Reduce. Reuse. Recycle used to be the mantra of recyclers.
It has now been extended to include a fourth "r." Rethink.
Rethink what we buy, rethink need vs. want, rethink how we live.
When it comes to the environment, the way we live matters. According
to the United Nations Development Program, one child born in the industrial
world consumes more in his or her lifetime than thirty to fifty children
born in developing countries. In our country, for every $100
we spend on groceries, $15 dollars goes towards the cost of the (often
EPA reports show doubling of per capita solid waste since 1960. Current
estimate of waste is 5.5 pounds of garbage per person per day. The
increase in per person waste produced indicates that increased population
is not the only cause of increased garbage; it's also the increased
rate of consumption.
While we consume more individually, our cities and towns are consuming
the countryside by spreading out further into the environment. It's
called urban sprawl. Around Atlanta and Las Vegas, urban sprawl
causes awful traffic congestion, which encourages dependency on imported
As the population moves out from the cities, more and more malls
are built and large amounts of land are lost to parking. Urban sprawl
is not just a big city problem. In 1992, Illinois developed
an average of 24,600 acres each year. In 1997, the average number
of Illinois acres developed per year increased to 58,440 acres.
Over consumption affects us in other ways, also. Aside from
rising debt and lower savings, many of us spend a huge amount of time
caring for our "stuff" and supposed "time-saving"
So what is the answer to these situations? Perhaps we need
to question our lifestyles and rethink and redefine progress. Is
bigger really better? New homes are often over 4,000 sq. ft.
of living space. How many jackets or pairs of shoes can one
person wear? Can we make Christmas and other holidays more personal
and less consumer oriented?
Although both the questions and answers will vary from one individual
and family to another, there are some organizations that have tackled
these lifestyle questions:
for a New American Dream
for Simple Living
This downsizing trend is called "voluntary simplicity."
There are no rules, only guidelines and suggestions. Changes
are very personal and can only be based upon analyzing one's lifestyle
and making changes that one can live with. Some changes are
based on reducing consumption and others are more value oriented.
Value oriented changes might be family story time instead of gift
giving at holidays or baking cookies together instead of buying them.
I find simplifying to be an evolving process rather than an
exact science. Removing some of the clutter from my life has
"Like winds and sunsets, wild things were taken for granted
until progress began to do away with them. Now we face the
question whether a still higher standard of living is worth its
cost in things natural, wild, and free."
Aldo Leopold, A Sand County Almanac
Anyone interested in more specifics or more in-depth discussion
can call me, (815) 273-7366.
Maggie Friedenbach, Recycling Educator, Jo-Carroll Solid Waste Agency