Archive for the ‘excess’ Tag

Reducing Waste By Not Using What’s Provided   1 comment

At my conference this week there was a table out all day with coffee carafes and hot water for tea. It was Starbucks’ coffee so they had the branded paper coffee cups and sleeves out, as well as the plastic lids for hot beverages. On the first day of the conference I was warding off my husband’s cold so I was using the echinacea tea that I brought with me. Since the brewing instructions for that tea are for a stronger infusion to get all of the medicinal qualities, having a covered cup to keep it warm longer is a good thing. On the first morning, therefore, I grabbed one of the plastic lids for that purpose. I did notice that while most people at the conference had lids on their coffee/tea cups, some people didn’t. At some point on the second day as I was preparing myself a cup of tea I caught myself automatically reaching for the plastic lid and realized that I was being wasteful, so I put it back. Since the lids were stacked right in front of me it had seemed perfectly natural to use one, even though I didn’t need it. There was no longer a need for a lid to help make a stronger infusion, and since the conference mostly involved sitting or casual walking between sessions there was not much of a spill risk. Not taking the lid effectively reduced the raw materials/energy/water required for my cup of tea, and also reduced the mass of waste created.

It made me think, though, about all the times that we are presented with something that is not always necessary, and how often we take the thing and use it out of habit or because we forget that we don’t actually need it at the time. Other examples that come to mind are things like straws and condiment packets. Many restaurants bring straws when they bring drinks to the table, even though the glasses had to have been sanitized, and the patrons are sitting at a table where they are unlikely to spill their drinks while drinking them. Sometimes I wonder if restaurants do that because patrons are uneasy about drinking from glasses, they want to reduce the labor for the dishwasher, or some other reason. Most of the time it seems that the straw is just a waste of paper and plastic. Condiment packets are the same sometimes where the person at the counter throws a handful of packets in the bag before handing to the customer. I know a lot of people like to save the unused packets, although I’ve never understood how that is more convenient than a bottle of ketchup, but for those of us who don’t use/save them those packets just go in the trash and constitute a waste of materials/water/energy.

Posted March 20, 2011 by mayakey in conscious living, resource use

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Day of Sad Excesses   2 comments

Several years ago I was doing a site investigation in a site used as a homeless camp. The field work started on February 15. When I pulled up to the dead end street that we used to access the site that morning, the street and the sidewalk were covered with large piles of roses and carnations. It was baffling at first. I think it was my subcontractor that pointed out that they were the discarded leftovers from the street corner flower vendors on Valentine’s Day. At the end of the day the remaining stock has zero value for the sellers, and they dump it on the way home. I wish I had had a camera on that morning because it was such a striking image. Imagine a typical dead end into a vacant field, with the normal debris and weeds, and piles of beautiful looking long stem flowers. Since they had been dumped at night, and I arrived shortly after dawn in the morning, they still looked perfectly fresh. It took all of my discipline to not pick up a bunch off the street and put them in my car to take home. In the afternoon when most of them looked a bit wilty it seemed like they made an even more stark image with the fading beauty in the trashy setting.

That image has stuck with me for five or so years (I don’t remember exactly what year this job was). To me the image is a sad symbol of excess. I’ve never been a Valentine’s Day hater; in fact I used to love the day as a day for celebrating friendships of all types. But after that year, Valentine’s Day took on a darker side for me. Now I look around and I see excessive consumption, not necessarily celebrations of love. Love is such a beautiful thing and should absolutely be celebrated with things of beauty; but I don’t ever want to forget  that in order for me to get that one perfect flower or whatever, there are several that go to waste to provide me that choice. Knowing that changes the choice considerably.

Posted February 13, 2011 by mayakey in conscious living, musings, resource use, unshopping

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