cigarette butts. (We were desperately looking for trash.)
Fast forward an hour later and we like little kids finding treasure pulling out circuit boards from crevices, scrambling up rocks to throw down dozens of beer cans, coffee cups, glass bottles, and plastic cutlery stuck in the ice plants. Our most memorable finds included a plastic tampon dispenser and an unwrapped condom. Luckily earlier we stumbled upon a cardboard firework holder which we used as a giant chopstick, so we didn't have to handle everything with our hands. After spending most of our time where the ocean collided against the rocks, 3.5 hours later we felt like super heroes (or Santa Claus) dragging two completely full trash bags back to the garbage cans. Everyone else was long gone, and we missed our free Ghirardelli sundae.
Since that day, I see garbage everywhere. Empty plastic water bottles sunbathing right next to recycling bins. Wine bottles finding their way to the sand dunes in the parking lot. Newspapers, takeout boxes, napkins. It's like I developed a "spidey sense" / hyper sensitivity for finding trash.
One evening I just happened to take Parker out for a walk the night before trash day. It was pretty late, and I remember walking amongst just lines and lines of gigantic trash bins - each one just overflowing with bags. I first had this feeling of 1.) this is really disgusting and then 2.) this sad feeling that we (a collective we) weren't respecting our environment. We were just wasting it, and throwing it all away.
This coincided with this other "project" / way of life that I had been pursuing, probably along with half of the world after reading The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up: The Japanese Art of Decluttering and Organizing by Marie Kondo. Advice: Anyone who owns this book will gladly let you borrow it. (Some of her videos I just found). My takeaway from Marie Kondo was to surround yourself with the things that "spark joy" and let go of the physical and emotional things that weigh you down. Respect the material things you own as you would something alive, and they will last much longer and naturally your living place will become what you want it to be.
Let go of the guilt. Let go of the past. Keep the things that excite you and give you that energy and motivation to live in the present.
As you can guess, my interest in [helping the environment and producing less trash] + [keeping only the things that bring me joy] + [my desire to possess very little] = hours of researching greener living, minimalism, and tiny houses.
What I found was that these were all overlapping concepts with the same undertone. Be intentional about the way you live, and you'll be more honest with yourself. Honest about your impact on the world and those around you. Honest about what is important to you. And honest about whether you're living by your own values.
I've been intrigued by the "zero waste lifestyle", and admittedly I'm nowhere at that level, but its an aspiration. At this point, I have so many questions about how they do things. Do they have hobbies? How do you not consume any plastic at all? Is your entire place just filled with mason jars? How do you not buy anything with packaging? How much money did it cost do get to the point where you could then just survive using mason jars, stainless steel everything, bamboo wood, and cotton and canvas bags? Do you make your own kettle corn? What happens if there is an apocalypse?
I'm starting small, and here is where I'm at regarding using things that "spark joy" and lead to zero waste. And those things that lead to zero waste and therefore "spark joy".
- Yeti Lowball (for coffee)
- Klean Kanteen and S'Well (for water)
- Linen Cloth Dinner Napkins from Crate and Barrel
- Blue Textured Terry Dish Towel from Crate and Barrel
- flip and tumble Reusable Produce Bags
- Diva Cup (for women)
My friend offered to pick me up a cup of coffee on his way over to my apartment today, and even though I wanted some I politely declined because I didn't want to consume a disposable cup.
I'll admit that people have openly expressed that my linen napkin isn't going to save the environment. I know, but at least I'm trying to do my part to help save it. And Step 1. (Check) Thank you for noticing my linen napkin.
We live in a world that tells us to buy and consume more, encouraging people to enter in this hamster wheel race that they cannot win. I've started to try to give myself a "uniform", where I essentially rotate through four t-shirts, three pairs of jeans, and three jackets or sweaters. Depending on how long ago I did laundry, I often have little to no choice deciding what to wear, and therefore can spend that time doing something else that is meaningful to me. Often sleeping a few minutes more, or walking my dog. Note: I hate that sense of paralysis when I go through my closet and don't want to wear any of it.
But when I do buy things now, I try to be more intentional. Pay more attention to company values and products made with recycled materials. Do I really need this? Or do I just want this. I've also stopped impulse buying clothes because I don't want to own more things. I used to do a lot of retail therapy, but then I ended up donating most of it recently because I hadn't worn in years. Instead I've shifted my retail therapy to buying "moments" for other people by mailing random gifts to the people I care about. My time is now spent collecting people's addresses so I can send them delicious treats or a bouquet of flowers. Granted, I believe these cookies are individually wrapped in plastic when I ship them nationally, but baby steps.
I'll admit a lot of things "spark joy", and therefore I own a lot of random things (mostly camping / apocalypse gear). I'm a relatively excited person, but I'm trying to focus that excitement a little more and perhaps even channel the excess to somewhere better.
Surround yourself with those that inspire you to live the life you want to live, and then do.
- Bea Johnson: "Zero Waste Home" | Talks at Google - website
- Lauren Singer - Zero Waste - UW Carbon Challenge! - website
- Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things | Official Trailer - website
- "No Impact Man" - Official Trailer
- How I Built This: Patagonia - Yvon Chouinard