Lately I've been spending some of my time "un-shopping," as in the opposite of acquiring stuff - getting rid of it. Inspired by Dachog, who's been passing along items she no longer needs or uses to family, friends and charitable groups, I have been cleaning out my closets, office, and basement. It's a good teaching about attachment: When you first get it, the object makes you happy; then you're indifferent to it; and finally it becomes a burden.
I don't really like shopping anyway, and now I feel even more disinclined to buy much of anything, except food!
It feels so good to clear out some room, especially when you can find a good home for unwanted items. To me it seems like a form of purification. The empty spaces in my closet make me so happy - absences that are only notable to me.
I spent a couple of weeks a few summers ago helping a friend clear out her mother's house. Her mother was a hoarder: She went to the dump to pick up stuff! (They had a kind of Please Take box there.). I learned that when you're a hoarder, everything is valuable, from garbage to heirloom furniture, and trying to recycle even a single box is traumatic.
My family taught me to be frugal, and we kept a lot of things that today I would pass along, but we weren't that extreme. We operated on the idea that "it might come in handy some day;" now I think "somebody could be using this right now." As the saying goes, "One man's trash is another man's treasure." Hey, it's an emptiness teaching!
Even keeping straight what goes in recycling vs compost vs garbage takes some mental effort, but I think of it as a mindfulness practice. I also consider it part of cherishing others - animals as well as humans - because it protects the environment.
As the public-service portion of this post, I'd like to pass along (recycle) some of what I've learned about recycling. Here in Seattle we have city-wide curbside collection, not only of paper and cardboard, bottles and cans, but also of compost.
In addition, there are businesses that you can drop off for free items they don't take in the recycling bin.
There may be equivalents where you live.
* Styrofoam packaging - the white kind that tends to turn into little "pebbles" - drop off at Ikea or the Seattle Lighting Outlet store in South Seattle. I was glad to learn that there's a way to reuse it, because it takes forever to decompose in a landfill.
Packing peanuts, you may already know, can be dropped off at a lot of places that do shipping, such as UPS stores, because the peanuts can be directly reused. (The kind that dissolve in water are compostable, and shipping stores won't take them anyway.) See P.S. below for more info - MW 5/18/2013
* Bottle caps - You have to remove them from the bottles you're recycling in Seattle, but you can recycle them at Aveda salons, The Sneakery and Whole Foods. As it says on a neighborhood blog, "Aveda accepts caps that twist, specifically from shampoo, water, soda, milk and other beverage bottles, pharmaceutical lids, flip top caps on tubes and food product bottles (such as ketchup and mayonnaise), laundry detergent caps and some jar lids such as peanut butter. Caps need to be rigid, so they do not accept lids from plastic tubs, like yogurt [or margarine or cottage cheese] – those go in curbside recycling." I read online that they grind them up and turn them into caps for Aveda products.
* Electronics - there are a lot of places that will accept computers and related items; for old audio-visual equipment, I like Friendly Earth in South Seattle, because of their mission statement: "By recycling your electronics with Friendly Earth, you’re not only helping to improve your environment, but your community too. We take the proceeds that we receive from recycling and donate that back to charities, shelters, schools, environmentalists, and other organizations in need."
* Eyeglasses - various chains that sell glasses ( LensCrafters, Pearle Vision, Sears Optical, Target Optical, Sunglass Hut) accept any type and pass them along to the Lions Club, who provide them to people all over the world.
* Bike inner tubes! There's a company in Seattle called Alchemy Goods that makes them into messenger bags, belts, wallets, etc.; I've seen some of those items for sale as the Fremont Market. Alchemy told me that Greg's Green Lake Cycles, among other bike shops around town, collect the inner tubes for them.
* Rags - Even clothes that aren't suitable to resell at places like Goodwill can be pulled apart and reprocessed into fibers for paper, upholstery, and insulation materials. There's a collection bin at a gas station in our neighborhood that goes to a recycler called ReTex.
* Toiletries - drop off soap, shampoo, conditioner, lotion, deoderant and toothpaste etc. at AAA.
Other things I didn't know:
- Corks - yes, they can go in the garbage, where they end up at the dump, but they can be reused to create things like shoes, flooring, and insulation. Drop them at participating ReCork wine stores, such as Bin 41 in West Seattle, City Cellars in Wallingford or DeLaurenti in the Pike Place Market.
- Shredded paper goes in the compost, layered between clean green yard waste.
- Bubble wrap can be recycled. "Bundle it together in a plastic grocery bag and place it in your cart. Bubble envelopes cannot be recycled and must go in the garbage." (If you're sending out packages, there are compostable equivalents you can use instead.)
- Alkaline batteries (AA, AAA, C, D, 9v) - yes, the disposal kind (as opposed to rechargeables) can go in the garbage, but it's even better for the environment to collect them and take them to a place, such as Ikea, that will send them on so that the steel and zinc can be recovered. I read on the Earth911 website that "If you do decide to put alkaline batteries in the trash, you can take extra steps to prevent leaking [by] putting multiple batteries in the same plastic bag or securing the ends of each battery with masking tape."
- Plastic plant pots - if they're rinsed off can go in the recycling cart. As it says on the City of Seattle Public Utilities website, "An alternative is to Re-use for your own plant starts and house plants or check the King County Materials Exchange to find nurseries that may reuse the pots."
- Medications - I remember how disappointed my family was that my Dad was commanded to pour my Mom's expensive, powerful drugs down the toilet, so I was glad to read that they can be taken back to some Bartell Drugs so that they don't pollute the water or pose a risk to anyone by keeping them around the house.
P.S. re: styrofoam
In the May 20, 2013 issue of The New Yorker, there's an article called FORM AND FUNGUS: Can mushrooms help us get rid of Styrofoam?"" by Ian Frazier; here are a few excerpts of the key points:
"Many plastics were invented to imitate natural substances, like rubber, wood, bone, silk, hemp, or ivory. Ecovative’s invention, in postmodern fashion, creates natural substances that imitate plastics.
[The company is a ] startup that has turned a college project on the generative, tensile and biodegradable properties of mycelium into a business that could challenge Styrofoam and other polystyrene products dependent on a hydrocarbon-heavy manufacturing process.
Pieces of Styrofoam swirl in the trash gyre in the Pacific and litter the world's highways and accumulate in the digestive systems of animals and take up space in waste dumps ... Foamed polystyrene breaks down extremely slowly .. and a major chemical it breaks down to is styrene, listed as a carcinogen in the 2011 toxicology report issued by the NIH.
The packing material made by their factory takes a substrate of agricultural waste, like chopped-up cornstalks and husks; steam-pasteurizes it; adds trace nutrients and a small amount of water; injects the mixture with pellets of mycelium; puts it in a mold ... 4 days later the mycelium has grown throughout the substrate into the shape of the mold, producing a material almost indistinguishable from Styrofoam in form, function and cost. ... When broken up and thrown into a compost pile, the material biodegrades in about a month.
The products can be made almost anywhere, with local agricultural wastes and minimal use of energy. ..."
In Eight Steps to Happiness Geshe-la says "'Self' and 'other' are relative terms, rather like 'this mountain' and 'that mountain ... 'This' and 'that' therefore depend upon our point of reference. This is also true of self and other. By climbing down the mountain of self, it is possible to ascend the mountain of other, and thereby cherish others as much as we presently cherish ourself."