Friday, April 20, 2018

Week of Waste Day 5: What next?

Day 5 was not a good day for tracking my waste.  I had a very full day and kept finding that I had tossed something away without remembering to take a picture.  There was the ramen package from, numerous tissues, several tea bags, and at least one set of coffee grounds.  Last night I also had a gig at a local club and I forgot to photograph the leftover lime after having my post show drink.  So, while my computer showed about 10 images, one of which was too blurry to be usable, I know I generated far more waste than that.
Based on prior days I’m estimating that I am responsible for about 25 pieces of waste per day.  About six or seven of those pieces are probably toilet paper!  With only two days left of tracking my waste my thoughts are beginning to turn to what to do after this week is over.  How will I use this information?

The first thing that comes to mind is of course to reduce the waste that I produce.  While most of my waste is recycled, composted, or reused, there is one culprit that remains, and that is plastic – most of which comes in the form of non-recyclable packaging like the bags the cat food comes in, the ramen package, and the bags certain vegetables come in.  I am sure that some of these can be eliminated by making different choices.  

The second thing I’d like to do is to find ways to help others reduce the amount of waste they produce.  After reading a recent report on food waste, I’ve decided to create workshop designed to help people reduce the amount of food they toss away.  The first part of this will be to survey people I know about why they throw food away – is it all restaurant left overs?  Is it that they buy more than they need, and it goes bad? Do they buy food with the intention of cooking it but never get around to it?  

Today I’m leaving for a weekend dance retreat.  I will still be tracking my waste and writing about it.  It will be interesting to see if there is any difference in the amount of waste I produce when I am on the road.  

If you 'd like to leave a comment I'd love to know how this series has started you thinking about the waste you produce,  if it has at all, and what you think you might do to reduce it.

Thursday, April 19, 2018

A Week of Waste: Day 4 - Where does it all come from?

While making my coffee this morning my thoughts were on the question of where all of my waste comes from, you know before it is waste.  

Where do the raw materials originate?  

How far do they travel to where the product is made?  

How much physical waste is produced in the manufacturing process?

How much of a carbon footprint does each of these products have?

Like many I try to buy as local as I can when it comes to my food.  I am lucky that Maine has as many farms as it has and that the both the chain grocery store nearest to my house, and the co-op down the street offer local options all year round.  But that is only a fraction of the items I buy on a regular basis.  Toilet paper, dish detergent, laundry soap, period products, toothpaste, shampoo, cat food, coffee, chocolate, tea, and so many other things that I use regularly without a whole lot of thought all originate from places far away and unknown to me.

There was a time when things that came from far away were transported on boats that were powered by the wind and hauled by wagon from the ports to their destination.  They were not common things, and many were considered luxury goods or occasional treats.  The idea of getting an orange in one’s Christmas stocking makes much more sense when you consider there was a time when they were not available year-round in every grocery store in the nation.  

Today these things arrive by ship, train, and truck all powered by fossil fuels.  This is added to whatever fuel was used to power the energy to harvest, mine, or manufacture the item prior to it being shipped to its next destination.  The earth can’t keep up with the number of byproducts and waste we produce in the process of having our needs and wants met.  The natural cycle of plants pulling carbon dioxide from the air and putting out oxygen, the filtration process of sand and soil to clean water as it trickles its way back to the aquifer, the ocean’s ability to circulate water from warm to cool to warm again…have all been disrupted. 

There is so much we have today that is convenient, and that is good.  We all should have access to certain things, like healthy food, and hygiene supplies, but maybe we’d be better off if a few things were harder to get.  Maybe oranges shouldn’t be in our stores year-round, maybe even my precious coffee should cost more and become an occasional treat instead of my regular morning pick me up.  Maybe I should try harder to find local sources for soaps and cleaning products.  

This is a day where as one person I feel overwhelmed at the amount of work that must be done to turn things around.  I am one person.  One person.  And I want to do more. 

So, I read, and research, and try to find ways to decrease my impact.  I write to try to magnify my own voice, and to connect to others doing this work.   Yes, I want to do more, I have to do more…because I love this one beautiful earth, and the people who live on it, and the creatures and plants who share this wondrous place with me.   And I, like all of us, have only a short time here to make a difference. 

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

A Week of Waste: Day 3 - What does this have to do with embodiment anyway?

According to my photos I generated 25 pieces of waste yesterday, but I know it was more than that.  I know because there was the breakfast bar wrapper that I forgot to photograph after I gobbled it down on my way to teach a class, and twice, as I was in a hurry to go from one place to the next I forgot to take pictures of the toilet paper from last minute bathroom visits. I was in a rush and just didn’t have the presence of mind to take the pictures. 

Which is sort of a nice segue into the question, “Just what does this garbage thing that you are doing have to do with embodiment anyway?  Isn’t that what you normally write about?”
Well, yes…it is. 

I believe that our separation from our physical selves, our bodies, is directly related to our cultural separation from the natural world and our communities.  We are raised to not value these things.  We are taught to live in our heads, that the body and its urges and feelings are to be ignored or despised.  In the case of women, we are taught that our bodies are not even our own to begin with; we do not have autonomy over them. We are also raised to believe the natural world is something apart from us or even something to be feared. 

If we are so disconnected from ourselves, how can we possibly be fully connected to the world around us?  How can we respect and value other people, and their bodies, if we do not value our own?  By extension, how can we begin to feel connected to our communities and the natural world if we do not even have awareness of the space we occupy within it?  Our separation from ourselves, our communities, and the natural world has resulted in a cultural trauma of disconnection.  The first step in healing that trauma, is to come home to ourselves. 

When we begin that process, to reconnect to ourselves, we begin to first recognize our own internal rhythms and processes.  Slowly, with time we start to move outward and begin to understand how we move through the world around us.  We start to develop an awareness of the living things, the people, animals, plants, that share space with us and, because we have developed that connection to ourselves, we recognize not only their autonomy, but also how we relate to them – what our response is to those we share this earth with (Note:  This is very much related to the practice of witnessing in Authentic Movement and Contemplative Dance which I may write more on later).  And so, finally, we are not longer separate from the world but in relationship with it. 

And that brings me back to trash.  The idea for this week of waste came out of some writing I began to do on the three pillars of sustainability (economics, society, and the environment) and how they relate to embodiment.  I was exploring the idea of personal sustainability.  When I began I was writing from the perspective of how to apply the ideas behind the three pillars to my own body.  I was very much taking an outside to in approach; how do these things apply to me?  But I quickly realized that while that might be a good beginning, eventually it had to turn outward.  I had to not only look at how I might take a sustainable approach to my body, but also how I (and by extension my body) relates to the world in a sustainable manner.  And after reading an article on the zero-waste movement, I came upon the idea that one way to explore that relationship in a very tangible way was to take a look at the waste I generate. 

Yesterday, and my being in such a rush that I didn’t take photos of several things, is an example of how being disembodied – when I was rushing about I was very much in my head and not my body – can disconnect me from the world around me in a very immediate way.  We move through our days tossing things out without thought.  Many of us use disposable things because they are convenient and we don't consider how these actions are an expression of our disconnection from the world.