Mixing It Up To Become More Sustainable
While there are many paths toward sustainability, the best path for me has not always been clear. In the quest for the perfect sustainable item, I have collected enough reusable containers, fabric grocery bags, and reusable water bottles to fill a cupboard to bursting. In an effort to be more sustainable, I inadvertently become a bigger consumer.
During a recent move, I decided to overhaul my home in the spirit of organizing guru Marie Kondo. Her gentle methods of culling useless items from my life have led me into a greater revelation of sustainability: buying less, appreciating more.
Minimalists and hyper-organizers alike are fans of Kondo’s gospel, and she makes a compelling link between the stuff we accumulate and the quality of our life. Reducing the amount of waste we generate in the first place, referred to as source reduction or waste prevention, is an integral part of a sustainable lifestyle. Kondo challenges her followers to examine their relationship to the objects they buy; her unique approach to reducing the amount of stuff we accumulate—not her method of folding shirts or organizing rooms by theme—is what makes her a guru.
To recycle and reuse discarded materials is very beneficial to our pocketbooks and to our surrounding environment and economy. However, those activities still involved accumulation of materials and products that became unneeded and had to be effectively managed in order to avoid needless disposal. Source reduction – preventing the generation of waste or production of wasteful materials – is the highest order of sustainability. It’s the cornerstone of a sustainable lifestyle.
Last year, Californians generated 42.7 million tons of material that went to disposal. That’s an average of 6 pounds per person per day, or more than one ton of solid waste for every Californian per year.
Kondo’s philosophy is that every object we own should bring us joy, either because it adds aesthetic beauty to our life or because the object serves our purpose really well.
I discovered during my recent move that I own 10 mixing bowls, but I only really love 3 mismatched bowls that are perfect for popcorn, mixing batters, and marinating meat. The rest sit untouched in my cupboard. My three mismatched bowls suit my needs better, and their perfect functionality brings me joy.
The other seven mixing bowls will not end up in a landfill just yet. They’ll go to good homes: My sister needs a nice, matching set, and the rest will be donated to a good thrift store.
Kondo would advise that it’s important to carefully consider new purchases until you find something you truly love; avoid buying placeholder items that will create more waste in the long run. I would like to upgrade my dishes to a complete set of matching plates and bowls. I could pop into a discount store and buy a cheap set of matching dishes, but it would just be a placeholder for the (more expensive) set I really want and love. If I went that route, I would end up with two sets of dishes I don’t love that I would eventually have to take to the thrift store.
As I continue unpacking my moving boxes, I’m taking a hard look at the stuff I own as well as the list of items I think I need in my new place. Changing my relationship to things is a hard process, but it will lead to lasting change in my life. I want to reduce my impact on our planet, and I’m choosing to do it one mixing bowl at a time.