Mid-December, I posted this on Facebook:
My couchsurfer friend Daniele noticed it and asked me if I could give more details, which I did in a lengthy comment. He then asked me if I would be interested to write a guest post on his blog, so here we are 🙂
Step 1: Sort your Garbage
If like me you want to lower your impact on the environment by reducing your garbage, the first step is to sort it. I just follow the guidelines of how recycling works in Stockholm, where I live. Without doing it excessively, i.e. I don’t put in the recycle bins stuff that is not on the list – it does more harm than good.
It’s a good thing to know how the garbage system works where you live. In my case, it lifted the illusion that recycling magically makes us clean people living a sustainable lifestyle. For example, many plastics are actually not recycled. Where I live, recycled plastics are in fact burnt in special factories. And even with glass – a material with 100% recovery when recycled – recycling requires energy, therefore it has an environmental impact.
Step 2: Reduce your Garbage
The second step is then logical: to reduce garbage. This is determined by one factor only: what you buy.
It is more difficult to do well than just sorting, because it involves breaking free from a strong social norm: the consumer society.
I try to avoid buying products with packaging, since it will go directly in the trash. A few examples of how I reduced food packaging:
- Whenever I buy fruits and vegetables, I don’t put them in an extra bag.
- Meat and fish is often sold in extensive packaging. Well… I’m vegetarian!
- I don’t buy prepared food – even pizzas! I cook instead.
- If the packaging of a food product can be recycled, I take that into account when comparing with other products of the same type.
Also, I eat all the food that I have. So the only food that ends in the trash is stuff like a small piece of hard bread, or the part of a fruit gone bad.
I buy clothes that I use often, and of good quality. From my (limited) knowledge on clothes, many major brands make clothes which look good, but don’t last.
I haven’t bought any single trinket to decorate my apartment. Some people notice it when they come from the first time, it usually sounds like: “Have you just moved in?” and then I explain the reason why…
The very few decoration items I have is original artwork that I like, from artists I’m happy to support.
I focus on what I need. For example, a tablet (iPad, Android…) would be nice to have, as it provides a great way to surf the web while on the couch (something I do a lot), but since I already have a laptop and a smartphone (both of which I need), I haven’t bought a tablet.
I’ve been DJing with my laptop only. Having a controller would make me more versatile – I’ll buy one when it makes a real difference.
Motivation is Everything
The most important is not the techniques, but the underlying motivation. Being environment-friendly is like a background process in my head, an always present state of mind. Without it, little progress will actually happen. With it, the actions will come naturally.
There is unfortunately no social pressure to be environment-friendly, quite the opposite actually. There is not even a social incentive to do so. This is so “last century” in my opinion…
To finish, I’ll open the view to more than just garbage management: the sustainable lifestyle in general.
The human species will not thrive by using the planet’s resources. I don’t even think we should see the planet as resources, that’s not how nature works.
We should see ourselves as a part of the ecosystem, one type of cells living inside big body Earth, where all the parts are connected. I kind of agree when Agent Smith (The Matrix) compares humans to a virus. At the geological time scale, we are a virus (or a cancer) to the planet right now.
Motivation is the most important to live a more sustainable lifestyle, and it comes from being inspired by others. This picture really inspired me some time ago:
Hopefully this post will inspire some of you. You may also be interested in the inspiring work of Ian MacKenzie.
It’s something I discovered recently, he’s all about building a sustainable civilization, and it’s crazy good!