Monday, September 6, 2010

Eliminating the Waste

*WARNING--this is a soap box (a homemade one, of course) post! :)

Much of what we've been doing has been working on ways to cut out the 'wastefulness' of in our lives. We certainly have not been perfect at it and I see areas that really need improvement, but the goal is there. The need for change exists, that's the beginning.

If you really sit and think through the American lifestyle, we are such wasteful people. It's really embarrassing to think that our country is using WAY more then our share of the world's resources in relation to our population. In large part it's because we aren't wise users and stewards of our resources. Here are some of the things I can note just off the top of my head, where waste is unnecessary and yet very prevalent:

*Food consumption--our country consumes way more food then what we 'need'. We are a 'want' society.
*Food industry--there is wasteful spending and use of resources going on in our food industry and their methods of manufacturing/producing foods. Product packaging is another way we aren't using our resources wisely. A lot of products are over packaged, using up plastic, cardboard, paper, metal, aluminum, etc more than we need to be. (Which is also a pollution issue)
*Food production--on an average day thousands of packages of good food is thrown out at bakeries, grocery stores, and restaurants because too much was made or bought, more than could be sold within the timeframe boundaries. The truth is that much of that food is TOTALLY fine and edible, but because we are a 'picky' society we like all our packages to look perfect and our bread to be less than two days old. In most parts of the world the food we throw away, because it doesn't meet our 'standards' of acceptable food, would be used and be perfectly fine. *Note: I'm not saying that we shouldn't have standards and ways of protecting ourselves from disease and food that has legitimately gone bad, my point is that I think sometimes we've taken our "concerns" too far.
*Food Costs--a result of our poorly managed food production, the costs on a lot of products are out of proportion with the products and the consumers are either forced to or willing to over spend.
*Over use of products like aluminum, paper & plastic. I noted this above with over packaging issues, but it's also related to other areas too, like the business world, schools, toys, and just over all production. We, Americans, are using more then our fair share.
*Utilities--water, gas, electricity. There is waste all over the place when it comes to these areas.
*Time--enough said.
*Land--do you know that the average size single family home is substantially larger then it was just 20-30 years ago? Do we really 'need' the size of homes we have or is that just because we have too much stuff because we are wasteful and have more then what we need? Alright...I'll stop there. I don't want to step on too many toes! ;)

The point is, we need to start evaluating what we're doing (myself included) that is contributing to what  is becoming a global problem. There is enough food produced to feed everyone living on our planet. So why are people going hungry? Is our wasteful production keeping people hungry? Oh man, I pray we are better then that. I pray that we recognize that we have the power to influence and make changes in our habits that don't just help our families, but that literally change the world. If the changes I make for my family could make a great impact for those that don't have food for their families-every change is worth any amount of sacrifice I make.  The truth is that our dollar is our voice, our spending is our vote. We hold the power to voice our opinion on these issues. Okay, I'm off the soap box now.

So what changes can we make? How can we cut some of the waste out of daily living? Here are some of my ideas, please share yours too by leaving comments!

-Find ways to avoid the "convenience" items at the store. Those are some of the most wasteful products made. They are seriously overpriced, they usually use more packaging then the actual products themselves, they take a lot of resources to make and then there is the shipping/gas/trucking expenses to get them to your store. Some of those items literally are growing in our backyards and farms down the street, why are we willing to pay to have them trucked in from the other side of the country? That is money that could stay in your pocket!
-Grow produce, herbs, even flowers and plants in a garden. It's good for nature, it's a great teaching tool for your children, it's good for your health, it cuts down on waste on several levels, it's good for your checkbook. Need any more reasons?
-Go back to basics of cooking. It's about avoiding those convenience items again. Make your own "mixes" while you're cooking, just add the ingredients into a ziplock bag, label it and save it for next time. Cooking from scratch, using your ingredients in alternative ways (like the bread crumbs with old bread, making your own hash browns, using oil, vinegar & seasonings as dressings).
-Reuse or recreate things in your home to avoid them going into a landfill.
-Borrow and lend. Remember when people felt free to use things from their neighbor's pantries? Be a good neighbor, share your resources and others will share with you. Here's an example of something we've done: our neighbor next door was an 'older' single gal who had a lot of gardening and lawn tools from when she and her husband lived in their previous home. My husband offered to mow her lawn for her and take care of her yard in exchange for use of her lawn mower & garden tools. Do we all really need to own a lawn mower? I'm sure she would've let us borrow it even if we didn't mow her lawn, but we believe that we are called to care for those around us. So what better and easier way to show care for her then to help her with things that we are capable of doing for her? That's a win-win right there. We saved money on gardening/lawn products and she didn't have to worry about her lawn. *Now that she's moved (sad), we got an old fashioned push mower (no power, no gas) for about $15 at a garage sale and use that instead! :) It saves money on a gym membership too! ;)
-There are a lot of ways to cut waste on utilities. This is an area we haven't been great about tackling, yet. One of the areas I want to focus on is cutting out some of this waste. Some of it can be as easy as teaching my kids to shut things off when they are done with them and turning out lights when they leave a room. Also, changing over to power strips will probably be coming soon! :) I know there are a lot of online resources for creative and easy ways to cut back. I've posted about some for saving water. Here are some resources for saving on electricity, and a few more and this one is a really cool site. I also know that most areas have "peak" usage areas where they charge you  more to use your utilities during that time of day. I think you can look that up on your provider's website. I think around here it's after 9PM, so it's best to run your dishwasher, washer/dryer after that time of day. Most of them also offer rebates and discounts for being more efficient, which can easily be found on their websites.
-Another way to save on utilities is to do full loads of laundry and dishes. I've also been trying to reduce the amount of laundry I do each week (mostly because it's crazy how much laundry I do and I hate having to put it all away afterwards--uh! it seems to never be done). Also, because not all of it was necessary. For example, I've been having our oldest wear her PJs, pants and dresses more then once before washing them, unless they are obviously dirty. She's not wearing them long enough, sweating in them or getting them dirty enough to wash every time she wears them (especially when she's having those days that she changes her outfit every few hours, just because she likes the "new" outfit better!)
-Save on gas, here is a list of some ideas.
-Time. Yikes, that's a hard one for me. It's so easy to waste time on useless things. I think I'm going to start setting timers for certain tasks to keep me focused on what I'm there to accomplish and then move on when I'm done. There is something about a time-crunch that makes people, me especially, more productive.
-Being more cautious, thoughtful and aware of how we are spending our money.

So, there are a few thoughts. When it comes down to it, waste in any form is also a waste of money and that's something no one wants. Bring on the ideas, friends! :)

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