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Convenience is a Luxury

Posted Jun 05 2009 5:07pm

This post is a response to a guest posting for a great blog called Fake Plastic Fish. Laura Zilverberg blogged about the culture shock she experienced after returning to the US from living in Mexico. Thirty years ago I lived in Brazil and experienced the same sort of culture shock that Laura spoke of in her guest post on FPF, May 13. My wake up moment came when our maid was looking for a cleaning rag in the rag bag. Yes we had a maid, it was expected of the affluent. At 25 years old, I did not even know I was affluent. Julia, the maid, found a discarded man’s shirt in the rag bag. I had put it there to be a rag, but only after I cut the buttons off to save for sewing repairs. I did not cut the threads of the buttons, I cut the fabric so that everywhere there had been a button, there was a little diamond shaped hole. Julia wanted the shirt, with holes, for her father. She took the shirt home and somehow repaired it into a perfectly good shirt. I was so ashamed at how wasteful I had been. Also, I was surprised at how the poor people used every container that I threw away. Plastic butter tubs or any other container that went into the trash was picked out and taken home. At the market, there were no plastic bags (there are now). The veggies that you bought were wrapped in newspaper and stuffed in your reusable shopping bag. That year in Brazil taught me a lot about life in the US.

Laura said “Waste is a luxury.” How true! I would like to add that convenience is a luxury. As I look for ways to cut back plastic waste and as I write about it in my own blog, I see that most of it is all about convenience. I have decided that convenience and being green do not coexist well.

In the US, we are all about convenience. That is why we have so many disposable products - like razors, lighters, containers, That is why we have so much packaging - like individually packaged servings of snacks. That is why we have so much fast food. Everything must be convenient so it can be fast. To become greener, we must take the time to live without so many conveniences. They are a shortcut to what? More time that we cram more work or activities into? More money so we can buy more conveniences? It’s not worth it when all that waste goes to the landfill or litters our oceans.
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