• Accokeek Foundation

Boundaries

by Blain Snipstal

1. We all take things for granted. 2. We all have assumptions about the way the ‘world’ works and the ways we work within that ‘world’.

Lately, I’ve been considering two thoughts. These are often times intertwined and in conversation with each other. And for me, this week, they are walking together, in living color.

Here’s my premise: I had the assumption that, because I’m a farmer, I live lightly on the earth, with little waste and reduced consumption patterns. My assumption was fueled by the fact that I took for granted the role that the trash can plays in our everyday lives.

So, last Sunday, I decided to carry my trash around with me for an entire week. I wanted to directly confront the notion of waste. We have, in this society, the privilege of a relatively functional waste management system; garbage comes once a week, recycle twice a month, and, if you’re lucky, there are even pick-ups for your yard waste. This waste, in whatever form you deem it to be, is then carted away, to never be seen again. As a result, there can be a huge disconnect for people between what they consume and its impact upon the environment.

It’s because there are many things that happen in this waste disposal process:

1) We – those who throw things in a trashcan – instantly forget about what we just wasted or used as soon as it leaves our hands, 2) If we are recycling, we, on top of number 1, receive a feeling that can be associated with the feeling when someone pats you on the back, all just because we recycled, 3) We never have to think about what trash looks like outside of the trashcan or trash-bag, 4) We never get to appreciate how much waste we so unconsciously contributed to the world, and 5) We never get to experience one of the other sides to our consumption habits – the local dump.

For me, being mindful of these things didn’t help; I had to see my waste. Even though the bag on my back is small, I’m finding that there are large implications. It takes 24 acres to sustain the average American, and this figure doesn’t include oil. If you take all the people in the planet and divide the amount of land on earth by that number, you will get about 2-3 acres per person. But we are consuming well beyond our fair share with our 24 acres per person. If you head to any local dump in the U.S., you can see that we’re wasting beyond our own capacity.

We can make choices that are part of the solution or part of the contribution. Each day, we’re blessed with the opportunity to continue anew, and rethink the ways that we consume products and create waste.

So, for me, it all starts with a bag and a choice.

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