7: An Experimental Mutiny Against Excess; Ch 5 – Waste

In this chapter Ms. Hatmaker has decided that the seven habits she is going to institute for the month in order to reduce waste are gardening, composting, conserving energy & water, recycling, driving only one car, shopping thrift and second hand, and buying only local. She identifies a lot of these habits as belonging to the tree-hugger types, and I guess that if you take them to the extreme then I would as well.

The problem that I had with this chapter is that the author seems to find these concepts almost hard to deal with when trying to implement them. A lot of these habits were ones that I was raised with; not because we were ‘environmentally conscious’, but because we weren’t wealthy and thus had to watch our expenses. In the entries where she discusses gardening it absolutely blows my mind that somebody would have no idea how to grow vegetables. I was exposed to this in college when a story was related to me that kids my age had no idea that peppers don’t grow on trees and that cod is a fish (not what you give to somebody on their birthday when you live in Boston).

The disconnect that I have is that I can’t identify with the ‘city’ mindset. I grew up on a farm where we planted a vegetable garden after the last chance of frost was forecasted; where you picked blackberries in the summer; where you went into the pasture to find the ripe apples on the apple trees; and where you named cows that you knew you would eventually eat. Being a farm kid you knew exactly where your food came from and that was just how it was. We didn’t compost. We took all natural food scraps and peelings (vegetables and fruits) and tossed them into the pasture. Either the cows would eat it or else it would break down. I suppose you could consider that to be composting because when you needed fertilizer you just went into the barnyard and shoveled it into a bucket.

As for conserving energy and water, that again was ingrained in us as kids. If you left a room you turned the light off. If you were done using a light you turned it off. When brushing your teeth you shut the water off while you were brushing. How many of us had parents who said that they couldn’t wait until you had your own place so that they could visit, leave every single window wide open, turn the thermostat up, open the fridge, and turn on every single light in the house and then leave? Was it just my dad? Nobody else had parents say that to them? Even now when I’m at Jay’s it bothers me if he’s watching the TV in the basement and has the one in the living room going as well. I ask him if he’s going to watch that one, and if not, I turn it off. Even if the power is cheap, why use it if you’re not actually watching it?

Recycling… again, we didn’t realize that’s what we were doing. When you live out in the country you have to pay to take your trash to the dump. Thus, you try to minimize the amount of trash that you have to haul. If you buy something where the packaging can be reused, then you save it. Quite a few of our dishes that we used were those black rectangular plastic dishes that microwavable dinners came in. My mom saved mayonnaise jars to hold her hardware (little nails, screws, big nails, hooks, etc). We saved prescription bottles after the antibiotics were gone to store beads and small craft things. Cottage cheese containers were washed out and used for storing leftovers. This was before you had the Glad and Ziploc containers readily available.

We shopped at thrift stores a lot when I was younger. In fact, I still enjoy shopping at thrift stores. I hate to pay full price for clothes or books. So many people give away perfectly good articles of clothing that I love it when I find one at a good price. Many of my skirts have come from thrift shops. Once you identify a good one then it’s easy enough to be a repeat customer. The people you work with don’t have a clue where you buy your clothes. As long as they are comfortable, look nice and fit, what do they care? There are only a handful of things that I refuse to buy second-hand; underwear, mattresses and pillows to name a few.

There is one part of the book where I really had to roll my eyes. Jen Hatmaker is so excited because despite the fact that they had to buy a large Suburban, she was able to find one that runs on flexfuel so it’s better for the environment. What is flexfuel? It is gasoline that is made up of 85% gas and 15% ethanol. Ethanol is corn. First off, this fuel is nowhere as efficient as regular gas so it takes more of it to run the vehicle. Secondly, why in the WORLD are we burning our food supply when we have tons of oil beneath the earth up in Alaska? If we would be allowed to drill for it then we would have a huge source of cheap fuel for our country and we wouldn’t be dependent on foreign oil. How dumb are we?? Think about it… this summer we have had a horrible drought where our midwest states have been unable to grow the amount of corn and grains that they normally do. This creates a shortage of these products, which increases the cost of not only our food but also our fuel. Besides, doesn’t anybody else have an issue with burning our food when we have such a short supply of it to begin with?? Finally, my last issue with it is that just because YOUR car isn’t using as much fuel with the ethanol doesn’t make it better for the environment. Think about it… by using it in fuel we are creating a larger demand for this product. In order to fulfill that demand the farmers need to plant more fields of corn. How do they do this? With tractors. What do those tractors use? Diesel fuel. When they harvest it, what do they use? Tractors, combines, semi trucks, etc. What do those vehicles use? Diesel fuel. Just because you aren’t personally using more fuel doesn’t mean that it’s any better for the environment. Plus, I have news for you. No matter how ‘green’ our vehicles may get here in the States we still have the issue of the underdeveloped nations running all of the gas-chugging vehicles that they want without emissions standards. So, again, why are we burning perfectly good food??? Can you imagine how many people your Piece-of-crappus would feed if you weren’t hogging all of the corn for your ethanol-laden fuel?

I can’t wait for the next chapter… Spending. I am a penny-pinching accountant so that ought to make for another interesting blog post! Stay tuned. 🙂

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