I hate waste. I hate wasting. And, most of all, I hate wastefulness. Is it just me?
When I walk in nature (or in town) and I see garbage lingering in the woods or along the curbs, I am appalled. What is so hard about throwing trash in a provided bin – even if it is placed a few steps away – or carrying it back out of a park or forest and dispose of it at home? Why does anyone have the need to throw empty cans, wrappers or plastic bottles through open car windows, while any gas station (or your own house) has a trash can? Do these ignorant soilers really prefer to drive or walk in a littered environment instead of a pristine one? Do they not care that their neighbors or fellow citizens have to roam amongst trash?
When I walk in the grocery store, many items are double wrapped or packed in non-degradable materials. At the check-out counter, cashiers or (most) customers don’t even blink when packing piles of merchandise into piles of plastic bags. When they unpack their new purchases at home, they just throw all that plastic into the bin. Congratulations to the people who reuse these bags as trash bags or dog poop pick-up bags (which we always did in the past and now we sometimes even ask for a couple of plastic bags to reuse in our bathroom bins). Congratulations to supermarkets offering customers the option of paper bags to carry their groceries back home. And, the biggest congratulation to shoppers who bring their own (reusable) bags. Who does not know yet that there is more than enough garbage in the world, or that plastic bags kill many animals in the oceans every day? In Belgium, supermarkets have no plastic (or paper) bags at all. You bring your own, or you grab a cardboard box from a therefore reserved area in the store.
When I observe some Americans in their own home, recycling seems to cause them a lot of grief. Or, they just don’t think about it. Having been very adamant about recycling forever, this really troubles me. Being a Western European where recycling has been a part of daily life for a long time (in Belgium recycling has been mandatory for over two decades) does not help, I’m sure. When garbage is picked up at your doorstep (or even when you have to drive to a nearby collection center) once or twice every two weeks, isn’t it worth your while to reduce general waste, that is already graciously offered to Mother Nature in return for all she does to help us survive? Is recycling too time-consuming? Too much effort? Too hard to figure out what goes where? What is the excuse here?
Of course I realize that creating trash is inevitable. But, why is it that while we were living on our sailboat for eight years, we only filled one small grocery store bag a week with trash and now we create twice that amount? We are still “only” producing one “normal size” trash bag every two weeks, because we deposit compostable items in the yard, collect paper and cardboard separately, and recycle other items in a bag that fills quicker than the general waste bag. The main reason we sometimes have to remove the bag out of the kitchen half-full is its smell. I’m just trying to prove the point that recycling truly reduces the amount of general waste by half or more. So, why not do this?
There is the wastefulness with water and electricity in a mainstream household. People have become so used to what appears to be an unlimited amount of resources, that they don’t even notice (or care) that they left the lights on unnecessary, created freezing temperatures with the AC or left the fridge door open for ages. Why do some people let the water run while brushing their teeth or leave a tap running for no reason at all? Is it ignorance or laziness? How does the sound of needlessly running water not make them cringe? Don’t get me started on this… but do let me know if I’m crazy.
And then, there is food waste. When I was a child refusing to finish my meal, my parents would show or remind my brother and me of images seen on the TV news. They portrayed skeletal, starving children in Africa. “Don’t you realize you are better off than those poor children? Now, eat!” I can’t say it did the trick, but when I see so many people at restaurants or in home settings throwing away food these days, I do think three things: What a waste of vegetables (healthy stuff!) and meat (now this animal really died for no reason). What a waste of money. What a shame so many people have to starve without even the most basic nutrition while here, so much is thrown out without further ado. When my mind wanders off in that direction, I find it disgusting how spoiled we are in the Western world and don’t even realize it, while a major part of the earth’s population is hungry and poor. And we dare to complain about a bad hair day, our favorite food not being available in the store or not being able to “afford” the latest gadget or fad. Really? I am starting to blame the world’s problems, people’s hunger for power, their need to be violent and the increasing tendency to be disrespectful, inconsiderate and self-righteous on the fact that we are all too spoiled and maybe even too bored. What else could it be, when you realize how well off we are, compared to so many other cultures?
But, I am getting off topic here. On a more personal level, I cannot throw out any food. This is sometimes not healthy either. Quite literally. I would only toss expired milk when I have tasted its sourness (hoping I don’t have to puke after my diagnosis). I don’t mind eating food that is out of date, but smells fine. And I just cut around the unattractive or discolored parts of vegetables, before I use them. While I am very frugal, it is not so much the cost of the items than the feeling of wasting them that bugs me.
When food items have become inedible or when Mark forces me to throw out unrecognizable forms of previously admired provisions, I oblige and begrudgingly toss the items, muttering “what a waste”. But, Mark is not here right now. So, I had some funny looking cheese for lunch. It had been lingering in the fridge for quite some time, therefore I cut off the blue spots. I am not a big fan of Provolone, which I had bought for our guests. Once I noticed the mold, the other day, I knew I had to eat it now or never (before Mark would notice). Well, the remaining yellow parts of the Provolone on my sandwich tasted like blue cheese, and if there is one cheese I dislike even more than Provolone, it is blue cheese! Maybe that’s where I should draw the line? Only waste, when the taste of a product is corrupted… I think that might be the sweet (or sour) spot for me.
Do you think I have a condition/disease? If so, is there a name for it?
Feel free to provide me with answers to the questions in my blog. While I am appalled by the behavior of some people (I didn’t mean to generalize too much, by the way), I am very curious to find out what goes through people’s minds – if anything – when they waste or litter…