Colin Beavan has wrecked havoc in my life. After reading No Impact Man, I can hardly manage my days in what feels like a quagmire of waste. In my attempts to be environmentally responsible, I'm driving my spouse and myself to distraction as I desperately try to stem the tide of seemingly insurmountable waste that is the normal stream of an American household.
Take paper. Regular paper, in all of its forms: paper, newsprint, tissue, magazines..... Something as seemingly innocuous as paper drives me crazy. Paper towels, newspapers (now delivered daily in a plastic bag, oh, thanks), standard product packaging, junk mail, magazines and more, more, more. It seems to come into our life from all sides.
When we ran out of paper napkins (no need to waste what we already had, right?), I changed over to cloth napkins. I love them anyway. I set the table with different, colorful napkins every day and I have my grandmother's silver napkin ring on mine. Despite all that Martha Stewart effort, much of the time hubby Rob wanders over on his way to the table and pulls off a paper towel to use.
Although we're getting better about using cloth kitchen towels and wipes, we both still grab paper towels when the dog hurls on the rug or we need a quick swipe of something. We'll continue to use paper tissues and toilet paper, I just can't see that changing any time soon.
Yes, we recycle the newspapers and junk mail in our curbside containers. Our magazines have dwindled as I allowed subscriptions to lapse. (Really, were we reading those magazines piling up on the coffee table??) Those magazines we've read go to the public library for sharing with others. I use any paper shopping bags that arrive to hold our recycling until it goes to the Big Blue Bin.
So I'd say our current score is maybe about 40% improvement? Whoa. That doesn't seem like much for the insane amount of nagging it's taken to make it happen. And every time I open the mailbox, open a packing box, open a new container of toilet paper or paper towels, I feel like I'm just barely holding my finger in the dike, like I've barely made a ripple in the waste stream. Here comes more paper clogging our household.....
Yes, I'm trying to live in harmony with my personal beliefs.... but sometimes it's hard to believe that what I'm doing is making enough of a difference to be worth the hassle. I just don't seem to have any choice. I am compelled to do what bits I can.
Just don't get me started on styrofoam...