How much do you worry about waste?

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Peanut
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How much do you worry about waste?

Post by Peanut »

I was thinking about this topic again because of the ethical consumerism thread. Basically I'm uncomfortable with how some people close to me live their day-to-day lives in terms of producing waste. For example, a couple of my newer mom friends and members of my family practice one or all of the following behaviors: not recycling even though they go through tons of water bottles, buying lots of single-serving applesauces, juices, etc, ordering and throwing out lots of takeout packages, and so on. I feel like I die a little inside when I see them do this or even do it myself when we're together. But I don't know how to try to change them without being overbearing. Sometimes friends will see me do something differently and express admiration but it won't affect their own practices. Family members explicitly know we don't like certain things that they do (because we've said so) but carry on anyway.

Not saying we're perfect but DH has always pushed us towards minimalism in for example not using tissues or paper towels, bringing our own containers for leftovers if we do eat out, etc. I still worry about how much garbage I produce and shudder to think how much others around me do. This isn't based on anything concrete Iike research though, just a vague sense that it can't be good.

How much do you worry about consumer waste? How bad really is plastic and electronic junk in the landfills, oceans? Do I need to feel so much angst about these things? Can I let it go and enjoy the great things about these people that I do appreciate?

Dragline
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Re: How much do you worry about waste?

Post by Dragline »

I think its morally wrong, but often difficult to avoid. I would even go so far as to say that the two most endemic sins of modern culture are waste and vanity. It seems like buying lots of stuff and becoming famous is all the rage.

But I recognize that others don't find this concern very meaningful and there is little I can do to change other people's behaviors other than try to set a good example/do my part. And that haranging others about it is likely to be counterproductive in many instances. I try not to worry about anything that is not in my control, especially what other people are doing, and sometimes actually succeed.
Last edited by Dragline on Tue Dec 29, 2015 2:33 pm, edited 1 time in total.

GandK
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Re: How much do you worry about waste?

Post by GandK »

I don't really worry about it, because what good does that do? But it bothers me when I am unable to do my best for our family regarding waste disposal.

Judging others is a more destructive use of time and energy than worrying, I find. Half the time you've assumed wrong about people's issues and motivations, and if you've said something about it before you reach the point of understanding, then you look like an ass. And if you've any conscience at all, you feel like one as well. Why go down that road when you can never "fix" them anyway?

theanimal
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Re: How much do you worry about waste?

Post by theanimal »

I really hate wasting. I do what I can on an individual level but understand that most people don't care. It pains me to see food thrown away, lights left on after people leave rooms etc. Not much I can do about it though, so I'm content with doing my part and hoping others follow my lead.

IlliniDave
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Re: How much do you worry about waste?

Post by IlliniDave »

I don't worry about it, but strive to do a little better on an ongoing basis. My neighbors must think I'm weird because I only put my trash out for collection once every 6 weeks.

Toska2
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Re: How much do you worry about waste?

Post by Toska2 »

I don't worry. Short term: Someone has to keep the economy going. Long term: Species die off. Why not humans?

Im sadder at the personal economic impact. My family and friends are stressed and trapped at their jobs.

jacob
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Re: How much do you worry about waste?

Post by jacob »

I think a lot about my personal waste but I don't worry so much about other people's waste [anymore(*)]. Trying to close the loops on my personal waste or turn it into other people's resources or vice versa is a big reason why I can keep my cash outlays for stuff very low.

Another way of looking at it is that I like to optimize my stuff-efficiency = [useful output / total input] which means finding some use for everything.

(*) Consumer pollution is pretty bad overall and sometime in this century the rising concentration of pollution will overwhelm our ability to deal with it. For example, more Americans now die from car pollution than from car accidents.

cmonkey
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Re: How much do you worry about waste?

Post by cmonkey »

jacob wrote: more Americans now die from car pollution than from car accidents.

Wow really? Even with all the supposed enhancements we've made to clean up emissions?


I don't really worry in the traditional sense, but I do think about this constantly, mostly in my own personal life. I've commented to the DW on several occasions (and she agrees) that we should take into account the waste product when purchasing stuff (mostly groceries). Because we can't recycle glass where we live, we will try for plastic containers. For things like rice/beans I'm not sure how to stem the tide of plastic bags.

jacob
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Re: How much do you worry about waste?

Post by jacob »

Yes and yes. Jevon's Law again.

In my experience, out of the minority who recognize a given problem, only a minority of that minority will also recognize how they personally contribute to said problem. For example, there was a big discussion about climate change in my family over xmas and everybody agreed that the planet is being rendered increasingly unliveable. Ten minutes later, most everybody is going "Uhhh baby!!!" over some ultrasounds while others are talking about having getting married and having 2-3 children.

