August 5, 2015

Low Consumption - Low Waste

You always see the "horn of plenty", but never the"horn of waste" in its shadow.

High consumption lifestyles are high waste lifestyles. Overconsumption is laying waste to everything around us.

In 2008 the US produced 389.5 million tons of waste. If we didn't find places to hide it all we would be drowning in the flotsam and jetsam tossed off the exclusive cruise ship Consumer Paradise. That garbage represents an earthquake of consumption followed by a tsunami of waste.

69% of American garbage was hid in landfills, 24% was recycled and composted, and 7% vaporized in waste-to-energy projects. 

One thing I enjoy about a low consumption lifestyle is that it is also a low waste lifestyle.  Not much comes in, not much goes out. Surprisingly, nothing is lacking.

In my new home in Nova Scotia I am more able to get a feel for our household waste management than ever before. Since moving from British Columbia last summer we have enjoyed an excellent system even though we live in a rural area.

Now we have green waste pickup as well as recycling and garbage pick up. Since we don't currently have a garden and compost up and running, the green bin pickup is nice. It is a shame to see organics being landfilled where they won't break down for years while slowly releasing methane, or "landfill farts".

Now we have an opportunity to see exactly how much actual garbage we produce since it is separate from all the other waste streams. What we are discovering is that we produce a very small amount of garbage.

Our next goal is to get our own compost going so it does not need to be trucked away.

Nature does not waste. Neither should we. The best way to avoid high waste production is to refuse, cut consumption and enjoy a better life the planet might actually be able to support.


  1. You are so right. Buy less, consume less and have a whole lot less waste. A few years ago, I thought I must be doing pretty well because I recycled and didn't buy a lot of extras. I read about people who were more dedicated about reducing their waste by saying one trash can full a month instead of one per week or in some cases one trash bag a year! Later came the Zero waste people. All this got me to thinking...

    I was nearly filling a 13 gallon trash bag every week. I am single and this seemed like way too much waste. I was also recycling. I educated myself and was able to reduce my trash to a gallon or less a week, so down from 13 gallons a week.

    What was most interesting about this experiment which is now a way of life for me, was how much my recyclables reduced! I was actually recycling more types of containers and reducing my trash, so it would seem that I would have more recyclables. Not so. Becoming aware and shopping much more mindfully and REFUSING more reduced my trash and my recyclables.

    Recently, I heard a report on public radio on Money Market which asked and answered the questions, do cities make money on recycling? A surprising answer was Yes and No. No they do not make money on recycling. But they do indeed save money on landfill and incinerator fees by having less trash to send to them when the city recycles. The savings is so great, that is why cities like mine are acting so excited about recycling. It is ALWAYS about the money. It is NOT folks in city government all that concerned with the environment.

    I attend city and county government meetings. What I hear there is it is all about the money, not genuine concern for the environment. Sad I know. But at least now there is incentive to recycle and it does help.

    Ultimately, I strive to be a dedicated REFUSER. I think it helps the most.

    1. Our green bin/recycling and garbage is picked up every two weeks. We always have organics to pick up, but some weeks we don't put out any recycling and even less garbage.

      Refusing is the best way to prevent waste production. Shopping mindfully for the rest, as you point out, is also vital.

      I have noticed food becoming more and more over packaged as the years pass. It is all about plastic and convenience now, but that easy eating comes at a price.

      I wonder when our love of the earth will trump our love of money.


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