Monday, December 3, 2007


I’ve been thinking a lot about a piece I heard on NPR several weeks ago, the Trash Challenge—carrying everything you generate and would normally throw in the trash with you in a bag for 2 weeks. You may recycle whenever possible and compost vegetable matter. The rest is yours—to haul wherever you go.

It’s all too easy to drag that trash can (or 2 or 3) to the curb and never give it another thought. Out of sight, out of mind, after all.
But, if when you threw something away, it never really disappeared--would we behave differently?
If our waste really was our problem--would we be more careful?
(Because it never really does disappear, and it really is our problem.)

And, although I tell myself that when it comes to generating waste, I’m being “responsible” by recycling and composting as much as possible, could I do a better job with the choices I make? Wrappers and disposables pile up pretty fast. The price we’re willing to pay for these conveniences is far greater than the pennies they add to our shopping bill.

So, how am I doing, really?

I’ll try it, and let you know! Anyone else?

The results of this experiment are recorded here.

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MojoMan said...

As with so many things in American life today, those who produce and sell goods don't pay the real cost of the impacts their products have, and they pocket the difference as profit. If companies had to pay to reclaim all the excess packaging they use, our trash stream would dry to a trickle. Same thing with tobacco and oil companies: if the real cost of their stuff (pollution, health impacts) was in the sales price, we'd be using a lot less of it. How about clothing that's so cheap, it's easier to by new rather than sew on a button?

Sure, we recycle, but I often wonder if it's mostly just tokenism. The real forces in our society and economy are just too big to fight with "personal virtue," as our veep might say.

Mary said...

We recycle but I don't give it a second thought. Everything we buy is packaged. We as consumers/individuals can do more if we thought seriously about trash. Manufacturers can do more also and might not even need to risk their revenues...

mon@rch said...

Recycling is important and I try to cut back on everything that I throw away and do it responsibly! Thanks for sharing this info and will follow the link to that NPR article!

Jennifer said...

Oh dear... I think I would be afraid to try the challenge. But I think I should. Wow. Even for one week, that would be amazing... Do I dare... hmm....

nina said...

You know, as soon as I heard about this challenge, I started being more aware--and I can guess what it will reveal to me.
By carrying through and trying it, I'm hoping to really make some changes that will last beyond the challenge--like throwing a cloth napkin into my lunch box everyday.

RuthieJ said...

An interesting post, Nina. I think we have cut back considerably on our trash and especially plastic bottles since switching to refillable glass bottles, but I know there's still plenty more we could do. I agree that packaging is what I struggle with the most.

Crayons said...

Hi NIna,

I've been thinking about this notion of trash a lot recently. I'm not a good recycler. I am one of those people who imagines that the trash disappears when I put it in the trash can. I'm so glad you wrote this. You have pushed me forward.

nina said...

It adds up so quickly--but imagine what an impact each person's effort could make. If we all chose one behavior that we could change and cared enough to change it.

Change only happens when we feel the "pinch"--like the too-tight button at the top of my pants!
This exercise is giving me that pinch to adjust my behavior.