Monday, November 24, 2008

The Luxury of Trash

I cleaned out some closets over the weekend. I always feel sooo good when I do some major purging. This time, I didn't get rid of so much but in years, months past, have hauled away entire black garbage bags filled with clothes and "junk." But it was still good to consolidate, get rid of some empty boxes, etc.

I couldn't help thinking back to "trash day" at Gram's house when we were kids and for many years after. You see, practically everyday was trash day because out in the country, folks burned their garbage. Every other day or so, Gram would haul a little bag or two down to the burn pile and light a match to it. Only once did she manage to set the entire field on fire, but in a farming community, even that was somewhat acceptable as a way to prepare a field for planting. When my family moved next door to Gram in 1978, we used an old 55 gallon drum to burn our trash but still, it was years before we ever had sanitation services out there.

Trash management was certainly different just thirty years ago. What little couldn't be burned was usually recycled. Glass jars were used over and over again. The use of plastic for just about everything was not yet widespread. Clothing was worn out.

This wouldn't work for most people today because our trash heaps contain so much more than could be burned up easily. Some people have mountains of garbage out every week for trash collection. And we can and do throw almost everything and anything away, without thought for where it will end up. It's a luxury almost, isn't it? That in the first place, we can afford to throw so much away. And in the second place, that so much garbage is acceptable.

I'd consider myself only light green in terms of living an environmentally responsible lifestyle. I don't compost. My recycling efforts are meager at best. I'm sure I've disposed of some batteries improperly recently. But thinking about all the trash I generate is at least helping me reconsider why if I really need this or that in the first place. And I figure, maybe it's a start!

How about you? Got any [thoughts on] trash to share? Have you ever thought of garbage (disposal, etc.) as a luxury?


Katrina said...

Your post brought back lots of memories for me! Growing up, we burned what could be burned, and my family took the remaining garbage to the dumpster behind their ice cream store. Every couple days, we'd gather up all the burnable trash and take it out the the pit that my father had built from cement blocks. It was a major privilege when I was finally allowed to go out and light the fire all by myself, and monitor the burning!

Sorting garbage was a built-in habit. Burnable stuff in the kitchen trash can; nonburnable went out to the garbage can on the back porch.

I'm pretty light green myself, but Camden keeps giving me more "suggestions." Our township doesn't recycle, but I've started packing up the newspaper, magazines, and [endless] catalogs and taking them to the paper-recycling bins by the church. And I've gotten much better about giving things (clothes, toys, books, etc.) to the mission rather than throwing them out when we're "done with them."

Good thoughts, Dianne. I'm sure I could go on, but I'll stop hogging up all your comment space. :)

Stacy at Exceedingly Mundane said...

Wow, great post! I'll have to ask my in-laws (who live way out in the country) about burning trash. I've never done it or seen it. I totally agree about how much we throw out, and I try to recycle everything I can, or donate as much as I can. Still, I know it's no where near enough. We are such a consumable society, and in our house, we are very consumable people. Great topic!

Dianne said...

Ah, Katrina - yes, monitoring the fire was a rite of passage, was it not?

And Stacy - I think you hit the nail on the head - we are so consumer driven. The thing about most of our trash these days, it is never really totally consumed. There will always be some lingering in some trash pile or landfill somewhere - but out of sight, out of mind is the way most people think, I guess.