or tales of garbage that I write each day? (Pun intended)
I went to put out my garbage this morning along with the recycling and the food waste (composting) and when I raised my head around the mounds of snow on the road, I could not see any other household do it. That is when the realization struck that the garbage pickup day had moved by a day on account of the holiday on Monday last. I moved all the stuff back into my garage with guilt and shame looking around sheepishly hoping that none of my neighbours noticed.
Putting out the garbage each time makes me ponder a lot of questions. A few weeks ago in early January, our town allowed us to place double the amount of garbage bags rather than the regular 3-bag limit (as a post-Christmas one-off). Many of the neighbors had a full stack of six-bags for pickup. And we had just one. Mind you, garbage is picked up every other week. That means we had one bag for two weeks. And our household consists of our four-member family including the COVID time return to the home of our two girls along with our permanent addition of my wife’s parents who live in our household. That makes us six of us and a dog.
We have been working hard on being as carbon efficient as possible and doing our bit about it. We reduce garbage as much as we can. As vegetarians, we are extremely carbon neutral from a food perspective - I don’t take credit for this as it was not a planned switch but the cultural aspect of the way we grew up. But, it does help the planet. We try to recycle and reduce even recyclable waste to the minimum. Recently, we switched our k-cup coffee pods to fully compostable even taking a hit on the flavors of the coffee that we like (which was not available in the most recyclable form).
Though I write with pride that we have achieved something compared to our neighbors, that is clearly not enough. I am taking a convenient benchmark to potentially make myself look good. Compare this to the waste I see a similar family throws out in India when I visit, I see that it is probably one-third of the garbage, one-tenth the recycling (since there is much-limited use of packaging unlike here) and by that benchmark, I have a long way to go from where we are now. That would be a better benchmark to target.
We have even learned a lot from my in-laws living with us. They reuse a lot of food packagings like bottles and plastic yogurt containers for storing condiments and as fridge containers. In their simpler minds, they see the colossal waste of packaging and potential for reuse even before these can be sent out to recycling.
But will that alone be enough? The next 10 years might mean shared cars without car ownership, smaller housing to reduce the carbon and energy footprint, maybe reduced travel, and a host of other things that could help this planet.
How much of that would I really act upon? I continue to ponder and I continue to act…
This is a continuation post to one that I wrote a couple of days ago about Bill Gates’s new book “How to avoid a climate disaster.”