We now live in a “throw-away society”, wherein we buy mass-produced, inexpensive products for short-term or even one-time use. Products are often made to have a short lifespan so that you will have to buy more, more often. In most places in Canada, we can just throw out mass amounts of garbage and it’s taken away and you never see where it goes, or consider its impact on the environment or the people and wildlife that live near the disposal site.
Twenty years or so ago, a proposal was put forth to create a landfill (Site 41) in a town close to where I grew up in Ontario, about an hour and a half north of Toronto. There was huge public opposition, and understandably so. The proposed site was directly over a natural underground aquifer, meaning that if the landfill lining leaked (and they usually do), it would contaminate the local groundwater source. Plus, quite simply, nobody wants a landfill in their town.
After nearly 20 years of local community members adamantly protesting, the proposal was declined. It was a really inspirational example of the impact of voicing your opinions on issues you believe in. But my point is that landfills just suck and no one wants one in or near their community, yet our garbage is ending up in or near someone’s community. It’s great that Site 41 was declined, but the reality is that a landfill will now need to be created somewhere else to replace this one.
I think that we can substantially reduce the amount of garbage we produce by buying with intent, and this in-turn, can reduce the number of landfills that need to be created. For example, if you want to purchase a product for one-time use, consider how you can choose a version that you will be able to use again in the future, or re-purpose for some other use. For our wedding favours, my husband and I chose to use locally grown mini cobs of corn that you can put in the microwave to make popcorn (I know it sounds crazy, but it really does make popcorn!). That way if people forgot to take them home and we had a bunch leftover, we could use them and not just throw them in the trash.
You can also consider whether you can re-purpose an item that you already have to suit your needs. Here’s an example of re-purposing old maps that you don’t need anymore to create a really cool themed party banner.
And I think the best way to buy with intent, is by considering how you can do more with less. For example (in sticking with the party theme), maybe instead of buying three banners, streamers and 50 balloons for the birthday party, one classy or fun banner and two bundles of five or six helium balloons, strategically placed in the room will have the desired effect.
I think we should move away from the mentality of buying more than we need just because it’s cheap. Let’s throw away our “throw-away society” and help to prevent a new landfill from being created in your backyard or mine.