Saturday, March 12, 2011

Reduce, Re-use

Three years into being a vegan, veganism is normative to me; it's not necessarily always easy (I still have to ask questions every time I eat at an unfamiliar restaurant, and I continue to meet people to whom I explain veganism), but it is what is normal. There are definitely some things that I could still continue to figure out--in terms of cooking, or buying, or what-not, but for the most part, I don't spend as much time just contemplating veganism. And I think that I miss that, a little. I like thinking about the importance of daily objects, and how the domestic is the political. I know that making ethically-informed purchases is important--whether it's shampoo or food. And partially as an extension of my canning endeavors--which have shifted our dependence onto a different, and often local producer of ingredients, I've started thinking about other things in slightly different terms. Now that veganism is normative, I want to see if there are other areas in my life that I can change for the better.

Part of the change that I'm envisioning is a more radical reduction in my production of trash. I'm not sure how much I can reduce our output of trash, but I'm starting to try. I try to ask for ceramic mugs at coffee shops, where the baristas often automatically reach for the paper cups. I'm going to start trying to take more of my bulk containers to the co-op when I'm buying bulk items. I recently made lotion again, and am storing it in a mason jar. As of tomorrow, I will be out of shampoo, and I'm not buying any more; for that matter, I'm never buying body wash or face wash again, and am using castille soap and baking soda for cleaning not just myself, but just about everything. I know that a lot of the things that I'm not going to be buying anymore come in recyclable containers, but many of these containers are plastics that get down-cycled instead of recycled. Too often, we forget that reducing and reusing come before recycling. Reducing and reusing is more difficult than recycling, too, in that both force us to re-examine our methods of consumption, rather than just adding a step to our methods of disposal. Reducing, or doing without some things ultimately makes a bigger difference.

The main questions that I've been trying to ask of things are 1) Do I need this at all? and 2) Can I make (cook, can, or grow) it myself? I know that I can't make essential oils or baking soda or castille soap, but I know that buying those things means a much greater reduction in the number of cleaning agents that I buy. I hope that I can keep up with this, along with my resolve to not buy new clothes this year, and I'll try to note the kind of difference that it makes, before this, too--I hope--becomes natural and normative.


piuvodku said...

NIce post. I think that part of the difficulty in the reduce, reuse part is that we've already been reducing and reusing and have hit a kind of plateau. Of course there are other things that we can be better about, but it will take us a little time to realize what these things are and a little time to think of ways around them.

zemmely said...

I understand what you're saying about the plateau--it's partially why I write about my uncertainty in how to proceed and reduce even further.
The clothes, I think, will be a bigger deal at the end of the year, as I'm already getting that itch of wanting to buy summer clothes...
In terms of other things, it IS more difficult. I think I'll try to find some cloth napkins at goodwill, and use them as much as I can instead of paper towels.

I was also thinking about reducing in terms of some of the clutter that we have around. I know it's not much, but we can stand to get rid of some unnecessary things.

Skippy said...

I've been thinking about this a lot lately, too. We got some reusable produce bags that we love. Have you tried them? We have some that are mesh and some that are hemp.

We switched from paper towels to rags and it is WAY easier, I think. They mop up so much more liquid than paper towels.

zemmely said...

I've been using the mesh (and some cotton) produce bags for a couple years now--some of them are actually starting to get holes!
We keep paper towels around for emergencies, like when the cats puke, or something equally gross, otherwise, we use cloth.
We did get 15 cloth napkins at Goodwill, for 10 cents each, and they have been so great!