I started thinking about these issues again. I started getting really into these things a year or two ago when I read some articles and felt like I needed something in my life that was bigger than me, my job, my business… you know, what I mean?
I never really cared much before, when I was younger, but I figured out that maybe it was because I was already living this way (more or less). I just wasn’t realizing it until “now” (1-2 years ago) and suddenly it became this huge deal.
When I grew up in Denmark and for as long as I can remember, my parents and I had always recycled. I think it really began after 1988 when we moved to a new house, which had a big garden in the back.
My parents made a large, organic vegetable garden, which pretty much made us self-sustainable through the winter months with carrots, green beans, tomatoes, potatoes, leek, onions, etc.
Sorting our trash became an ingrained habit. Our food scraps would go in a bin for the compost pile and everything else in the regular trash. Plastic bottles were returned to the store in exchange for money. Glass and paper were separated and recycled. Old (but still usable) clothes and shoes were donated. And we brought our own canvas shopping bags to the supermarket instead of paying for single-use plastic bags.
That’s just the way we did things every day, like breathing air.
For the past 13 years I’ve lived in a place where none of that is part of my life. I forgot about all these things in my daily life, except for when I went back to visit my parents.
I live in a place where recycling is a foreign concept. A place where they practically throw single-use plastic bags at you when you go to the supermarket (see photo from one trip to the supermarket where I got about 20 plastic bags). A place where Styrofoam is practically everywhere you look. A place where I can’t separate my food scraps and compost, because it’s not allowed in the golf course community where I live…and I also don’t have a garden.
A few years ago, I started bringing my own canvas shopping bags to the supermarket and every time I do, they look at me like I’m some kind of alien. The “baggers” at the supermarket (they’re mostly guys) just can’t figure it out. They’re so trained in how to bag groceries in plastic bags that they become so flustered and insecure when I hand them my bags and tell them to bag my groceries in them.
I can see it in their faces…their movements become slightly slower, less flowing. Because now they have to think about how to bag everything in one or two big bags instead of in 8-10 small plastic bags. Now they actually have to use their brain for a change. And when you add the fruits and vegetables that I don’t put in plastic produce bags either, then it’s almost too much for them to handle. I usually have to instruct them on how to bag everything…and tell them NO when they try to sneak some groceries into a plastic bag (like I’m not looking and like I wouldn’t notice).
Recycling here is another issue. I don’t even know if it exists other than in the capitol. So, if recycling isn’t an option then I’m thinking that my main focus should be on reducing in order to produce less trash and waste and in the end do my part to help save the environment.
I am trying, but it’s not easy. It’s not easy to live a zero waste lifestyle when everything around you isn’t set up to help you.
I got so into it at one point that I almost gave up because it was just too hard to do 100%. So I realized that maybe it’s not about, say, eliminating waste completely and avoiding plastic completely. I mean, if I reduce just 50% or 75% or even just 25%…then it’s still a victory, because I’ll still be down from 100%. I know it may not be as good as going all the way, but realizing that I can’t live a total zero waste life makes things more manageable and doable for me while still helping me reduce the amount of trash I produce in the long run.
Maybe you can’t do it all at once and sometimes you can’t even do it all. But you can do a little. You can do one thing every day and take one step…and that’s still something. That’s still a victory and a step in the right direction.