My Reusable Life

>> Thursday, June 17, 2010

Have you ever heard the argument, "You would have to go through X-amount of styrofoam cups to equal the environmental impact of ONE mug, so there's nothing wrong with using styrofoam cups." (Or variations on that theme?)

Here's why I think that argument is totally bogus:

When our lives are filled with cheap disposable products, we develop a throwaway mentality. We don't value things because they're so easily replaceable. We don't value the materials that went into them or the labor that built them. They pass through our lives so quickly, why would we give them any thought?

When I hold a styrofoam cup in my hand, I barely notice it's there. It looks just like every other styrofoam cup I've ever held, and in a few minutes, I'll toss it into the trash without a second thought. When I hold my stainless steel water bottle, I think of the thought process that went into choosing it and how much it cost, and I feel good for making a good choice. I remember taking walks or playing outside with my kids because the water bottle came along. I keep track of it; I don't want to lose it. It's on my mind.

I have a sentimental attachment to my children's cloth diapers, in the same way I grew attached to some of their baby clothes. When I see a disposable diaper, I think, "Ewww...stinky garbage." Even when they're not on a child, don't you think of them as kind of gross? (Or is that just me.)

Even our stained cloth napkins and mismatched food containers and the hankies made from my husband's old shirts carry memories in every use, though perhaps they don't have as much sentimental value as the TV I bought ten years ago when I rented my first house or the raggedy couches that were our first grown-up furniture purchase.

Is it silly to feel attached to inanimate objects? I don't think so because those objects are made from materials that come from the earth, and caring for the materials is one more way to strengthen my connection to the planet I love. Those objects are made by human hands, and caring for the objects shows respect for the people that created them. And those objects enter our homes and become part of us in ways large and small. When we fill our lives with objects we care about, it shows that we care about our lives.

I do not live a throwaway life. Do you?

If you're new to a reusable life, you might want to check out for cloth bags, water bottles, lunchboxes, and more.


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mudnessa June 17, 2010 at 12:45 AM  

What a great post. This is absolutely how I feel as well.

Carrie June 17, 2010 at 10:31 AM  

i think a lot of people think disposables = trash but reusables take resources to create. they forget that disposables take resources to create too. i'm a reusable gal.

Anonymous,  June 17, 2010 at 2:08 PM  

Salon posted an article this week discussing a new book about "cheapskates" and how being frugal, especially in the area of avoiding purchases of useless stuff, is also green. I read your blog regularly and share a lot of your opinions about spending more for things that are important (like local/organic food) but buying less "stuff" in general, so I thought you might also enjoy the article:

Condo Blues June 17, 2010 at 6:08 PM  

I had a conversation with my mother in law about pretreating the stains on my cloth napkins. She just looks at me and says, "you can just _buy_ them you know" meaning disposables. This comes from someone who doesn't normally use or buy napkins and hands me half a paper towel when I need a napkin. I countered but I don't _have_ to. I just do laundry and I never run out of napkins when I need them!

Erin aka Conscious Shopper June 18, 2010 at 9:29 AM  

@Anonymous - Thanks! Sounds like a good book.

Revanche June 19, 2010 at 1:19 AM  

A little OT, but it's funny that I don't even think of *disposables* as disposable. If I have to use a paper, plastic or styrofoam product, then I'll wash and reuse as many times as possible before discarding.

So no, I don't live a throwaway life. I don't believe in wasting anything (without slipping into hoarding, of course) so I'm careful about what I bring into my life and I take care of what does make the cut.

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