The value of possessions

One of the things I have pondered over recently, is the actual value of possessions. I am aware that some people live very minimalistic, almost foresaking ownership of everything. Even though this is way too extreme for me, I did notice two very important things:

  1. Products require material and energy to make – both of which are NOT endlessly supplied on Earth
  2. Products require energy to keep and use them

The Earth is in danger, and we all know it. We are using more and more resources and pollute the environment whilst transporting and using these resources. Even though we, as consumers, are only the final users of such products, we need to be aware of what these products do to the environment. And to ourselves! We currently have more toxins in our bodies than ever before, coming from plastic products we use, car emissions and the food we eat. Yes, I am painting this very black and white, but that just makes clear what this is all about 😉 I could tell you much more about this, but I know people who can do that so much better than I.

Annie Leonard is the spokesperson for the Story of Stuff. This is a community and a movement that sees what is wrong with current consumerism and tries to make people aware. And of course take action, because that is the only way to change things.

In June, one of our local TV stations aired the documentary Bag It. In this documentary, Jef Barrier tries to discover what plastic does to us and eventually (yes, spoiler, but I think it’s predictable) decides to cut down on plastic use in his house. It’s just a bit over an hour long, so no excuse to skipping it!

My second point is also something I am discovering now that I am trying to go paperless (one baby step at the time). I already threw away some paper manuals because I downloaded the pdf version. And with throwing them out… came relief. Then I realized that when you own stuff, you get attached to it, you make room for it. Physically, in your house, taking up space. But also mentally, because you have to keep track of everything you own. I read about Green Evelien, a Dutch blogger living in Belgium who has experienced exactly the same. She tries to live a happy life, as ecologically as possible. After tackling both evergy and water consumption (they already eat vegan and biological), she is now tackling the stuff she has. Throwing away stuff that you barely use is actually a liberation, because it clears up space!

This is very hard for me, though. Yes, I do try to purge my clothes twice a year (though that might be getting less now that I know how to dress myself :)). But I keep amassing books… I love books 😀 Just the feeling of paper in your hands and the worlds to explore. I do own an e-reader that I am using increasingly, but I still have quite some books and keep buying more. But: that stops now. I will use my e-reader for classics and start buying and borrowing e-books more (as soon as it’s back from repair). And no, I will not throw out all my books. My favourites can remain 🙂 That means I will only have books I am certain I will want to read again and again. The other books I currently own will go on my to-read shelf and once I’ve read them, I will decide whether I want to keep it or purge it. So I’ll probably end up donating many of my books and selling some of the prettier ones.

My basic rule about posessions: keep only those items that you regularly use and try to replace these with eco-friendly alternatives when you can. But hey, you might have a completely different take on this! I’m interested to hear 🙂

Reducing plastic waste

One of my goals for 2014 is to reduce my waste, which is a VERY big project so I’m taking baby steps. I read an article about someone from my university, who went completely plastic-free, cold turkey, for a month. That’s so hard! Though probably only at the beginning, because after a while you know where to find things or how to do things, and it will be no trouble. And hopefully, not too expensive either (I have the idea that going plastic-free will mean higher costs… which perhaps is weird because you also pay for packaging of food… anyway). But, like I said, I’m taking baby steps (and using the plastic I still have in my house, because if I’m going to throw it away, I might as well first use it.

Why do I want to reduce my plastic waste? Several reasons, actually! First of all: environmental reasons. Plastic is extremely slow to degrade, and lots of it ends up in the ocean, endangering the wildlife there (let alone the sight of it…). The ocean currents collect this plastic waste, making islands of them. This YouTube short documentary from National Geographic illustrates what happens and also what people try to do to make others aware of it!

My second major reason to want to reduce plastic, especially around food and drink, is that some plastic types give of substances that are bad for your health. Not all of them, because they would never be allowed to sell food in plastic if it was that dangerous, but some do. Heating the plastic is even worse (microwaving your meals in plastic bags or containers…), so that is not preferable. I don’t want toxins in my food and drinks! But let’s be honest, food also looks way less attractive in plastic. So many reasons not to use plastic anymore, or at least reducing plastic waste!

What could you do? I started with 2 simple things: just drink tap water from a reusable bottle and stop buying bottled water. And stop using/accepting plastic grocery bags. In the mindmap of Learning Fundamentals that they published during Plastic Free July (no, I had never heard of that) last year, there are other suggestions on what you might do!

Deplastify your lifeI am saving the glass jars some of my food comes in for future storage (which I like way better than the plastic bags, once again), and I will upcycle some old tank tops into bags for fruits and veggies. Pinterest holds many more ideas to reducing plastic, on all fronts. And if we stop using it, hopefully many of us, production will lessen (because, despite the tons of wasted plastic in the ocean, new plastic is still produced) and we might stop poisoning ourselves and the environment. That’s a good thing! Are you in?