Waste Not, Want Not

5 Aug

I got a name badge today at my new job. I’ve never had one before. I used to think they were creepy. Lack of anonymity, security tracking your movements, documentation determining who belongs and who doesn’t, having an (unflattering) photo of yourself entered into some mysterious database.

But part of me likes feeling like I belong, especially in a place where I’m not always so sure. I like the way the purple clips sits against my office-appropriate gray pinstripe skirt. I like walking through our clean and modern office building with it. Everything is shiny and new here.

That’s the thing about OC. It’s easy to get seduced by the shiny and new. I liked my funky old office in Oakland with the mismatched furniture, scary elevator, and ancient plumbing. Three-day-old leftovers from my co-worker’s mom? Delicious! Re-purposing a flower pot into a mail holder? Brilliant! Old clothes from my sister’s neighbor left in a trash bag? Treasure!

But, here, I find myself gravitating toward the new. My partner suggested we get an entertainment unit off Craigslist…but I want to get one from IKEA. I really like my new sweater from Express that cost too much. I haven’t eaten leftovers in a week. I make excuses: “We won’t find exactly what we want.” “I need this for work.” “We don’t have time to cook.” But we know that excuses mean that I know I’m doing something wrong.

Here’s the kicker: my apartment building doesn’t have recycling (!!!) and I’m finding myself too tired to care.

Don’t get me wrong – I still love me a good hand-me-down (and I have thoughts percolating about getting ourselves recycling services). But consumerism and waste are so abundant, it takes a lot of work to be mindful. I mostly walk, bike, and take public transit – so these many days of riding in a car is fun for me. I actively try not to buy food that comes in plastic containers (alas, yogurt and hummus) and I save every container I do get. It was kind of thrilling to get rid of them when I moved. I have been TV-less for the past several years so you can’t blame me for being excited that my partner moved in his 45-inch flat screen.

There’s a book that came out in 2001 that diagnosed the American people with Affluenza. “affluenza, n. a painful, contagious, socially transmitted condition of overload, debt, anxiety, and waste resulting from the dogged pursuit of more.” I might venture a guess that OC has a bad case of affluenza and I’m experiencing symptoms.

Is the problem that I’m too lazy to put in the work required to live according to my values? Or that it takes so much work to do so? Probably both. My ultimate goal is balance. To not beat myself up (or others) for every harmful thing enjoyed but to not be so complacent that I ignore the consequences of my actions. We don’t have to be impeccable to be activists and we don’t need shiny, new things to make us happy (but it’s okay if the occasional shiny thing makes us a little happy).


7 Responses to “Waste Not, Want Not”

  1. Wes! August 5, 2011 at 11:20 am #

    I recycle plastic containers, because saving them seems too ‘Asian mom’. 😉 That and I still have a hodgepodge of assorted, mismatching faux-Tupperware. I forget that I take recycling for granted. It’d really nag at me if recycling wasn’t available where I live.

    • cil1977 August 5, 2011 at 11:27 am #

      Unfortunately, the manufacturing and recycling of plastics is pretty toxic. But I really can’t believe there’s no recycling here. And I got my lunch yesterday served in a styrofoam container, which is banned in SF and Oakland. Sigh, OC behind the times.

  2. Neil August 6, 2011 at 1:06 pm #

    I must say that I really enjoy reading your posts. Its really interesting to read about your journey and your thought process about certain issues or situations. Good luck with the new job and everything else Priscilla!!

    • cil1977 August 6, 2011 at 7:34 pm #

      Thanks, Neil! Sorry we didn’t get to hang out before I left but hopefully I’ll see you next time you’re down in SoCal.

  3. amsin August 9, 2011 at 1:49 pm #

    noooooooo! your famous plastic and paper bag collection! i think i see a few of my contributions among the pile. your plastic container (plastic-whatever, really) hoarding habit is at least one thing i’ll carry on, for better or worse, haha.

    • cil1977 August 9, 2011 at 3:28 pm #

      don’t worry, i still kept most of it. you should’ve seen jason’s and josh’s faces when i said my bags of bags was coming with us. looks of resignation all around.


  1. Giving Myself the Gift of Peace « oakland 2 oc - December 16, 2011

    […] for the sake of my sanity. I have my partner take our recycling to a neighboring city with curbside recycling services, but I let him buy body wash, even though I hate the plastic packaging it comes in (and, therefore, […]

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