When I buy stuff, I mostly take into account how hard it is to get rid of the damn thing again. Once I was BIFL, but now I'm beginning to learn more towards used/ultracheap, e.g. instead of $300 BIFL jacket, I'll go for a $5 one at Goodwill.

GandK
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Re: How much do you worry about waste?

Post by GandK »

jacob wrote:When I buy stuff, I mostly take into account how hard it is to get rid of the damn thing again. Once I was BIFL, but now I'm beginning to learn more towards used/ultracheap, e.g. instead of $300 BIFL jacket, I'll go for a $5 one at Goodwill.
When/how did your shift from BIFL to used take place? I'm firmly in the BIFL camp at present.

luxagraf
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Re: How much do you worry about waste?

Post by luxagraf »

I think about my own waste all the time. Currently experimenting with ways to limit disposable plastic use, which gets really hard at a certain point, particularly, as OP notes, with regard to buying food.

And while I may not like other people's waste, I try not to worry about it insofar as any one individual's waste is meaningless.

If you do confront one person about their waste you're essentially blaming them for the *problems* of waste, which are aggregate and not solely their fault.

[edited to add: Having thought for a minute, I realize that's not entirely true. I confront friends and family members all the time about those single serving "coffee" things. Those things are ridiculous and need to stop.]

disparatum
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Re: How much do you worry about waste?

Post by disparatum »

Also bothered by it. By my own waste, less so others. Especially as I have downsized my possessions over the last few years. I was initially pretty good about selling items, putting books on paperbackswap, taking clothes to goodwill. I have less time (or patience) these days and so I haven't been as good about this. I also feel like taking things to Goodwill can sometimes be a cop out. I think they end up throwing a lot of stuff away as well.

I want to do worm composting again. My first attempt before moving out west didn't turn out very well. But I think I've learned a few things. We try to buy things in bulk, reuse bags, and if I go to a coffee shop, I'll try to bring my own cup. Nevertheless, I still feel like I throw lots of things out.

Articles like this make me wonder as well: http://www.forbes.com/sites/amywesterve ... vironment/

Aluminum is more recyclable than plastics and glass. Glass probably has a greater variety of (re)uses at home. I think the state of Hawaii has a recycling program but no recycling center. It gets incinerated (for electrical power) or shipped to the mainland. How am I supposed to keep track of all this? Is washing reusable diapers in southern california (where there's a drought) worse than throwing away disposable ones (regional vs. global contributions)?

The most surefire way is just to stop buying things. And not have children apparently.

I would second the leading by example method.

jacob
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Re: How much do you worry about waste?

Post by jacob »

GandK wrote:When/how did your shift from BIFL to used take place? I'm firmly in the BIFL camp at present.
Two reasons:

1) The cost/function for BIFL is often much higher than that of a cheap knock-off. E.g. in 90% of the [my] cases, a $2 tote bag will carry stuff more effectively than a $300 backpack. Also, expensive stuff tends to require more cost in maintenance (and risk of loss) than simply replacing the dollar-solution.
2) The FL doesn't always hold (I get tired of stuff before I wear it out) and I find it easy to give a $10 item away than to try to sell something I paid $300 for for $250, not having developed the strength to simply give away $300 items.

I'm neither in one camp nor the other. It seems to be more of a mixture between BIFL and inexpensive-used avoiding the retail cost/value in the middle. It could also be that I care less about stuff than I used to and that I'm just in a transition from BIFL to low cost/free.

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Ego
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Re: How much do you worry about waste?

Post by Ego »

jacob wrote: Once I was BIFL, but now I'm beginning to learn more towards used/ultracheap, e.g. instead of $300 BIFL jacket, I'll go for a $5 one at Goodwill.
Aw, don't say that. Keep lending your credibility to the BIFL philosophy. The consumers then buy BIFL stuff, discard it when they Kondoize their spaces (Santa Maria to us bottom feeders) and allow me live off of their waste. BIFL is the fertilizer to my daffodils. :D

Peanut
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Re: How much do you worry about waste?

Post by Peanut »

Interesting that many seem to agree that the strategy is to control your own waste but not worry about what others are doing. Maybe it really is a personality orientation thing, cue those introversion acronyms! I'm not a full-on crusader type but closer to that than its opposite. If waste is a problem we should all worry about (thanks for the example Jacob) then how can I in good conscience not try to persuade others to change, especially those close to me.
luxagraf wrote:And while I may not like other people's waste, I try not to worry about it insofar as any one individual's waste is meaningless.

If you do confront one person about their waste you're essentially blaming them for the *problems* of waste, which are aggregate and not solely their fault.
Technically just nearly meaningless, but perhaps if you can influence enough others the needle would budge. The 'confrontation' need not follow that logic at all. I think helping people to empower themselves to do their part for their (kids'?) better future is a gift. I have always received it as such anyway.

To me the situations above are simple in that it's mostly just ingrained habits and prioritizing convenience over other considerations that lies behind the excess waste I'm talking about. Some of it is really easily solved, also.

