Taking notice of the invisible wasteful things

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

The most frequently discussed and mentioned way to go green is changing habits. To do this, instead of that, we are told and such. However, much less do we here mention of one as important if not more important than changing habits and that is “changing the mindset”.

Habits are one thing; put the empty glass bottle into the recycling bin for glass, the waste paper into the paper recycling bin, and so on, instead of simply chucking those things into the garbage can, which then ends up, more often than not, in the landfill. Changing the mindset is where things must get to and that is much more important and much more difficult, I think, for most. Me must develop, the older generation as much as the younger generation, a “green mindset”.

So, how does this mindset look in practice? In fact, I think we must look at this further in a separate essay, so I shall just go on like this here for the moment.

For many of us, especially the younger people, what is considered normal is in fact very wasteful indeed.

We are, so to speak, surrounded by invisible wasteful things. They are not really invisible, obviously, but they might as well be since we do not notice them.

What we are talking about here are things like individually wrapped cheese slices, small boxes of food staples that could be bought in bulk, bottled water, disposable paper plates, and much, much more. And that's just for the kitchen!

There are many other areas of life where it's just as bad, like jumping in the car to go somewhere that is in walking distance, throwing away a computer or cellphone after a couple of years, etc.

Computers, especially, do not have to be thrown after just a few years, unless they really are no longer working because of a fault that cannot be fixed (easily and cheaply). They do not get obsolete just because Bill gates tell us so and makes it so in that the new version of the software require ever more powerful machines and such. If the PC has problems with an old version of Windows because no more updates for it, no more programs that want to work on it, then it is time (well, it is anyway) to ditch Windows and find a comfortable Linux version.

All of these things might seem fairly benign on their own, but when they are added all up together, then it is obvious that this is a massive waste.

Not to mention that we too often forget to count how a thing was made: A paper plate is small, but think of all the trucks and chainsaws that went out to cut down trees, transport them for processing; think of all the energy and chemicals required to turn it into cardboard, and then package it and ship it to a store. And then you would use it a few minutes and throw it in the trash?

The same is true, however, also with other items. The glass jar, for instance, that once contained jam, pickles or peanut butter; you finish with it, you throw it into the trash. We all, most of anyway, do that. What did, however, our grandparents and maybe even parents do with empty glass jars? They would reuse them umpteen times for storing leftovers, or for storing buttons, nails, screws, etc.

The old homesteaders and frugal farming folks used old tin cans for a variety of jobs and also recycled them into scoops, lanterns, and many other things.

There are better ways to do things, and once you change your 'lens' and start seeing waste that was previously invisible to you, these better ways will become apparent, especially once each and every one of us applies the “Green Mindset” (look out for the essay to come).

© M Smith (Veshengro), June 2008