Wednesday, September 23, 2009
Waste not want not.
My husband's grandma always impressed me. Her house was ceaselessly tidy to the extent you could probably have eaten off the garage floor. I remember we were visiting once and I needed to throw something away and asked where the trash was. She pointed under her kitchen sink cabinet to a tiny, less than knee high, waste can. It turns out, that was her trash for the week!
I suspect she secretly may have been appalled when we gathered at her home for Christmas dinners and she watched all that wrapping paper, the boxes, packaging, ribbons and bows being shoved into large, black, plastic garbage bags moments after gifts were opened.
I wish I had gotten to know her better when I had the chance. As I've gone down this road to try to simplify for economic, environmental, organizational and other reasons, she would have been a wonderful source of advice. As it is, her memory keeps some of those lessons in mind as I go about the week.
I've come to believe there is a big connection between waste and wealth. Wealth both in the sense of dollars and in inner contentment.
Benjamin Franklin told us "A small leak will sink a great ship." The New Englanders admonished us to "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without." And the environmentalists tell us to "Reduce, Reuse, and Recycle."
So what is waste? Some of the definitions according to the dictionary: To use and expend thoughtlessly and without return; squander; to fail to take advantage of opportunity, not under cultivation, unproductive, unoccupied.
To my mind that includes not only celery and lettuce that went into the trash uneaten (did you ever notice chocolate never seems to end up this way?), but also wasting the chance to giggle with my two boys who are splashing in the bath and instead getting aggravated and pointing to wet spots on the carpet.
There are so many areas of waste in my life and I'm looking at this next seven days as a challenge to see if I can discover ways to recoup a bit of what is sometimes lost.
There is one area I know I've "got it" as far as not being wasteful and that is my garden.
I now have over an acre of flower beds and many of the perennials in those gardens came from what I found tossed at our town's compost dump. I've learned the art of division and easily doubled and doubled again those original starts. I've learned about seed saving and not only save seeds for my own use, but to trade through the mail with others to expand my plant collections.
I have more than my share of trash picked planters and tools. And when my neighbor Bud was taking down his rock wall, I was lady on the spot with my wheelbarrow hauling those stones back to my own yard to edge paths. When someone on freecyle wanted to get rid of some pretty nasty carpet, my ever expanding garden empire used every scrap to kill the grass to make new beds, then put those carpets to use again under wood chips along woodland paths. Many, many times the flowers from my gardens have been shared with coworkers, friends, family, and neighbors and a compost pile gathers all the banana peels and grape stems right off the back deck. I collect my neighbors' leaves and clippings for mulch. And I'm giving some thought to offering to head up a plant sale at our church as a fundraiser.
So despite the fact I came home from an errand this morning to find four outside lights burning away, and tossed one bad apple this morning, I have hope that inside me is that uber thrifty, prudent New Englander waiting to get out.
What are your areas of waste and those areas you've totally "got it"? Care to join me this week? Antoinette, Committed Recycler that you are, maybe there's still some areas of waste??;-) For anyone who wants to waste less or share their "got it" areas, I would love the company. Eileen