Category Archives: consumerism

Tracking Trash

Where the heck does our trash go?  I mean, I know my garbage goes to the landfill in Delta or up to the recently expanded Cache Creek, but what about everything else? What about those glass jars and cardboard boxes? What about the occasional plastic container? Is my stuff ending up in the great pacific garbage patch?

Although I have been assured by the guy at the local depot that everything is sold to local buyers, who the heck knows where it goes after that? And with heartbreaking films about garbage pickers and exposés about third world electronics dismantling on the rise, it’s no wonder we are all questioning what’s at the end of the line for the contents of our precious blue boxes.

So the smart folks over at MIT did more than just wonder. They decided to track their recycling. (yes, I’m a couple years behind the 8 ball on this, but it’s still fascinating)

They put tracking sensors on a bunch of waste in Seattle and booted it out the door. The results are pretty interesting.

First off, they generated some super cool tracking maps (that could be classified as art unto themselves). But seriously, I’ve thought a lot about where disposable items come from and the resources used to get them into our hands, but it’s even more crazy to think of how far something as simple as a single coffee cup might travel after its 10 minutes of useful life. And just think of the greater implications of tagging loads of recycling; it would become immediately apparent who is shipping stuff illegally or dumping in the ocean. That’s serious stuff.

I wanted to post some of the maps here, but they have a reproduction clause on their website, so you’ll have to go to http://senseable.mit.edu/trashtrack/ to check it out.

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How Many Winters For A Jacket?

My winter jacket is  green.  It’s made of some sort of lightly insulated synthetic material and sewn by someone in China.  It’s has one of those fake fur trims around the hood that can be zipped off.

I bought it about 3 years ago at Winners for $39.99 (I’m slightly embarrassed that I know this off the top of my head, but I thought it was a pretty good deal at the time, so I guess it stuck with me).

I wear this winter jacket nearly every day from October to April.  (Unless it looks like rain in which case I wear my rain jacket, which, coincidentally, is nearly the exact same shade of green.)

Grant hates my winter jacket.  Every time I put it on, he moans and groans about why do I have to wear that jacket.  He’s so tired of seeing that jacket. Continue reading

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It’s Contagious

It’s funny how one thing leads to another.

Take, for example, consumerism.  At the outset of the Clean Bin Project, we decided that we wanted to buy less stuff.  That lead to us taking a better look at packaging and trying to reduce that too.  Then the whole darn thing became a “zero waste” project, and the non-consumerism became more of a means to help us achieve our goal of no landfill waste.

But even stranger, is where we’ve gone since then.  It seems that once you get passionate about a single issue (for me, consumerism and waste), pretty soon you find yourself thinking about all kinds of topics that are somehow related.  Take, for example, eating local.

I originally started shopping more at the farmers market in a simple attempt to avoid food packaging.  But as I got to know the faces of our local food producers, I started to feel loyal to certain stalls, and I started to feel really good about buying fresh, local, organic food.  The packaging thing was still important, but frequenting the market instilled other values in me as well.  I love the sense of community, the knowledge that we are buying the freshest possible product, and the fact that we are directly supporting the local economy.

Don’t get me wrong, I was a fan of farmers markets before the Clean Bin Project, but I was only a casual browser.  A couple tomatoes here, a piece of fancy cheese there.  By sunday night, I’d be at the supermarket getting “regular” supplies for the rest of the week.

Our project made me realize that the markets are a real food source instead of just a lovely saturday afternoon activity.  Now I grocery shop at the farmers market, trying to buy enough (package-free) apples, broccoli, eggs, and bread to last me until the next week.  (In the winter, when it runs only every two weeks, I have to really stock up.)

And, as one thing contagiously leads to another, buying fresh food has also made me more dedicated to growing fresh food.  This year, as I gear up to plant my veggie garden, I’m already getting excited about choosing which varieties of local and organic seeds to sow.

So, although I never would have predicted it, our little project in zero waste has turned me on to local food in a big way.

What’s your latest passion?

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Cumulative Effects

Who doesn’t like to indulge a bit? A chocolate bar here, a vacation there, it’s human nature to want to treat ourselves – especially on special occasions.

Coincidentally, we just had a few special occasions whip by – Hanukkah, Christmas, Boxing Day, New Years – whatever you celebrate, there was surely an excuse for indulgence in the last couple weeks.

For my part, I ate mass quantities of cheese and delicious refined sugar (and no, I don’t really feel that bad about it); I bought some decidedly materialistic (but useful) gifts that I wouldn’t have even considered giving last year; and I definitely burned more than my fair share of fossil fuels, driving up to Pemberton and Whistler to ski, and down to Seattle for a little get away.

Big deal, we treated ourselves, right?

Well, Christine at Simple Savvy pointed me to this link where you can see people heralding in the new year all over the world.  Most of the pictures are of people celebrating -fireworks, facepainting, extravagant celebrations.

Take another look that the image above.  It depicts a sanitation worker cleaning up after New Years in Times Square.

It’s beautiful, but I think it’s sadly symbolic of the cumulative impact we have.  Maybe each person only had one balloon, or one paper cup, or one handful of confetti, but in the end, it adds up to a lot of garbage.

Don’t worry, I’m not getting all doom and gloom on you here.  Because the point is that we can also have the opposite effect.  If everyone did one thing this year to reduce their consumption or their waste, it might not seem like a big change, but what a huge cumulative difference it would make.

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“We are trashing the planet, we are trashing each other, and we’re not even having fun”

So says Annie Leonard.  By now I’m sure you have all seen the Story of Stuff.  Needless to say, it was one of many great educational resources that we tapped into a couple years ago, and it was one of the motivators for the Clean Bin Project.

Well, if you need any more motivation, I recently came across this film of Annie speaking live at the Bioneers Conference.

She manages to be both critical and positive at the same time, raising serious issues like over-consumption, and drawing laughs when  describing how she can’t look at an everyday products without seeing its consumer lifecycle of flash through her mind.  Once you start thinking about garbage, it seems that there’s no turning it off. . .

To watch parts 2 and 3 of this talk, click here and here.

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Filed under consumerism, interactions, video

Buy Nothing Day

Heads up folks.  Time to fasten your wallets and cook from the pantry, the annual Buy Nothing Day is here!

Hey, if you manage to do it for a day, why not a week.  Why not a month?

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