Trash

Yesterday I was very excited to receive my new, smaller trash bin. It really is the little things in life. While some may think it is sad for me to get excited over a trash bin, it was a big step in my commitment to waste less and live a more meaningful and simpler life. 

I had noticed in the weeks following my Sweet Babboo’s leaving, I really didn’t have much trash to put out for pickup. Actually hardly any! Not that we had a tremendous amount before, but the difference was noticeable. I had begun recycling the pet food cans and when you only cook 2-3 times a week eating the leftovers on the off days, well my trash had gone down to barely a paper grocery sack full. I know this due to the fact I had stopped using plastic kitchen bags because I never filled them. I realized as I lowered my paper sack of a weeks worth of trash into the cavernous 90 gallon trash bin, I really didn’t need all of this space. 

I went online to see about the smaller bin and was surprised there wasn’t much of a price difference. $14.00/ 90 gallons versus $11.50/ 35 gallons- only a savings of $2.50 per month. Shouldn’t there be a bigger reward for making less trash? Hmm is it worth it? Then I looked at it in terms of $30/ year and yes then it became more substantial. I mean that is a nice dinner out or a movie and dinner, a tank of gas etc. For a poor university student, even the $2.50 per month makes the quick snack I might grab in the upcoming semester because I ran out of time to make something at home more reasonable, so I called. 

The lady on then other end was almost Stepford nice. She cheerily explained the process: they would collect my old bin and drop off the new one on my next trash pickup day. Then she said this: “It holds about a bag and a half. If you find that it is too small and you would like the bigger one again, there is a $10 exchange fee…” I paused, slightly panicked- bigger is better right?-maybe, just in case-the price really wasn’t much different and $10 would certainly eat into my yearly savings… We are conditioned to buy more to save, they even use that exact phrase in advertising and sometimes it makes sense. I had in my moment of panic though neglected the 3 weeks of observation I had put into this decision. I knew the 35 gallon would be plenty, yet my conditioned desire to consume caused me to panic and question my desire to produce less waste. I took a breath, said okay and thus the experiment continues.

As I was getting ready for work yesterday, I saw the truck pull up. I watched from the window as the guy dropped off my new, smaller bin and I must say it is adorable. 

Waste 

A lot has been going on in my life. Cross roads and questions galore. One theme that keeps coming up though is waste. Whether it is wasted money, wasted time, wasted vote, wasted life, with every question that begs a decision this theme of waste is also somehow attached. 

With our election last fall, there was the difficult question of who do you vote for. Even long time followers of a party did not feel comfortable voting for their party’s chosen candidate. People began discussing voting third party or not even voting at all and diehards of the two traditional parties cried out “You’ll be wasting your vote!” It is a persons vote to waste though right? 

In my personal life at that time, my sweet Babboo had succumbed to alcoholism. We talked and argued, he lied and manipulated – as alcoholics do, and we discussed constantly his need to quit. My heart hurt watching him waste his life away. The question soon became for me of wasted time, wasted emotional energy, wasted effort and the wasting away of myself in living with an alcoholic. I finally asked him to leave. Then he finally got help. 

During this time it was also realized, after a seemingly bazillion years, I am realistically 3 semesters away from graduating university. I have only been able to go part time as I work full time and support myself so it has taken a while. Steadily though I have chipped away at it and now the question became, what is next? Graduate school or out into the world using my newly minted degree? I asked my friends and professors “PhD, was it worth it?” In other words would I be wasting my time and money. They all said yes it was worth it for various reasons and as I looked further into it I became excited about the possibility. I love learning. The world is a fascinating place and the prospect of learning and doing research while being paid to do so… It is a no brainer! Finally I could be a regular student. Now it is a matter of deciding my focus and finding a university. 

The outside world and mine are very intertwined. My undergraduate degree will be in biology and there is a slight emphasis towards ecology due to the number of ecology classes I have taken along with minors in Russian and chemistry. The current administration has been systematically undoing years of environmental legislation in our country. This election and new administration has brought about a new interest for me in what goes on politically both in our country and globally. Scientists and their work are being dismissed without looking at what research and history has shown us. The very thing I love and have spent years learning is being treated as if it were voodoo magic without logical reason. Sadly the one thing that makes science most beautiful is the fact that a scientist will never say “I am 100% certain…” At best we can say we are 99% sure leaving that 1% open for the miracles of what we know we don’t know. Unfortunately, the general populace wants and deals with only absolutes. Beyond a reasonable doubt is not even good enough they want 100% guaranteed. Because this is not possible, our testimony of 99% surety, often backed by multiple studies and years of research, is regulated into the background as unproven. Thus regulations have been reversed and in the meantime the concept of waste and our environment has taken on a global meaning.

I have always recycled and considered myself a friend of the environment. My studies have only strengthened this as has the current administration. I began to ask myself how can I reduce even more the waste I produce? Admittedly I am bad about remembering to bring my cloth bags to the grocery and there are other areas as well I’m sure could be better. I am only human and therefore far from perfect. 

Since I usually write about running one may ask, what does all of this have to do with running? It has everything to do with running. Whether running on roads or out on the trail the environment matters. The air you breathe matters. The trash you may produce while running whether it’s gel packets or banana peels and how you dispose of them matters. Running is one of the simplest forms of being there is and it drives me to be the best possible me I can be. While you only need the most minimal of gear, how the gear was made, where and the impact of consuming that gear also has come into question. At what point does consuming begin to consume us?