turning over a green leaf
Walking down the tight streets of SoHo, squeezing between my fellow side walk-walkers and some scaffolding, Tyler and I make our way to that one yummy ramen place. You know the one.. I swear it's the next corner...
Gradually, the path narrows as we fall in single file. We tip toe around a lumpy pile trash bags. Garbage juices from who knows what leak out and stream down the side walk, as a pile of cardboard teeters, threatening to avalanche into us.
Just when we think we’re in the clear, a breeze wafts by us. Ramen? Nope! The pungent stench of litter mixed with that musty subway smell, spirals into my nostrils. But there it is, up ahead! Ramen hoy! As we close the distance, naively thinking we’re finally safe, a trash tornado (yes, its a real thing) circles by us, carrying wrappers, dried leaves, and cigarette butts into our path.
Not the side of New York you hear about most of the time, eh? They don't write ballads about the trash corners. No one sends postcards of the trash tornadoes.
Glamorous? Definitely NOT. Accurate? While I had some fun dramatizing- this imagery is sadly accurate. Living in relatively close quarters (seven mile diameter), with eight and a half million other people will open your eyes to the impact of humans on our world. On the other hand, living here has also expanded my view of the power and innovation of humans!
As the dominant species on Planet Earth, we leave the biggest footprint. In our cities, I find this painfully obvious. These are not just New York issues (in fact, most cities' trash and waste management is much less sophisticated). I'm not here to complain about the NYC waste management - those guys do a great job! Shout out to the trash guys and gals *praise hands emoji*
I'm writing because I want to share! Since moving to New York, Tyler and I have had a few things hit us in the face (sometimes literally #thatmcdonaldsbaglastweek): Humans create an obscene amount of trash. No, I need a stronger word... abhorrent. Yeah, that's it. It's sickening to look at the amount of trash that can fill a city block. With some quick math and imagination, multiply that one city block by 250. Then multiply that by the five Burroughs. And that's just New York City IN ONE DAY.
Think of the piles we create daily, weekly, yearly and if you’ll let your mind fathom - over each of our lifetimes. It's just gross you guys. Gross... and completely avoidable.
In our relatively privileged country, most of us expect to have what we want, when we want it. Our convenience and comfort typically come at high prices: individually wrapped everything, more packaging for more products, and lack of care towards which materials are used, or which animals are harmed.
I am a part of this privileged and entitled group - I'll own it. I didn’t grow up in a home where we recycled. I don’t even remember seeing recycling in my school until we moved to Austin, TX for high school. I have not been one to care about what packaging surrounds a product, let alone what that packaging is made of. I buy what I buy, with no thought to where it was sourced, how it was produced, how the workers involved were treated, how/if animals were involved or what lasting implications this product's plastic packaging may have on Mama Earth. Historically, I have been a very UNonscious consumer.
Hell, now I'm in the reflection zone... I thought I was SO environmentally conscious for getting a garbage can with two sides: on for trash, one for recycling. OOOOOOH YOU’RE SUPER WELCOME, ENVIRONMENT! *claps hands and sits back on her couch made in Chinese sweat factories, wearing clothes made by poorly compensated Indonesian women, while logging onto Amazon to order ten more items that I may or may not need, meanwhile munching on three plastic wrapped snacks.
Okay, okay, so it’s not THAT bad. But I’m not gonna let myself off the *guilty* hook here. I’ve been a straight up shitty steward of the world! Sorry future Earth for the 25 years of damage I’ve personally contributed to!
BUT NO LONGER.
Tyler and I have been reading, researching, and now we’re repenting!!! Thank you New York City for helping us realize we are simultaneously totally insignificant and truly significant.
Our actions, our household, our choices, need to reflect an intentional commitment to making this drastic change in our lifestyle. This is going to take baby steps, but we’re excited and feel good about the challenge to take our habitually unconscious lifestyle and make it intentional.
Here are our first steps:
1. Reduce the amount of trash we produce by 50% in 2 months
Sounds drastic, but I believe with some smart changes, we can reduce the amount of products we "need", and be smart about buying items with less packaging. I think about the weeks I've spent hiking in Japan or Spain with nothing more than a backpack. The truth is, you really don't need a lot to survive - and heck, even be happy! So it's time to trim and slim the ol' consumerism.
2. Actually recycle what should be recycled
No more blasé attitude about a stray cereal box getting bagged with our refuse. We’re tightening up our trash routine. I've started weighing the trash we're creating... I'm gonna get all spreadsheety on this. We’ve created a “five can system” to start analyzing our trash: paper, glass, plastics, regular ol' trashy trash, and compost. We’re going to weigh each of these systematically to hold ourselves accountable. The idea is that recycling should increase and refuse decrease as we are more careful and meticulous about what ends up in the trash (i.e. rinsing hummus container so I can recycle, or moving that stray aluminum can into the recycling side)
3. Research & censor which materials/products we bring into home
I'm in the process of researching our current brands and learning tons! I think the biggest piece here is educating myself. Actually knowing what I'm using and choosing better options if necessary. I'm learning more about plastics… those guys are the WORST! I’ll get a post up soon about which products we decide to say "BOY BYE" to and what we replace/change up!
Let’s start there. I have many other ideas and things I want to work to change, but let me see if we can really tackle these three goals. ooooh I have goal goosebumps!
We’re going to try to document + share some of this journey with on the blog. My hope is that my friends will also take ownership of their environmental impact and embrace some of the habits we share as we learn and grow a more sustainable life culture! We've been inspired by some amazing bloggers and you tubers (who we’re learning a lot from). Read and follow along with some peeps who are already killing the low/zero waste lifestyle:
Go Litterless: Chicago based gal with tons to share about best places/reusable products to help you set up for success in zero waste living
Trash Is For Tossers: inspiring Brooklyn woman who shares really practical life advice to completely eliminating trash!
Going Zero Waste: San Fran blogger with really simple guidance on trash free living. She breaks down the aspects of life and gives really do-able suggestions.
No to Plastic: this girl gets down and dirty (or clean?) with every aspect of life. I like how dedicated she is to honest anecdotes.
Zero Waste Chef : great cooking centric blog with lots of kitchen waste management advice (so helpful because my cooking produces the majority of trash in my house)
***I feel the need to note that I am not in anyway claiming that I am going "Zero Waste" at this point in time (as many of these bloggers can). I'm taking my first baby steps here!
Please leave a comment to let me know your thoughts! Have you tried any of these things yourself? Any ideas or resources you can throw my way are also appreciated!