Thursday, January 20, 2011

Virtuous Waste

A confession from Green Bean.

It was a windy Sunday. Sitting next to me, my mother suddenly pointed out the window. Behind her, my oldest squinted and read in the slow deliberate speech of an emergent reader "E-State Sale." I spun the wheel left and we barreled up the hill.

We pulled into a tight set of townhouses. Up the stairs with several reminders of "look with your eyes" to my two boys, we opened the door, passed the tables of jewelry and racks of clothes. Those really aren't my thing. Peeking into the kitchen, the counters were denuded. There was no garden here and, as it was near the end of the sale, well, most of the good stuff would be gone. When closing down a sale, everything is 50-75% off but there's usually only furniture and virtuous waste left.

What is virtuous waste, you ask?

As someone who aspires to be green, there are certain things that are clear no-no's. Wrapping paper and ribbon. Notecards. Ziplock bags. Those stick on bows for presents. Single use anything, really. And, while, the title of this post might be a bit overstating the matter, I do think there is such a thing as having your single use product and using it too.

I love the slow life of handmade, homemade, soaked over night, and so on but there is also something about an occasional bit of convenience - so long as I don't have all the guilt that goes into acquiring it in the first place.

Guilt free shopping second hand style:

- wrapping paper, ribbon, gift boxes, gift bags

- art supplies, paper, markers, paints

- fancy cake pans shaped like dinosaurs, bugs, things that you'll only really use once

- stationary, notepads, place cards

- single use dusters, swiffer pads, decorative paper napkins and paper towels

- party favors for goodie bags and such

- plastic crap and other nicknacks as rewards for the kids

These are just a few of the things I indulge in at yard sales, in dim thrift store aisles, and on the hot keys of Freecycle. Maybe buying these wasteful items isn't virtuous, but I keep them from going straight to the landfill. I do recycle or reuse as much of them as possible. And, yes, I do get just a bit of a thrill from being wasteful virtuously.

Are there any eco-no-no's that you still enjoy? How do you work around the guilt?


Condo Blues said...

Zipper baggies. I have a tiny freezer. Zipper baggies are the only way I froze all of our extra CSA veggies and still had room for everything else.

I wash and reuse the baggies that don't hold meat.

Anonymous said...

Condo, I'm a zipperbaggie junkie too. Only...gasp...we buy them NEW. (But yes, we do re-use them.)

We also tend to break down and buy at least a roll or so of wrapping paper every Christmas...never occurred to me to check our local Goodwill store, I bet they'd have some. Good tip!

We have this plastic bin that's FULL of plastic and paper dishes, cups, flatware, etc. from our pre-green days. Honestly, I'm often desperately glad its there, because I know I won't buy any more when it runs out...except (final guilty indulgence) I do every couple of years break down and buy a package of those heavy Chinet plates.

(On the other hand, I'm that person who, when someone brings over a dish on a "disposable"--read, nice heavy plastic or metal--plate or tray, always saves and washes it off for later use.)

Erin aka Conscious Shopper said...

Magazines. I don't subscribe to any anymore, but when I'm at my parents' or sister's houses, I inevitably while away some time flipping through their old stashes of Better Homes and Gardens, Martha Stewart Living, Consumer Reports - really anything they have lying around. Every once in awhile, though, I break down and buy a magazine at the grocery store. This especially seems to happen when I'm on vacation.

Green Bean said...

@Lisa - Isn't it amazing how many times you can reuse those baggies?!

@Jenn - Well, next time you are in a Goodwill, keep your eyes open for an unopened box of paper plates, plastic forks, whatever. I've picked up unopened boxes of coffee filters and such there too.

@Erin - Ohhhh magazines! Like you, I never indulge new any more but I'll now need to keep a look out at garage sales.

robbie @ going green mama said...

Freezer baggies. Guilty. For some reason they're easier to store broth, saucess and veggies flat than in using box containers.


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