thoughts on excess :: waste

7 book review-waste

[I started this mini-series last week as I reviewed Jen Hatmaker’s new book.  If you’d like to see some ways I am going to try to limit my phone usage for the sake of my family, check out my post about media usage from last week!]

During this month of her project, Jen decided to cut down on her family’s waste in 7 different ways:

  • Gardening
  • Composting
  • Conserving energy and water
  • Recycling (everything, all of it)
  • Driving only one car
  • Shopping thrift and second-hand
  • Buying only local

Several of these are already a part of our life in Sicily.  We recycle almost everything.  We are very careful about conserving energy and water… thanks in part to the enormous cost of electricity in Europe.  About 90% of our kids’ clothes are second-hand; in fact I went to the thrift store earlier today.  We buy almost all of our fruits, vegetables, and eggs locally in Sicily.  And we only drive one car.

Well, actually… more about the car in a minute.

With regards to recycling, my habits have changed a lot since moving to Italy.  Thanks to our town’s strict recycling program, I separate my glass, plastic, paper, metal, organic/biodegradable, and mixed trash.  Two different types of trash go outside my door for pickup every day of the week except Sunday.  For instance, Wednesday is organic/biodegradable trash (it goes out 3 times a week), Thursday is mixed trash and paper, and Friday is glass and plastic.

The system works well.   In fact, I’ve gotten so used to it that it bothers me when trash isn’t separated.  I was at a cooking class recently and watched the instructor dump everything — vegetable peels, a cardboard box, eggshells — into a trash can.  I found myself wanting to jump up and at least get her a separate organic bin.  All that good compost-able waste going to… waste!

Despite these lifestyle habits, I know these good habits can be undone with a single decision.  For instance, Elliott and I have always been a one-car family.  Elliott bought our used Honda Civic in 2008 and it has seen us through dating, engagement, marriage, a deployment, and life in Italy.  And, perhaps most notably, it also survived the traumatic process of me learning how to drive a manual transmission!

However, the times… they are a’changin’.   Looking ahead to this final year in Sicily, we realized that because of friends moving away, Elliott would no longer have a way to carpool home on days that I have the car.  We decided that we had finally come to the point where owning a second car will be less wasteful than sticking with one car: less time wasted, less stress wasted, and maybe even less gas wasted thanks to no more schlepping Elliott back and forth to work if I want the car for the day.

After patiently waiting for the best deal he could find, Elliott finally bought a little Fiat last week.   We have joined the ranks of two-car families.  It feels… great, honestly, for our situation.

To some degree, I think, reducing waste will always be an individual project and a work in progress.  I wonder whether we’ll go back to having one car in the future?  What do you think?  Are you a one-car family?

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9 Responses to thoughts on excess :: waste

  1. Rachel July 1, 2013 at 9:45 pm #

    We just moved from 0 to 1 car a year ago. Since we still live near public transportation, we could still, in theory, get around without a car. But for the sake of sanity (envision me schlepping three littles around the city with a stroller and baby carrier), and community (the opportunity to actually spend time with people outside of the pubic transit system), we decided a car was important to us. I love it. Stephen mostly likes it. :-) I enjoyed that book when I read it, but it’s hard not to feel guilty for not adopting all of her experiments (or perhaps that’s just my personality).

    • Becca July 1, 2013 at 9:53 pm #

      I don’t feel guilty… I don’t think all of it is realistic and I DO think a lot of her decisions are for individuals and families to make when or if they’re ever ready for them. I’m not for a lot of her plans, and a lot of others don’t work for our family (gardening and composting, for instance).

      I know what you mean about enjoying another car with your three kids! I am so glad to have a car to myself now. I did not enjoy having to take E to work and picking him up with two kiddos in the back seat… who may or may not have cried all the way home!

  2. esther July 1, 2013 at 9:47 pm #

    The Doc and I were a one car fam for the first three years of our marriage. We both have some regrets about moving out of a bike/bus commutable distance to his school and not so wisely purchasing a more-than-we-need second vehicle. We’ll stick with the second car for now but we hope to one day live in a more bike friendly city again. If not for saving money then at least for increasing healthfulness. Check out Mr. Money Mustache. He likes to cuss but overall, I really think you’d like his philosophies.

    • Becca July 1, 2013 at 9:50 pm #

      We LOVE Mr Money Mustache! An inspiration and a favorite in our family.

      • Rachel July 2, 2013 at 12:28 am #

        I love that you guys are into MMM. Stephen is pretty active on the forums. Next time you all pass through the Boston area, we can get together and chat about the ‘stache (or anything else you want to chat about :-).

  3. Alica July 2, 2013 at 12:07 am #

    I have moments when I really try hard at all of this…and moments when I don’t! I guess that’s pretty normal! :)

    In our area, we can only recycle #1 and #2 plastic items…plus glass, metal plans and newspapers. My sister in VA,however, can recycle everything! I have a compost pile which I use a lot, and my chickens get a lot of kitchen scraps as well.

    I have a garden, and we eat mostly our own beef, and I try to by local when I can. Of course like anything else, it goes in spurts.

    The one car thing, however, just seems too hard right now! We have a farm truck and a family car, and our son uses a car for sports while he’s in school, etc. We have talked about how it could be fun to live in town, where we could walk a lot of places, etc. but it wouldn’t work where we live! :)

  4. Bethany Colas July 2, 2013 at 8:02 pm #

    Waste is something I’ve been thinking a lot about in our family and one thing in particular I’ve been trying to do a little more of is mending our clothes instead of just getting rid of them and replacing them. It’s not very pretty at this point, but I’m hoping that with more time I’ll get better at it. I’m also trying to figure out how to give our clothes a longer life span–proper care, catching stains when they first happen, etc. It’s a work in progress and I’m sure it always will be, especially as our family grows and we continue to move to different parts of the country/world.

  5. Heather Miller July 3, 2013 at 11:03 pm #

    This is the second time in a year I’ve followed a blog whose done a review of this book. I can’t remember the other blog, unfortunately but I LOVE the challenges it gives me. I’m currently thinking about drastically cutting down on the mass of toys in our house. My daughter even just told me an hour ago that “playing is boring.” Ah yes, too many bad options.
    I’m jealous of Sicily’s waste removal system. Ah, Chicago (and the US) has much to learn!! I dream of having a garden with chickens and reusing our organic “waste.” Sheesh, my reality and my dreams are so incredibly different.
    But, I do think it’s necessary to be realistic with your individual family’s needs and situations. I’m glad you’ve gotten a second car and feel great with the decision. We have one and I often think that we don’t really need it and maybe if we didn’t have it, we’d decide to stay home more and could have a garden…
    I’m excited to hear more of your thoughts about this book! Maybe I should get a copy of my own. :)

  6. Tiffany July 5, 2013 at 7:46 pm #

    We’ve been a one-car family for almost as long as we’ve been married (eight years). It works well for our situation right now but might change depending on jobs, etc. as yours has. One of our difficulties here in Fort Worth is that public transportation is lousy, so that’s not a viable option as it might be in other areas!

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