Well, I'm going to try to address the 1000 water bottles a year at my in-laws and see what happens.

jacob
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Re: How much do you worry about waste?

Post by jacob »

@Peanut - Don't get me wrong. I'd love to control/change other people's waste as well. I've tried too. And I've given up. I think crusading is a young people's game(?).

In general, "lectures" (talking to persons) is the least effective of all methods because people only listen if they are willing AND capable. The most effective methods are direct feedback where possible. For example, there is a famous example (I forget whether it's Norway or the UK) in which a new development was built with exactly the same houses and yet some of them consistently showed 1/3 less electric use that didn't correlate with anything until it was realized that those houses had the electric meter sitting prominently at the front door where the residents could see it spinning whereas the meter was hidden in the kitchen in the other houses.

One simple needs feedback mechanisms. It's no surprise that many people's desire for minimalism comes from moving often. Carrying all this stuff is too much work and after a couple of moves the lesson sinks in. Similarly, if dealing with waste was made harder, people would try to avoid generating (and/or throwing it out at the curb).

Consider bottle/can recycling. MI gives 10c back. Most states (NY, CA, ...) give 5c back. And a few states (IL, IN) doesn't given anything. As a result of this policy, MI return rates are some 97%! The 5c states return a little less than half. And IL returns are just a smidgen.

Riggerjack
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Re: How much do you worry about waste?

Post by Riggerjack »

How bad really is plastic and electronic junk in the landfills, oceans? Do I need to feel so much angst about these things?
Waste is always bad. However, some folks exaggerate the effects to fuel their rage in their chosen crusade.

Electronic junk, is full of some very nasty metals, but also some valuable and recyclable metals. The recycling programs are getting better and manufacturing is getting better at avoiding the nastiest stuff. We could go into a full new thread on the hazards vs hysteria of lead.

Organics in landfills generate methane, a greenhouse gas. Other than that, they are fairly inert, and I expect they are the mines of the future.

Plastic in the ocean. There is an island of garbage in the Pacific the size of Texas. We've all seen pictures. Oh, wait, no pictures. There are no pictures, because this island is really just an area of the ocean where currents concentrate plastics. Most of said plastic is measured in microns and parts per million. It's hard to get good PR shots of that. I'm not saying it's not a problem, I'm saying the story isn't told with truth as a priority.

I find most folks who are crusading about waste are really more concerned with tribal affiliation, and social position. Maybe that's not you, I have no way of knowing. But it may be worth thinking about.

Peanut
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Re: How much do you worry about waste?

Post by Peanut »

jacob wrote:@Peanut - Don't get me wrong. I'd love to control/change other people's waste as well. I've tried too. And I've given up. I think crusading is a young people's game(?).
As long as your book, blog, or forum are out there you haven't given up! There can be no doubt that you have had a positive effect on reducing excess waste through those mediums, but a lot of it will remain unknown to you. What you do know about is just a percentage, probably small, of the whole impact you've had.

Perhaps you've had less luck with those you know directly. I think the key is leveraging a certain aspect of the relationship the right way, like through shared values, so that they come to their own epiphany. In community organizing I learned that motivation is about autonomy more than anything, along with purpose and mastery.

And crusading is not (just) for young people! Besides is 40 not young to someone 80? I work with a guy 70+ on workers' issues--he is the most dedicated of all of us and he is only young to a centegenerian (sp?)

Peanut
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Re: How much do you worry about waste?

Post by Peanut »

Riggerjack wrote: I find most folks who are crusading about waste are really more concerned with tribal affiliation, and social position. Maybe that's not you, I have no way of knowing. But it may be worth thinking about.
Are you suggesting I'm pursuing something for bad reasons? Why would it matter if I were? I think being a parent has brought more urgency to various concerns of mine--but conceivably that's not honorable motivation either. I don't think I believe in pure intentions but I do in honest ones.

It's nice to hear more positive prognostications on waste, even if they're not referenced. Gives us hope.

Riggerjack
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Re: How much do you worry about waste?

Post by Riggerjack »

No, I'm not saying for bad reasons. Tribal affiliation and social positioning are good reasons. Honestly, they are great motivators for most people. Most of your original post was about your issues with your family and their waste. Knowing why you want what you want, is a big step in deciding if, and how, to pursue it.

The main point of my post was my conclusions on waste. Based on my own research and experience. I've worked at Fluke and Sony, in their manufacturing plants, plus many smaller shops. I have more than passing interest in civil engineering. I live in the sticks, and have to deal with my own waste, I own old city property, and have dealt with the waste decisions made 100 years ago. Sorry, there's no link to that.

5 minutes on Google will show you what I was talking about, a link only gets you the linked content. If this is worth getting worked up about, it's worth doing some research. If not, well, then probably not.

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