Save The World Through Thrift | Teen Ink

Save The World Through Thrift

July 13, 2018
By Halcyonday PLATINUM, Johnson City, Tennessee
Halcyonday PLATINUM, Johnson City, Tennessee
24 articles 32 photos 7 comments

Favorite Quote:
"Why is it that we rejoice at a birth and cry at a funeral? It is because we are not the ones involved."
-Mark Twain, "Pudd'nHead Wilson"


Every day, Americans heft 728,000 tons of trash into the dumpster. Before the trash bags hit the bottom, they hop into the car and head to the mall, fulfilling a constant cycle of buy and replace. From clothes to appliances, the latest status symbols around the world are made to sell, not to last. Sell they do, and yesterday’s versions are thrown onto towering garbage dumps, floated to the Pacific Garbage Patch, or choked down by wildlife. Earth is heading down a slippery slope to uninhabitability, and a surplus of improperly handled trash is contributing to the problem. At least, that’s what a growing number of everyday activists are saying. Their mission? Save the world through thrift.

Most trash is produced by corporations, not the general populace, and although corporate giants may have no qualms over filling dumps with the byproducts of manufacturing, a community of environmental activists is taking offense. In many cases, the option of continuing wasteful manufacturing and packaging processes is simply cheaper than implementing a new, less wasteful system. This is what the growing zero waste community is taking a stand against: they create as little non- recyclable or compostable waste as possible in their everyday lives. In the words of National Geographic’s “How People Make Only One Jar of Trash a Year”: “Many of the solutions to cutting waste use practices that were commonplace before the era of plastics and disposable products. Think cloth napkins and handkerchiefs, vinegar and water for cleaning… and cloth grocery bags.” Zero waste activists support their cause by composting, buying in bulk, and supporting local businesses. They claim their lifestyle saves them time, money, and peace of mind. In Lars Eighner’s essay “On Dumpster Diving”, he writes his own philosophy on the transience of material things: “Now I hardly pick up a thing without envisioning the time I will cast it away. This I think is a healthy state of mind. Almost everything I have now has already been cast out at least once, proving that what I own is valueless to someone.” Eighner is happy to be a spectator to capitalism because after all, people throw out brand new things every day! Those who practice the zero waste and scavenging lifestyles embrace a common core: as consumers, they are conscious of what they consume and take none of it for granted, claiming to live fuller lives for doing so. These two extreme practices seem daunting, but it is easy to practice the “three Rs”: “reduce, reuse, and recycle” – on a smaller, everyday scale.

The effects of corporate greed demonstrably cause more damage than those of the general population, so some might argue: why should we bother? What difference can an ordinary person make that might amount to anything? “The Haunting Art of Plastic Pollution”, an article about the dangers of plastic to marine life by National Geographic, states, “-Printer cartridges that spilled off a ship in the Atlantic Ocean, for example, washed up on beaches from North Africa to Norway. Discarded bottle caps… turn up on beaches—and in birds—around the world.” Photos of small plastic objects, including bottle caps and broken parts of pencils, accompany the article, with a caption describing that the objects were found in the stomach of a bird killed by the effects of pollution. People can call up their senators and then give themselves a pat on the back, but are a part of the problem if they then throw a bottle out of the window on the way to the protest. To truly save the world, intake changes have to be made on major and personal levels. Journalist Fred Pierce argues that, “(Paul Ehrlich) was right, however, to point out that humanity’s impact on the planet is a combination of three elements: our numbers, our consumption patterns and how we produce what we consume.” (“Overconsumption is a Grave Threat to Humanity”, New York Times). Pierce ends his essay with the Erlichean idea that “too big to fail” corporations won’t bother to afford: “The challenge is to fix capitalism by encouraging innovation in the technologies that can deliver a livable world.” All of this comes back around to the idea of thrift and evaluation of consumption needs: Erlich’s second staple. The idea of thrift is more than buying used clothes, (an ethical alternative to the “fast fashion” industry), and buying dented cans for a slashed price, (an economical way to combat unnecessary food waste). Thrift can be accomplished by being more conscious of what is already had, what is needed, and how material goods are taken care of: will we always be able to replace anything by running out to a big, beige store with a fluorescent logo on the side? Do we really need to buy one in every color once we get there? In nature, no trash or pollution is produced; everything is part of a balanced and self sufficient cycle. Modern technology is full of the sizes, shapes, colors, and patterns that nature evolved to offer for maximum success; it is time for humanity to take a recycling cue from the Earth.

If the human race wants to save the planet, we need to seriously revaluate what we have, what we need, and how and where we find our essentials. To take advice from an old adage, modern society needs to start to “use it up, wear it out, and make it do… or do without.” Making realistic, everyday choices can help to turn the rising tides of excess waste and pollution for the planet Earth.


The author's comments:

 Until Mars gains some viability, every one of us will have to continue to reside on the planet Earth. It's our responsibility to humanity to fight climate change: it's not a myth, and it will affect the most vulnerable populations of our planet first.


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