Less is the new more

My goal is always: Less.  I’m forever striving to need less, want less, use less, and waste less. When I was young, we had the book Diet for a Small Planet on the bookshelf. I never read the book, but the title alone conveyed to me that 1) our planet has a limited number of resources for us all to share and 2) individual choices have global impact. These notion have stayed with me, in fact, they have become guiding principles.

I am very aware of the impact my consumption has on the planet.  The truth is, I’m a bit obsessed with garbage. I read an article in Rolling Stone about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch forming in the Pacific Ocean. Twice the size of Texas, this plastic continent is a scary reminder that most of what you have ever thrown away is still with us. It’s not gone anywhere. Think about every piece of plastic you touched today. Last month. In the last 10 years. It staggers me. And it renews my commitment to needing less, wanting less, using less and wasting less.

Needing less

This trend in bulk selling has always felt like the wrong direction. I don’t just mean the Costcos of the world. I mean the fact that everything we purchase is oversized to give the allusion of value. It’s everywhere you look:  giant portions, bulk pricing, buy one, get one half off!  When you  spend more than you planned and buy more than you need, it is not a good deal, you have been up-sold. Don’t feel bad, it’s meant to confuse and befuddle us.

The fact is, we have too many choices. There’s a mind boggling number of options for every consumer decision we make and we spend more time shopping than ever before. It took me 15 minutes to pick out laundry detergent this morning, you need a PhD from Proctor & Gamble University to decode the options. And they make it impossible for you to figure out which is the better value by never allowing you to compare apples to apples.

The whole experience leaves you feeling strangely depressed because after wasting so much time on the decision, you are pretty sure you picked wrong. The only way to win is to quit playing. Reduce the amount of shopping you do, stop shopping at the mega stores and only purchase items on the list that you made prior to coming into the store.

Wanting Less

It’s hard not to constantly want, there is SO MUCH to be had. I have always worked hard to ignore the Joneses, trying to keep up with anyone is a losing game. But still, a friend has a lovely new kitchen that makes mine feel loud and cluttered. And our stroller looks sad and dirty next to the status strollers which seem to have become the must have item of the baby boom. And I lurve fashion, which is a terribly  wasteful industry on so many levels.

What’s harder still is teaching the kids not to have the I wants. They live in this world too, they are subjected to the same manipulation as the rest of us. A few months ago, my son drove a friend’s Barbie car and had the time of his life. He talked about it for months. Before that day, he didn’t even know such toys existed, now he has to understand why he shouldn’t have one. These conversations get old and ridiculous. Last summer, I actually had to explain to him why we don’t need a hot-tub. File that under first world problems.

Using Less

There’s a great lyric from Cake Italian Leather Sofa.

She’s got a serrated edge
That she moves back and forth.
It’s such a simple machine.
She doesn’t have to use force.

When she get what she wants
She puts the rest on a tray
In a zip-loc bag in the freezer.

As mentioned in the previous post, I love the idea of using less force to do more. And perhaps the description is not meant be to be a complimentary, but you have to respect her effectiveness- it’s such a simple machine, she doesn’t have to use force. The second part of the lyric reminds me to only take just what you need. It’s a principal of abundance. Those that need less, will always have enough. Those that need more, will never have enough.

Waste Less

We all know the mantra: reduce, reuse, recycle. We have a great recycling program here in Seattle which gives us a false sense that just throwing it all in the recycle bin is enough. But when I thought about it, I realized that I most of what I was recycling is only being used once: like plastic bottles, plastic bags and paper bags. Recycling is important when it’s time for disposal, but we should be focusing on reducing and reusing first and foremost.

So now I focus on reducing what comes into the house and on finding multiple uses for items before recycling. I am very aware of packaging, the less the better. That’s a huge benefit of shopping on craigslist or buying second-hand, you get to fore-go the excessive packaging that accompanies items that are rarely still in use after a year. I have also started finding multiple uses for items before they go into the recycle bin. For example, I discovered our preschool always needs stuff for art projects, they are glad to have many items that were previously going into our recycle bin.

I am also planning to declare our household completely plastic bag free in 2010. That is, to use reusable shopping bags, not just at the grocery store, but every time we make a purchase. My goal is to personally phase them out. One small act, but really, not. How many plastic bags are under your sink right now?

Plastic Bag Monsters at the Fremont Solstice Parade

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. Leslie
    Nov 07, 2009 @ 19:13:19

    I just did a tile project on a counter top and used my recycled big yogurt container (no little one serving yogurts here) to mix my grout and a 2nd use paint stir-stick to mix it… then rinsed the container and put it in the recycle bin. I know what you mean- it is easy to be wasteful. Thinking about it, what we buy and how much we buy and where it goes when it is out of our hands, takes more work. Somehow we think we “deserve” the ease of single use water bottles or individual juice bags – how about a Nalgene or a washable cup for water or juice? We buy Zip-Lock bags, but wash them and dry then on a little rack to re-use. The veggies go in the cart “as is” and get washed when they get home, then go into Tupperware containers to keep them fresh so there is less waste. The granola is in bulk and then in Tupperware. The food scraps go to the worms and the chickens. Does it take a little longer? I suppose. Is it worth it? You bet! Keep up the good work!

    Reply

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