The Possible

A couple of weeks ago I discovered Bea Johnson and her zero-waste home. Particularly compelling was the part of the video that showed how much trash her family of four had accumulated over four months – a literal handful.

6 months of trash

I didn’t know that was possible.

Since then I’ve attended two conferences and been struck anew by how wasteful they are: the plastic stir-sticks for coffee, the individual soda/water bottles, the attendee bags (bad enough in themselves, but then also stuffed with reams of paper), even the wrappers on the individual, bite-sized candies the vendors sometimes hand out.

While hating all this, I used to subscribe to the idea that it had to be that way – that it wasn’t possible to do things differently, wasn’t possible to fill the transient needs of a few hundred people without throwaway conveniences. Even if they used the wooden stir-sticks instead, I thought, that’s still waste. And of course the candies have to be individually wrapped! Otherwise they’d just be in a bowl, exposed, with everybody sticking their grubby hands in!

Later I thought, well, you could have a spoon to get them out. Still later I thought, why have candies at all? No one would miss them if they were gone. For that matter, why use stir sticks? Why not use real spoons?

I think there are different things we each accept as “just the way things are,” things that can never be changed – or that we’re powerless to change, so why bother at all? But I also think – it is nearly always possible to do things differently. Usually it only depends on thinking it’s possible.

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