I have two sets of bins in my kitchen, one for trash and one for recycling.
We live in a disposable society; we tend to throw things away. Things are made to break and into the bin they go. I keep a special place in my house for electronics, batteries and those twisty energy-saving mercury-filled light bulbs. They go to the hazardous waste drop off site. We toss a lot of stuff.
When we moved out to the country, I set a goal for myself to recycle half of my waste. The goal wasn’t huge. I easily attained it and recycle almost 75% of my waste today. It hurts me every time I go to NOLA and can’t recycle. I walk around holding a soda bottle or plastic cup, not knowing what to do with it. (Recycling is one of the many things that haven’t recovered post-Katrina.)
Americans love packaging, so we’re told. Whether it’s over-engineered cardboard that fits neatly into shapes keeping our precious new things safe, or oil-induced plastic wrap and bags, shrink wrapping everything from a toner cartridge to my organic zucchini. I try not to take bags from the store when I can (not often), sometimes I bring my own. I take and reuse the paper ones avoiding the plastic bags if I have a choice. (I do know some dog owners that prefer a free supply of plastic bags they reuse in their own way.)
Why are we so quick to throw things away? What values did we pick up along with the desire to recycle? Did recycling teach us it’s ok to dispose of things, because they reincarnate themselves into our nifty packaging again and again? The manufacture of new containers/boxes/wrappers takes energy, chemicals and processing as does the stuff we recycle.
And why, after choosing to buy organic and switching from plastic to glass cookware trying to avoid harmful chemicals, do my organic veggies now come shrink-wrapped in plastic bringing its own plast-icky chemicals with it? I have a hard time understanding this.
People and Relationships
We are used to throwing things away when they no longer work. Sometimes we do the same thing with people. When something is broken, we toss it. What if that something is a friendship or a marriage?
I’ve been married for 15 years now. I can honestly say it’s not easy. It’s downright difficult and hard at times, other moments easy and beautiful. I’ve been tempted during these years, and I’m sure my wife has too, to toss it and look for something new. Maybe even something shrink-wrapped with over engineered bits. But that would just put me back in the same place in a few more years’ time, in a cycle I wouldn’t want to be in. I’d avoid recycling our relationship, and re-inventing it. I’m much happier and satisfied with our renewed relationship than I would be with a brand new one. Why – because I’m recycling me too.
Relationships are never static – at least I hope not. I’d probably toss that. People change and our relationships have to change to keep up with them, or they break. Whether I’m talking about my best friends or living life with my true love, it takes real work to keep recycling us. It’s not awful work. Although sometimes change is painful, it’s something that is truly rewarding.
I know there are some relationships that are beyond repair, or for safety and sanity reasons, need to get tossed. I don’t mean to guilt or alienate someone for having tossed something that was unhealthy for themselves or their children. Those things need to go. But many things can be darned, cleaned, patched or replanted. It takes work and perseverance.
The re-inventing of our relationships is what keeps them fresh and lovely. It’s what I appreciate about my friends and my wife. It’s not always easy for me and I often don’t get it on the first try, but I’m full of tenacity and patience. I try new things, take a class, make some music in new ways.
I’m a pretty loyal friend. I’m slow to piss off, but unleash holy hell when I do. At least that’s how I see myself. I’ve learned a lot about this part of me, and it doesn’t rule me like it used to, but I’ve in no way conquered it. I try not to waste any friendship and I’m friendly with a lot of people. I’d rather save a friend and a relationship if I can. I’ve had to let a few go along the way.
My larger problem is neglect. That’s usually when things slowly waste away. I do this with my friends, with the objects I keep, with many parts of my life. I see them, I get them, I ignore them and one day they’re no longer good. So I try to learn to recycle, re-invent and reuse. My friends deserve this as well my things.
My Trash Seems Unending
I’ve met my recycling goal of over 50%, but I’m in no way finished. We still don’t compost our kitchen waste, which is shameful living on 10 acres of land. If I could reduce my trash and recycling more, I’d be happier.
How do I reduce the amount of crap that comes into my home? Some ways I’ve said, avoid a bag here, reuse a bag there. I can also buy something used – something another person is done with. Some things I can’t avoid, it just comes that way. I believe there’s another step past recycling – reuse.
I’m blessed with some wonderful friends – true artists – who make things out of trash. Whether that thing fits in a frame or a sculpture, it’s a beautiful new thing made out of something that was beyond repair. Mosaics are an old art form, or an art form of old things, usually made from broken pottery, ceramics, tiles, glass and other things. I want to get into this art form, reusing bits of my trash instead of throwing it away and sending it elsewhere.
The Cycle of Life
Even though I’m not satisfied with the degree, we are doing a little composting. I do have a manure pile behind my barn. I slowly cook that waste into yummy good clean fill, or black dirt for you city folk. It’s a much better use for our horse waste than those that truck their shit away. We spread that cooked clean dirt onto our weed-free pasture, use it for landfill when landscaping and give it to our friend’s gardens.
Gardens and food are the ultimate lesson for me to learn in this cycle. Good food grows out of dirt. It’s cooked and eaten and returned to dirt form. Or sometimes it sits on my plate piled up by the sink, starts to decompose, turns to mush, and also returns to the dirt – hopefully I’ve gotten to it before this point. Add in food composting and It’s a beautiful cycle. Dirt, seeds, plants, food/seeds, dirt, plants, etc. If I could just do this with the rest of my trash, create a small closed loop, I’d really be happy.
Learning to recycle and re-invent my relationships is an ongoing lesson for me; a fun, never-ending lesson. Things are fresh and new, they grow, we change; we may even get complacent. Hopefully we re-invent and grow. I don’t want to toss them out when things go awry, but see what can be re-used, grow anew and re-enter the cycle.
I’d rather recycle my relationships than place them on the compost heap. Friends come and go, but the ones that last and stay I’ve recycled and we’ve entered the cycle of growth. We nurture each other. It’s still hard. I try to learn not to neglect. Hopefully we’re making something healthy, weed free and beautiful. Maybe that’s mosaic I’m looking for.