When you think of a thrift lifestyle, what’s the first thing that comes to mind? Is it shopping at a thrift shop, looking for great deals on things you need or things you simply want? Is it about looking for new uses for old things – repurposing items in your house? Is it about getting the most out of the things you already have so that you’re not simply consuming for the sake of it?
When I think of my parents and my grandparents’ lifestyles, I think of thrift in a different way. Their lives were marked more by reducing waste than they were by reducing consumption. It had more to do with frugality than anything else. This was borne out of necessity – both my parents and all of my grandparents lived in need and sometimes outright poverty. When you had stuff you used it completely, you didn’t waste anything and you made do with what you had. While my folks worked really hard to achieve a comfortable, middle class lifestyle, I still grew up with an understanding that it is sinful to waste things. The challenge for me now, also living a very comfortable middle class lifestyle is to not be sucked in by my comfort so that I am unaware of my own consumption and what I am wasting.
Recently I’ve been convicted again by two different stories of folks who are making a concerted effort to reduce their waste. The first was an article in the Canadian Mennonite magazine about Matthew and Stacey Vandermeer of Ontario who only produced one bag of garbage over the course of a year. Yup, you read that correctly – ONE BAG. They achieved this by recycling and composting and by being very careful about what they brought into their home. You can read their inspiring story here.
The second inspiration came from my friend Anna-Marie, (that’s her and her stuff) who blogs at To Be and Not to Buy. She’s been inspiring me ever since she began her blog by doing things like giving up plastic for lent, not buying anything for a whole year and wearing the same dress for a month. Her resolution this year is to reduce her waste and she gives some great tips on her blog. I encourage you to read it!
So, I don’t know if I can get to the point where I’m only putting the garbage out once in a year but I know that I can certainly reduce my consumption. I’m going to start by being more diligent about curbside composting. There’s still a lot of stuff going into my garbage back that should be composted – like snotrags, for example. The second thing I’m going to do is become more aware of what I’m bringing into my home and evaluate things based on their packaging. If I can’t recycle it, I won’t buy it. I’m also going to pick up some reusable mesh bags for my produce – anyone have a good source for those?
So what about you? How do you deal with waste in your own home?