There are two ways to rethinking: We can reconsider our need for what we see as “must-have hence must-buy” things, or, we can rethink the way we do things. So that’s rethinking a purchase or rethinking a process. The former is straightforward: Do we really need all the things we (sometimes mechanically) buy-just-because? And it is easier than the later. Indeed, why changing a well-working process after all? Yet, revisiting our ways to do things with a greener angle could prove quite powerful. A random example: Why, for a birthday, do we automatically purchase a card and a gift bag, both wasteful and expensive? They live for barely 5min when a handwritten note and homemade gift wrapping could actually be more appreciated! Why do so many of us choose to go to the mall as a family or friends outing every so often, when we could actually be outdoors or do something together, connect more that way and avoid unneeded shopping sprees? Why not hang in dry our laundry and that way save energy and reduce tear and wear to our clothes? Let’s just say there’s no lack of processes to rethink…
In the same vein, why did our ancestors mend worn-out clothes, bags, kitchen cloths… and we don’t? Well back then society wasn’t based on fast consumption: You broke it, you repaired it and you kept on using it. No short lived item galore as planned obsolescence did not exist: Things were built to last and makers took great pride in that. People also were conscious spenders. So… have we gotten richer? Maybe. That and “stuff” got cheaper. Fast Fashion illustrates well such engrained new consumption ways where everything is cheap, making it too easy for everybody to buy more than needed. If it breaks in no time, it’s ok, almost expected even, and we adjust by buying more. In the process, no fair wages are being paid to the workers by big companies, conveniently controlling orders and prices (both salaries and final price tags). Things are used (or barely) fast, forgotten and replaced just as fast by consumers trained to buy new sans second thoughts, and certainly never repair anything.
Who has not received at least one gift that made them sigh? Gifts can be hard: They may be expensive and/or from someone you love, making it even harder to part from. That’s how clutter sets in, and if you’re not freecycle, ebay or thrift-store savvy, you can soon be hoarding items you have no use for. How about finding consolation in the fact that the original intent will be fulfilled? Regift the gift so it gets appreciated, used and possibly passed on again when no longer needed? After all, that’s what matter. So get going and make throwing a regift party (post coming next on swap parties) out of it. Post year-end holidays can be great timing, but there really isn’t any set timeline, do it whenever you have valuable items to pass on.
The difference with re-gifting lies in the value of the items. A gift is implied to be more expensive than what we may get and choose to redistribute. And that’s exactly what matters with redistributing: Some consumer goods may be so cheap that we don’t second guess ourselves before we throw them out. Yet they are all valuable, given that people pay for them. And if they can be used instead of wasted (read: sent to the landfills), then they’re worth our redistribution efforts. Good examples would be coupons, samples, free products and just random items we get here and there on a daily basis… but will not use. Between stuffs from the stores, the mail, well-intentioned friends, family members, magazines, school, dentists, doctors…. there’s usually an ongoing incoming stream of these! So grow a stack of coupons and drop them off anywhere people are passing by. They’ll be gone in no time! I have a friend who keeps a “free box” at her place: People stopping by can grab whatever’s in there. Less waste, less pollution, sharing value with others, saving them money via things they would have purchased anyway, all sounds like very green things to do!
The original motto includes “Recycle” and all the processes in place in our modern world to divert our trash away from the landfills to make it useful again are precious help. But repurposing, or transforming an item or part of it into something else, is even better in that it requires even less energy to allow for its new use than recycling would. A good example is plastic bags: Using them to keep seasonal shoes and clothes dust-free in your closet or as crafty material for kids’ DIY projects (holiday garlands, creative sculptures, mobiles…) is preferable to recycling. Be creative and give your imagination a chance to shine.
If your diet includes lots of produce, definitely try and regrow healthy foods from scraps. At least once before composting them. Green onions, leeks, salad, potatoes… All are easy, usually successful and require no prior training. Leading us to the next point:
Rotting food? Yes, as in composting. If you eat a fresh fruit and veggie based diet, you do generate much Earth valuable material that would be better off sent back to the soil than thrown in the trash can. Basically, any non man-made food is better off sent back to nature. And don’t think you need fancy, expensive equipment to get going. Some people simply keep a pile of organic matter in the back of their little garden, move the bottom to the top every so often, recycle the compost when ready and start all over again. No worms or special container needed!
Living in an apartment or in a house with no garden? There are still ways to compost, indirectly. One is to look up neighborhood community gardens and arrange weekly drop-offs of your produce scraps and other compostable packaging material. It may seem trivial, but it’s not! Every single step taken in the right direction matters and all small changes add up! And if you’re new to this, also know that a pile of produce scraps does not stink so you can leave your trash can open to slow down decomposition until your next trip to the garden.
Add these ideas to the initial Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle list, and that little green motto just got itself a far wider reaching power than it used to have. And we just brought being green and Earth-caring to a whole new level by opening to new creative ways to do things and suggesting new habits in our daily life.
What do you do every day that qualifies as Earth-friendly? Share your practices and ideas so we can exchange inspiration bits and all benefit from them!