In full disclosure, I’ve started this blog about half a dozen times already, searching for the right words to introduce this seemingly random topic and then catching myself in boring, long winded explanations of all the post-election epiphanies I’ve experienced over the past two months.
So, let me challenge myself to be brief instead: the election was Rough (yes, rough with a capital R). It’s no secret I’m not a Trump supporter and like a lot of people, his win caught me off guard. I spent the dizzying first few weeks trying to process my confusion, and alternating between debilitating sadness and anger. Every piece of news or cabinet announcement sent me further down my spiral of horror, despite my better judgment to WALK AWAY and put my fingers in my ears. I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m still reeling, but ultimately I’m trying to see this event as an invitation to grow: a chance, perhaps, to better understand the culture I live in, and the realities I unconsciously enable.
So much of how we live our lives these days is done on autopilot. Buy this, cook that, drive here, follow this trend, so on, and so on. It literally never ends. (And the people who sell us all these products and ideas are out to ensure that it never will).
Our days are simply too busy to put much thought into every single thing we do. And as a result, I often feel myself slipping further from intentional living into unsatisfying autopilot mode. What do I mean by autopilot? I mean following the blind path of convenience over a more thoughtful approach to interacting with the world.
Here's a specific example: I go to the grocery store 2 or 3 times a week. And although I own close to 20 reusable canvas bags, it's a rare day when I actually remember to bring them with me. So what happens? I come home with 15 plastic bags I have no use for that are immediately tossed in the trash. It doesn't seem like a big deal in isolation, but it's not an isolated incident. I do this all the time. And (I'm betting) so do many of you.
Of every nation in the world, we Americans are the ultimate consumers, and, unfortunately, the ultimate wasters. I have spent the bulk of my life complacent in these habits. It never occurred to me that this lifestyle could have such epic consequences, nor that there could be another way. And then a few months ago we moved from a 2-bedroom apartment into a 4-bedroom house and I came face to face with my consumption habits.
Suddenly we had so much stuff to buy. Cardboard boxes arrived nearly every day, full of plastic packaging, Styrofoam peanuts, and gobs of packing tape. We tore through it, made a thousand trips to the dump, and filled our house with so much new furniture, it quickly dawned on me that it would be extraordinarily difficult to downsize should we ever want to in the future. We went from one car to two (a Prius, whew), and from 4 light-switches to over 40. It’s wonderful to be able to spread out in our new home, but it’s also overwhelming: does anyone really need this much?
We don’t live in a mansion or anything close to it, but our lifestyle still feels excessive at times. When I consider that the average American produces 4.3 lbs of waste a day, that adds up to nearly 6,000 lbs of waste per year… just for us four Maslins!
I probably don’t need to spell out the rest. Waste goes to landfills (the second largest source of methane emissions), contributes to climate change, and yadda yadda yadda, suddenly I’m clinging tight to my vacation memories of Iceland because IT NO LONGER EXISTS. I'm being hyperbolic, of course, but the impact of all this waste is real and sobering.
I'm not trying to preach, because let's get real: anyone will tell you I'm no gung-ho environmental activist. When I turn on the news, however, and hear how dependent our country has become on cheaply produced Chinese products or when I contemplate the consequences of the shamelessly anti-environment cabinet Trump is putting together, my stomach drops.
If literally no one at the top is going to protect this planet for our children, we at the very bottom must do our part to make change happen. (And, quite frankly, even if the government was doing all it could do, we should still be changing our individual habits. I think we owe our children at least that much.)
So, I’ve selected a New Year resolution that I feel pretty damn passionate about this year: creating a minimally wasteful home.
When I first told TC this idea, he scoffed just a tad (OK, he looked at me like I was crazy). He asked me how Abby, the person with the Amazon Prime addiction, the one who owns 19 different white tank-tops, and who goes to Starbucks EVERY DAY could possibly commit to such a venture. And WHY on earth would I want to?
And I guess the answer is this: because I want to live with intention.
As discouraging as it feels sometimes, I do believe change originates on a small scale and then grows. I also believe that one voice can have influence. And while I'm not vowing to disown all my habits, I firmly believe it’s better to do one small thing than nothing at all.
And mostly, I’m doing this for our kids.
I don’t want Jack and Rosie to grow up addicted to big box stores and plastic crap that fills up their junk drawers before it eventually ends up in a landfill somewhere. I want them to travel the world and see all the majestic landscapes I’ve been lucky enough to see (like the California Redwoods above), and to offset those carbon emissions by choosing a life in which quality is valued far and above quantity. The lifestyle that’s been modeled for my generation is simply not sustainable, so it’s time to try something new.
Resolutions are rarely successful if their magnitude is overreaching, so I’m starting nice and simple, adopting a new waste-less habit for each month. In a few days, I’ll share with you my habit for January.
I also invite you to join me as I blog about some of the easy changes we are making in our home. I'll be using the hashtag #yearofintentionalliving on my Instagram account (@asmazzy) if you want to follow along.
I'd love to know about the resolutions you are adopting this year, what they mean to you, and whether any of them are also connected to the environment, so please share in the comments!
Wishing you and yours PEACE, JOY, and an abundance of blessings for 2017.