Wednesday, January 03, 2007

On Beyond Recycling

I watched An Inconvenient Truth last night. Yes, I'd seen it before. But I'd forgotten to take it out of my netflix queue, and I didn't have any other movies and I needed to knit. So I watched a movie I'd seen before so I could spend some quiet time knitting. Weird, but true.

It might well be too little too late, but I/we (all of us) need to move beyond putting the recycling out and remembering to keep the yard waste out of the trash. Assuming, of course, that we intend to save the planet. For one thing, I'm losing my identity as the causy rebel if that's all I do. My 80 year old neighbor on the one side and the oh-so-very-Republican neighbors on the other both recycle. It's obviously become mainstream to recycle, and it violates a local ordinance to put yard waste in the trash stream. So I clearly have to move on to other things, if only for reasons of self-image ;)

So, what's next? Recycling reduces the impact of one problem: landfills. This is a good thing. Yet, as I drive down my street on recycling day, I'm still vaguely disturbed by the amount of stuff out there in the recycling buckets. It would be so much worse if that volume were being dumped in the landfills. I get that. But why does most of it exist at all?

It's the same feeling that I get when looking around at my house, actually. So please don't think I'm blaming those other people, the conspicuous consumers. There is no room in this house (and there are 14 of them) that doesn't have unnecessary stuff in it. I'm starting one of those "get rid of it" rampages again.

But here's another side of the same coin. I don't want a grim, ascetic life or home. I don't want to live in a space that feels unwelcoming because, by God, we're living simply. (And I mean it this time!) Rather, if this little family is going to be authentically who it is, we need a space that is fun and welcoming and large. And slightly more organized than it currently is, wouldn't hurt anything either.

There's a group on yahoo that has pledged to go a step further, purchasing almost nothing in the next year. They give themselves a pass for food, cleaning, health supplies, and services such as necesssary transportation. They call themselves The Compact and here's what they say about themselves:
"We are a group of individuals committed to a 12-month flight from the consumer grid.

The Compact has several aims (more or less prioritized below):

* To go beyond recycling in trying to counteract the negative global environmental and socioeconomic impacts of disposable consumer culture and to support local businesses, farms, etc. -- a step that, we hope, inherits the revolutionary
* To reduce clutter and waste in our homes (as in trash Compact-er).
* To simplify our lives (as in Calm-pact)

I joined the yahoo group, but so far they are a bit austere -making laundry soap from quinoa and arguing about whether or not it violates the compact to fly to grandma's funeral. Oh spare me. Offset carbon miles if you like, but get to your grandmother's funeral. And quinoa doesn't belong in the laundry room, as far as I'm concerned. Nonetheless, the idea of fleeing consumerism is an interesting one.

Some people are doing an excellent job of making living a "green" life consistent with being hip. Siel at Green LA Girl and Ideal Bite come to mind. Thank heavens they are out there. But I need something else, since even those women can't turn me into a hip person. What a want is abundance of a different sort. Not stuff, but ambiance. I want joy, a sense of welcome, and social justice to inform my consumer choices. There it is. That's what I want. If a consumer good isn't going to move me closer to that, then I don't want it.

Now I have to give some thought to what that actually means when I'm standing in the grocery store, contemplating the fairly grim choices among, say, high-fiber cereals. But I do think this projects merits more musing.


Lisa :-] said...

I think not shopping would be infinitely more difficult for me than a diet.

But it's a great idea I wish I could take advantage of...

Heather said...

Thought you might find this video interesting:

Rhea said...

I do this thing called "feng shui-ing," which means I get rid of a lot of stuff from time to time. Now, I don't have a large family and house like you do, so it's a great deal easier to control the 'stuff', but I love it because getting rid of stuff simplifies my life and makes room for things that I really want around me. And good ambiance can be created easily and inexpensively.