Well, that was a nice trip down memory lane, even if it got a little smelly toward the end — especially when my Trashtivist garbage bag was merged with the other household garbage, the stuff that was just too gross to carry around with me for a week. And by that I mean the diapers. Just five (full, ahem) diapers weighed more than the rest of the entire week’s worth of garbage for four people.
When I did this same type of carry-my-trash-around protest in college, I was experimenting with what it would mean to shrink my personal ecological footprint in an extreme way. Looking through that lens again made me kinda nostalgic: Oh yeah, I remember that guy, the one who was frustrated at his sophomore-year roommate for owning a digital alarm clock (which had to be plugged in — duh — and thereby would be a needless waste of energy).
But let’s face it: When you consider the big picture of what really makes a difference, it’s not actions like carrying around your trash — rather, it’s getting policies in place that require manufacturers to reduce waste. Bigger picture still: Landfills just aren’t such a significant problem compared to, say, coal plants. Given a limited amount of time, you need to put your effort where you can get the most leverage.
In my life, I try to walk the talk, but doing so can sometimes lead one down a path of granularity, getting caught up in details that aren’t worth the time. So don’t sweat the small stuff, such as paper versus plastic. In your personal life, it’s the larger purchases — a new appliance, a car, a house — that especially merit attention. (Sure, bring your own mug when you go for a latte, but don’t pat yourself on the back if you drove to the coffee shop in an SUV.)
So what would be better than me hauling around my own garbage for a week? Extended producer responsibility laws, like those in Germany and other countries, which require manufacturers to take certain electronic products back at the end of their life, and ultimately design the products more intelligently in the first place. Now that’s what I’m talking about.