Wrapping Up a 12-Session Blog Post Journey

Take home message: Start where you care
Jan 29, 2010 1:00 PM ET

Wrapping Up a 12-Session Blog Post Journey

Take home message: Start where you care.

Hi Folks. Meredith here. This post marks the last of a 12-session series describing my 2008-2009 Trash Tour.  After documenting thousands of garbage cans, interviewing countless waste generators (e.g. humans), and looking at wide ranges of “waste solutions,” everyone asks me, “Well? What did you learn?”

I learned that there is no one “magic bullet” that will deliver us to a “sustainable society.” I learned that the recycling rate of the Guatemala City dump is comparable to the recycling rate in Belgium. I learned that I like mango on a stick.

Why do I prefer mango on a stick compared to mango in a plastic cup? I care because the stick and seed are compostable, whereas the cup, is not. This choice is admittedly trivial. But I care about minimizing my packaging, and I have a deeply rooted (heh) passion for composting. 

Three choices in life make the most difference in determining a “sustainable” path:
1) How you live (Efficient dwelling? Small space? Large space? Near work?);
2) How you get around (Bike? Walk? Private jet?); and
3) How you eat (Local? Organic? Seasonal? Etc.)

My life does not have these three things—I call them “choice zones”—dialed. Yet. This fact became clear last summer: my partner and I decided to forego vehicular transport and bike 50 miles to a wedding on the flanks of Mt. St. Helens. We woke early, pedaled north, and arrived in time to catch a quick shower and snack before the service. The next day, legs sore from dancing, we pedaled home. On the way, we got hungry, so we stopped at a fast food restaurant. 

I am sure the food we ate was neither local nor organic, but it sure tasted real nice. I remember thinking, “Next time, if we pack a picnic from the garden, we’ll hit all three choices zones!” But I don’t really care about food. At least I don’t care about food as much as I care about fitness, reducing our dependency on gas, and enjoying a beautiful summer weekend. So that’s where I started that journey: on a bike.

I firmly believe that we are all somewhere on this path of sustainability. Some folks realize it more than others. But the least common denominator in all of us—whether a waste picker in a developing dump, a homeowner in Belgium, or a bike commuter in Portland, OR—the least common denominator is that we start where we care. 

It’s been fun sharing bits of my journey with you. Till next time, take care,

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