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Trash Habits

I thought a personal reduction in trash would be easy. All I would have to do to be successful in the No Impact Challenge, I thought, would be not to choose to use disposable items.

But making a choice— to use disposable items, or to avoid them— isn’t so clear-cut. In fact, I’ve learned since beginning of the Challenge that I’ve been generally unconscious of my previous consumption choices. For me, the use of disposable trash has become an ingrained habit.

All of this became clear on the first day of the Challenge. I repeatedly told myself upon entering the dining hall for lunch that I would not use paper napkins . After I had gotten some food, and the No Impact Challenge was no longer on my mind, I went to pick up some silverware. From the shelf, I took a fork, knife, spoon, and— oops!—- a paper napkin. I had pulled my own disposable doom out its plastic dispenser without a thought, and it was only after I sat down that I realized my mistake. Before dinner, I reminded myself to avoid my lunchtime error. But once again, I pulled out a napkin along with my silverware without a second thought. What’s more, I did so in the same order as at lunchtime: fork, knife, spoon, and then, a napkin.

I had clearly formed a habit of creating trash— a habit at which I didn’t hesitate, didn’t grant a moment of thought, even during the No Impact Challenge. Trash had become part of an unconscious routine. My napkin blunders pointed out that making change will be difficult when I am unaware of the daily choices I make. Breaking the trash habit won’t happen just because I want it to. It will require a more careful consideration of the consumption I take part in every day.

May 12, 2011 at 11:37 am Leave a comment


No Impact Challenge for May 2012!

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