What is Your Trash Costing Us?

By Alexandra Cochran
Blog Content Contributor

Exploring the topic of trash can sometimes feel a little discouraging when we notice just how wasteful our world really is. But in this seemingly crucial yet almost irreversible time, we don’t have an option but to be more courteous to this giant rock we call Earth.

From my time living in seven different states, I began to observe how many homes recycle or waste items. Whether it’s plastic from food wrapping, the food itself, or the wet wipes we toss down our toilets, we have a serious addiction with getting rid of things we label as waste. When we think of a normal day in our home, we might not recognize how much we toss things away, but when we live with a roommate we undoubtedly notice how many times we each take out the trash, and counting. Talking waste is a sensitive subject and most choose to ignore this topic because they believe their difference is insignificant. I once read that if all the plastic in the ocean were collected, it would be twice the size of Texas. Not only terrifying, but to picture that amount of plastic in my mind was just alarming enough to start saving waste. It indeed gets worse, way worse. By 2050, there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean.

Wet wipes are found at almost any convenience store and in every sewer system. Think before you toss! Photo by Alexandra Cochran.
Wet wipes are found at almost any convenience store and in every sewer system. Think before you toss! Photo by Alexandra Cochran.

I don’t know about you, but when I visit the beach on vacation, I enjoy a refreshing dip into a clear ocean. Most of the ocean’s plastic is in the North Pacific Ocean and is named the “Pacific Garbage Patch” or the “Pacific Trash Vortex” and is a collection of marine debris. Because of the natural ocean currents, the trash remains in this region and the marine life then encounters and ingests plastic. This disturbs me most because not only do I admire animals and the safety of the marine ecosystem, the seafood I enjoy eating is at risk of contamination.

It indeed turns out there are ways to reduce the trash in our daily lives. Lauren Singer, a New Yorker who says she lives a zero waste lifestyle, does not produce or send any garbage to a landfill. She does, however, recycle and compost. Have you ever taken a step back and realized how much you’ve thrown away in just one week? Studies from the USDA released in 2014 stated that we waste 133 billion pounds out of the 430 billion food supplies available yearly. That’s a lot of food considering there are so many people who struggle just to pay for food.

“Okay Alex, I understand and I care but realistically, what could I possibly do to change something so significant?” Happy you asked. We all wish (including myself) that we could be as committed as Singer but I’ve created a list below of where to begin:

  • Eliminate our use of plastic bags from the grocery store by opting for reusable bags and avoid purchasing items that come in plastic all together. This means shopping for more produce and fresh foods rather than prepackaged meals. Wow, healthier and smarter!
  • Since consuming water and coffee is our main liquid intake, invest in a large reusable water bottle or thermos to eliminate the many plastic bottles and cups we constantly fill our garbage with.
  • Check out your pantry and refrigerator before heading to the store and stick to a shopping list of items you need in preparation of cooking meals at home.  Only purchase those certain items to avoid overbuying.

I don’t want to admit it, but all the facts point that our world is on a path of destruction. Yes, we love to organize and declutter our homes by throwing away our trash but staying on top of things also brings awareness. Once you get in the habit of caring about trash, you’ll constantly attempt to be more mindful. Mindfulness is the key my friends. The less you take home, the less you’ll throw away.

Featured image by Alexandra Cochran.

Holly Henrichsen

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