Here at Ask Umbra HQ, we receive many fascinating climate-adjacent questions every day, and we endeavor to answer the ones that we think will be most applicable and interesting to you, dear readers. And then there are the ones that end up in the metaphorical compost bin, because they are just a tad unhinged.
But this week, on a day whose best self is ostensibly a celebration of fun and foolery, we went digging into said bin to share with you a few of the more oddball queries. Let’s celebrate these rejected letters in the spirit of “no bad questions!” Please enjoy.
Q. If I melt the endless small amounts of plastic wrap, bags, etc., of unknowable composition into a solid mass, what can be done with it?
I mean, truly the only limit here is the boundaries of your imagination. You can do anything your precious heart desires with a large, melted hunk of plastic — use it as a table centerpiece or a projectile for a made-up sport, cover it in whipped cream and serve it to someone as a practical joke, attach it to a chain and wear it as a statement necklace.
But my biggest question is: Why? Is this a bearing-the-cross statement in honor of Easter? Do you want to keep a constant reminder of the trash you’ve created? Or are you inventing your own bespoke form of plastic recycling? (That’s not quite how it works.) No matter your intent, I doubt it’s worth the effort — and potential toxic fumes — to create … a plastic lump? Burning garbage is generally frowned upon in terms of the air pollution it can create. Definitely don’t do this indoors. I just don’t see a method that will make this exercise worthwhile!
Q. Even if I place all my waste products in a Mason jar and seal it — what if it breaks and all its contents leak into the landfill?!!!
Baby, that’s just show business! The whole trash-in-a-Mason-jar thing was envisioned as a sort of viral way to help people minimize the waste they produce. It involves producing so little garbage that you can fit a year’s worth of trash into a 16-ounce glass jar. So right, your question seems to be: What do you do with the jar at the end of the year?
Because if you succeed at this challenge, that doesn’t mean the Mason jar, once filled and sealed, suddenly has the power to evaporate said trash into nonexistence. In fact, the smartest thing to do would be to empty the contents of the jar into the garbage, wash the jar out, and use it all over again.
The way you propose to use said trash jar seems to be a rather inconvenient and, I have to say, resource-intensive substitute for a garbage bag. I can almost guarantee that if you put all of your waste products into a mason jar, it will break and its contents will leak into the landfill.
Q. Bigfin squid I NEED MORE INFO. I need information can you help?
I am comically far from a squid authority: A few years ago I was so confident that the diameter of a giant squid’s eyeball was 8 feet that I bet on it with an ex-boyfriend. The only thing I find more infuriating than knowing so little about the mysteries of the deep ocean is losing at gambling. And of course I lost that bet! Imagine an organism with an 8-foot-wide eyeball! (It’s closer to 1 foot, by the way, which is still absurd.)
And yet, I live to serve. So I googled “bigfin squid” and after a brief perusal of the top image results I have to tell you that in this particular case, I absolutely refuse to help. This creature is a 25-foot-long daddy longlegs that swims, and fortunately for everyone it’s very rarely seen. And for everyone’s mental health, let’s keep it that way!
Q. I want to grow up and act my age. Therefore, do I make the first step by throwing away my stuffed animals?
My heart! I actually don’t think this question is that weird, as many adults still have a stuffed animal or two lurking in their homes. I assume that this question came my way because it deals with the ever-alluring topic of “disposing of things responsibly,” which applies to around half of the dilemmas that land in my inbox.
Our younger selves can imbue stuffed animals, dolls, and even less anthropomorphic toys with entire personalities. Children especially love to find and invent ways to relate to the things around them, and I think that’s beautiful! Now that you are an adult, I don’t think abandoning that instinct for empathy is necessarily a requirement for you to “grow up and act your age.”
But I’ll admit that there is something a little eyebrow-raising about an adult bedroom filled to the brim with stuffies. I’m not sure how old you are now, but one assumes that you will eventually occupy an adult bedroom and the time will come for at least some of your stuffed animals to move on to new homes.
I’ll propose the following solutions:
- Keep your dearest, most well-loved, and probably filthiest stuffed animals in some sort of memory chest. You’ll be so happy to see them from time to time when you’re grown up!
- Of the remaining stuffed animals, ask your friends to come over and take the ones they like most! If you’re of an age where you feel embarrassed revealing your collection to your friends, proceed to step 3.
- Donate your best-condition stuffed animals to a local toy drive or Goodwill or similar organization. They have a chance to be loved by someone else!
- As a last resort, 2012 Umbra covered the recycling of stuffed animals, which do count as textiles, as long as they’re clean and dry.
I don’t usually have time to answer all the weird and wonderful questions you send into Umbra, so this has been a real treat. But I want to emphasize that if you think your question is dumb, please send it because I sincerely love all forms of wonderment. And maybe others are wondering the same things you are — even about hentai! (We’ll save that one for next April Fool’s Day.)