Too Much Trash!

Considering its size and dense population, Chicago is a shockingly clean city.  Everyone who visits always says, “Chicago is like a clean version of New York.”  However, on Sunday mornings after a weekend’s worth of festivities the corner garbage cans are overflowing.  I suppose I should be grateful that the trash is properly disposed of rather than landing on the sidewalk, but I wince every time I pass a can.  Does all that trash really need to be created in the first place?

We’ve become a society that generates enormous amounts of garbage.  The average American throws away more than 1600 pounds of trash every year, and I’m willing to bet most of us don’t give a second thought to our garbage once the garbage truck pulls away…

…how often do you think of a plastic milk jug you threw away six years ago?  Do all the pop bottles you tossed during late-night cram sessions in college ever come to mind?  Do you regularly consider how the magazines you didn’t recycle as a teenager are now faring in the landfill?  Like it or not, almost all the trash you’ve generated in your lifetime is still sitting somewhere on our planet, taking up precious space and poisoning our water while waiting for future generations to figure out what exactly to do with all of it.

There are limitless ways to limit the garbage you send to the landfill.  Making meals from scratch is a wonderful (and healthy!) solution – I also make staples like peanut butter and yogurt just to avoid sending more plastic into the earth.  Creative repurposing helps, too – use vegetable scraps to make homemade broth or find uses for empty fruit cartons.  Skip bottled water and beverages and opt for a reusable container like a KleanKanteen (I never leave the house without mine!!).

But, in my opinion the best way for all of us to cut down on our garbage is to tell ourselves “no” sometimes.  NO I do not need that coffee in the disposable cup. NO my kids do not need those packaged snacks when a fresh apple will fill their tummies.  NO I don’t need another tank top when I’ve got six already.  NO I don’t need a plastic bag because I brought a reusable one. NO my baby will not wear disposable diapers when cloth diapers will do just fine.

As I write this post I am sitting outside at Argo Tea Cafe, sipping my favorite iced Green Tea Ginger Twist.  But, rather than using a disposable plastic cup, I brought my own reusable glass.  Yes, it took a bit of foresight to bring it along, but in good conscience I can’t enjoy an indulgent beverage knowing that the cup will sit in a landfill for the next 10,000 years.  If I don’t have a reusable cup on-hand when the urge for an icy beverage strikes, I just tell myself “no.”


Did you like this? Share it:

Written by

More posts by:

2 Comments for this entry

  1. Megan Wilbers says:

    Another beautifully written passage!~ I feel silly saying this but your words actually moved me to tears. Since I have started following you, you have brought so much insight into my life about what my family eats, drinks, wears, cleans with, and throws away/reuses. For this I thank you. What a wonderful idea to bring your own reusable cup places, instead of adding to the trash pile. I will pledge to you, and try to make this a new habit when my family goes out!~

  2. Laura says:

    Love this! It’s such a great example to set for our kids, to live thoughtfully and lightly on this planet. Our little actions make such a difference in the long run – I think we can’t be discouraged by the enormity of the problem (the junk humans create) b/c we’ll feel paralyzed. Instead we do the little things, and hopefully our examples teach a new generation to live differently. (Every time my toddler says, “Compost?” when I’m scraping food into the container, my little heart just melts. I didn’t know what composting was till I was an adult!)

Leave a comment