My son has a friend who’s here most weekends. He’s a smart guy. His head is in the right place. He does very little cooking and uses paper plates. He doesn’t use tons of them — maybe a couple of packages a year. He’s single, doesn’t bring people home, and doesn’t eat a lot. Owen offered him a set of dishes. He said he didn’t bother with dishes. I pointed out that paper plates were the first thing I gave up when I decided to try making my lifestyle closer to my belief system.
He pointed out he isn’t a heavy user even of paper plates. I said that if every person stopped using just one package of paper plates a year, it would keep millions of tons of paper trash out of our ever diminishing dumps.
Just one package. Owen felt I was being pushy, but I thought, “Here’s a guy whose head is in the right place. If I can’t convince him to give up a single item, I can’t convince anyone of anything.” How difficult could it be for one guy to wash a plate once a day rather than tossing a paper plate into the trash? This is not a major, life-changing inconvenience. Did I convince him? I’m betting the next time he goes to buy plates, he might stop and think a couple of place settings of regular dishes might not be such a difficult change.
Everyone is in favor of this doing something about The Planet until it becomes inconvenient or costs money. People don’t like change, even if it’s free or when the change benefits the planet and works as well or better than whatever you did before. We all know we need to do something. Most of us feel helpless in the face of the monumental issues facing us.
No one person needs to do anything huge, but we can manage the small stuff.
I’m discovering over time what I can do. Each thing I change is something small, but that’s what I can do. I recycle even though most recycling around here is futile because we don’t have an single recycling plant. No one collects newspapers which used to be a big deal. It’s the reason I won’t accept get paper newspapers. It wouldn’t even cost me more to get hard copies — but then I’d be buried in newspapers which would ultimately become trash.
More than a decade ago, I switched from single use lithium batters to rechargeable batteries. They won’t last forever, but in 10 years of using nothing but rechargeables, only two have failed.
I did a lot of research about this because at the time, I was using a camera that worked on AAs and wanted to know which batteries were best. The answer? Panasonic Eneloop batteries. They aresold on Amazon. Probably other places too. All my AA and AAA Eneloops are still working like new and many of them are more than 12 years old. The Eneloops by Panasonic last longer than standard lithium batteries and while eventually, I’m sure they’ll stop working, in the meantime I personally have probably saved the world from hundreds of hazardous batteries. Don’t buy cheap rechargeables. It’s a waste of money.
Batteries were my first expensive concession to a less trashy environment. They were expensive , but not much more than lithium batteries you use once and toss. Technically, if you don’t already know this, all batteries are hazardous waste. Since we have no way to dispose of them, they wind up in the trash. We know better, no one provides pickups for small items considered hazardous so I’m betting all old batteries end up in the rubbish.
I am gradually discovering many small changes I can make to create less trash. Cellulose cleaning cloths (made mostly in Sweden) are a combination of cleaning rag and paper towel. They don’t last forever, but they last a long time and you can throw them in the laundry. Completely biodegradable, too. I like them so much that I went all over my kitchen and cleaned everything. Not only a trash saver, but a great cleaning tool. I replaced my plastic dish cleaning stuff with equivalent items made of wood or bamboo with natural bristles. They don’t cost much more than plastic, but perform better and last longer.
We have bidets like the ones they use in the middle east. These have hoses you can point where you need them. Great for cleaning the toilet and (I’m told) diapers. It’s how we survived the COVID toilet paper shortage. All my cleaning and washing stuff — for everything from my hands to the floor and everything else — are natural and non-lethal. They work well, in many cases better than the stuff I used before.
I still don’t know what to do about plastic because so many things arrive in plastic containers. Someone will have to invent something else I suppose — or actually build recycling plants and really reuse the plastic.
Considering that almost everyone is in favor of recycling and reducing or eliminating trash but no one wants to change the way they do things or pay even a little bit more for a safer product. No one likes change, especially for daily items.
I switched to 100% clean energy two years ago. When I started, it cost a penny per KW more than National Grid’s prices. Last year, their price was the same as National Grid. This year, they raised the price to 17 cents/KW which was too much for us. I called them, said I wanted to stay with them, but 17 cents was more than I could manage. They dropped the price to 13.4 cents/KW, which is less than the recent rates from National Grid.
If all of the people who agree we have a problem with the Earth and garbage were to make a single minor improvement, it would matter. One person wouldn’t accomplish anything, but 20 million people each making a small changes would matter. As an example, if everyone reduced their paper use by 25%, it would mean millions fewer trees cut down. Individually it might seem pointless, but collectively, it is something.
Change has to start somewhere. How about in your home?