Thursday, November 19, 2009

Wasting is making the USA a Garbage Dump!

By Rachael Bliss, Americorps VISTA with the WNC Alliance

I am amazed at the amount of stuff we waste in this country. Look on the curbs on garbage pick-up day, and I'm sure you'll agree with me. Of course, most of it all ends up in huge landfills-- bigger than most farms. The trash is taking up good land that could be used for feeding hungry people and livestock, and instead condemning it to becoming a huge garbage pail for eternity, with nearby streams and springs contaminated forever.

I know we all live in limited situations. We just can't keep every little container, every piece of paper or worn-out appliance. And why would we want to in the first place? I'm the first to admit that the only place for some stuff is in a landfill, but lots of stuff ends up there that should have been put to better use. It's our community's responsibility to tell us what and where the better uses are. First of all, does that paper or plastic bag need to be disposed of? Can't both be reused instead of using new paper and plastic bags? Additionally, why do you have these bags in the first place? Take your own bags to the store and don't put your produce in plastic bags. Your produce will decay faster in a plastic bag than outside of one. The only plastic bag you may run into is the bag your bread comes in. You can avoid this if you bake your own bread. How about getting some sour dough starter, and just get in the habit of adding to it regularly, therefore never needing to buy yeast or bread again?The newspaper? Get your news online and avoid all printed on paper news. It's more up-to-date online, as well. And think of the trees that will be spared!

Tin cans? Those are recyclable, as is the paper above. But fresh local produce is better for you. Try to avoid food from cans. Food from cans is not as nutritious and may be contaminated from the lining in the tin cans.Old clothes? Don't throw them away. Pass them down to younger or smaller persons, either in the family or through thrift stores. You may even be able to sell some to consignment stores. Old appliances? Most likely, the metal in the old stoves, washing machines and similar equipment is recyclable. Check with your local metal recycling center. Maybe they'll pick it up for you or let you drop it off at their location.Food? Preserve it if you can't eat it all now before it spoils. You can freeze, can, dry or ferment it. If you do preserve your food, you will have local food in the winter, and will save on transportation costs that uses up our country's fuel getting food from one coast to another.

Stop it! Buy only local, even if this means that your diet in the winter becomes limited. If you should have food that no one can eat, compost it. The little bugs that make better dirt in the compost pile will love it and transform it to grow more food in coming seasons. Old furniture? Most likely, that can also still be used by someone. Go to in your community. This is a site that allows only stuff that is free to people, with the main purpose of keeping material out of landfills. Recently I was able to keep old darkroom material and chemicals out of the landfill through the use of freecycle. If you want to sell something (even if you think it is useless) you may also consider eBay and craigslist in your community.

Old boxes? Recyclable. They're also good for storing your stuff. Avoid buying boxes when you can use many that many folks throw away.

Styrofoam? Shipping places can use that.

Other reminders: Don't buy napkins, paper towels, disposable diapers, plates, cups or facial tissues. There are cloth substitutes for all of these. When you buy your toilet tissue, be sure it's made from recycled paper. Avoid the soft stuff. The rough stuff lasts longer and toughens up your rear.Then save a few things that you have room for. For example, I refused to get rid of an old leather purse, so I kept it in my closet for a number of years. Recently when I saw that my favorite wool sweater was getting thin in the elbows, I cut up elbow patches from my old purse and sewed them on my sweater. Now I feel like a fancy college professor with leather patches on my elbows.Save those wire twists found on bread wrappers. They come in handy when you store other things in bags, such as frozen foods. Same for rubber bands, paper clips, paper clean on one side.In nature there is no waste. I think waste is a human trait. Wonder in the woods and see the decaying trees that are nourishing the soil. Dead animals eventually return to the soil, just as we are supposed to do with the command from the Bible, "Dust thou art, and to dust thou shall return." One of the biggest disgraces in modern society is the way we waste our bodies after we are dead. We need to dispel the use of formaldyhide, fancy caskets and vaults. Let our bodies decay as the animals, thus nourishing Mother Earth as she nourished us while we walked on her.

What should you throw away? Candy wrappers, cellophane, that's about it.Cities should constantly shrink the size of city-owned garbage containers while they increase the size of the recycle containers. If folks have too much garbage for the small containers, maybe they need to pay extra. Those who recycle need a tax rebate.We live in a consumer economy. For our free enterprise capitalistic society, our leaders want us to consume. But we don't have to do them the favor. I say don't consume any more than you have to. Do with less. Then waste not so you'll want not. There are more than six billion of us consumers here on this earth, and we must all protect our resources so that those who follow us will have resources themselves. The only other alternative is to have about half as many people on this planet than we have now. If we want this many people, we must learn to use whatever we have to it fullest and to do without regarding the unnecessary things we are begged to buy.In the past it was a sign of success to keep up with the Joneses. I say today, keep up with People Power Granny, and see if you can use as little as me, can waste as little as me and recycle as much as me. What a terrific example for our grand kids who are bombarded with advertisements daily saying that they have to consume more and more everyday!

Rachael Bliss Americorps/VISTA
Western North Carolina Alliance
29 N Market St., Ste. 610
Asheville, NC 28801828-258-8737

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Thank You!

The kick-off of our Go Public campaign was an amazing success. It was inspiring to see our community come out in support of public education. I've been thinking about ways to transform that momentum into real support. Currently, the Asheville City Schools Foundation has been spending a lot of time thinking about and researching the impact of "out-of-school" time on learning. Our website contains the summary of our Listening to Teens report that details how our students want to spend their after school and summer idle hours. It's worth a look.