There are days when I wonder why we even bother trying to live in a way that produces less waste. Does it really matter, I sometimes ask myself, if I don’t buy the bag of chips or the new hair clip or whatever else it is I want so badly? Almost everything in our culture – from the aisles lined with spiffily packaged food to the promise of the American Dream – tells me that the answer is no. In fact, there are days when not buying my kid crackers seems downright ridiculous.
But more and more, what’s absurd isn’t my cart of rye flour and raisins in muslin bags. What’s absurd are those bursting aisles of boxes and bags and cans and jars that seem less like a source of sustenance and more like a clean and well lit landfill. I don’t see the food anymore, just the waste.
The rushing river of consumerism moves so quickly, with so much force, that when we are caught in it, it is almost impossible to tell how carried away we’ve become. Without making this commitment to living without plastic for even a few months, it would have been close to impossible for me to sit on the banks, watching all the cool stuff get swept by.
I feel, sometimes, like one of the addicts I used to nurse at the hospital. Just as I start drying out from that rushing river you might call Modern Consumer Culture, I start asking what’s one small hit/bag of chips going to do? I’m ready to jump back into the current, to get swept away again.
Because of that vow, I am discovering ways to drown out the all-pervasive voice of culture and advertising and a whole lifetime of pretty much getting what I want. And I look at that bag of chips and ask two new questions: How was the earth harmed to make this? How will the earth be harmed when I throw it away?
I can’t always articulate an answer, but the gist of it steers me back to the bulk food aisle, or home to do some knitting, or for a walk on the land. Like any addict, I sometimes ask the higher power for help. The moment passes. And I feel relieved to be sitting out the deluge, drying out little by little.