Real Environmentalists

My good friend Laurie visited a few days ago. Laurie is the perfect example of an environmentalist who truly could make a difference. She's no extremist, doesn't belong to any environmental organizations to my knowledge and might not even claim the title.

As we were visiting, I showed her some recent home improvements. One was carpeting a sleeping loft. I'd bought a remnant, used what I needed and cut some more to line the dogs' houses for winter. There were three little rolls remaining. We planned to haul them to the dump with some old fencing, a dead water heater and whatever else might fill the pick-up.

Laurie began rattling off half a dozen great uses for the carpet scraps -- crafts, weed control, new car pads, door mats and so on. She was ready to help me adapt to any of these uses but I wasn't enthused. In retrospect, I showed that I'm the earth's problem. Due to a lack of imagination and a tendency to laziness, I was willing to discard and rebuy what I needed later. Fortunately, Laurie took the scraps home and made a small contribution to protecting the earth.

It reminded me of our trip to Tajikistan a few years ago. Brandy and John's home had a single trash can for the family of four. Its size? About equivalent to a half-gallon of milk. Think about that. My garbage can for two of us is huge. How could I live with only a half-gallon of trash?

Part of the answer is in packaging. Go to the bazaar in Dushanbe to buy a pair of pliers or a screw driver and the vendor pulls out a bucket full of all different sizes. Choose the one you want, pay and you're on your way. Here, I walk into the store and look at a similar selection of tools, but all in plastic molds on cardboard backing to ensure optimum presentation. Then buy another tool for opening the damned hard plastic packages. Lots of waste.

In Dushanbe, everything is re-used. Boy did I get in trouble for throwing out a zip lock sandwich bag! Such things are valuable. You wash and re-use. One box should last the rest of your life. And of course, they aren't sold locally. Must be imported by visiting Americans.

You may be a committed garbage sorter and recycler but I doubt it has much impact. All that recycled material still demands processing, transportation and repackaging. Better to buy used items, buy local --or as local as you can -- and reject excessive packaging.

I'm not as imaginative or energetic as my friend Laurie. But I can shop garage sales with the best of 'em. That'll be my new contribution to the earth.

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