Ancestral energy lives in the stars above us, the stones beneath us. Their memory gathers in oceans, rivers and seas. It hums its silent wisdom within the body of every tree.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Earth Week Challenge

Have bag, will carry.
There are consequences to all of the choices we make. We know this. Give and take, ebb and flow. It’s how life works. We wake in the morning and we go to sleep at night, our energy expended. We eat food to fuel our bodies. We defecate out what is not needed for our nourishment. And, with some animals, that natural waste is returned to feed the soil for growing more food.
I think about this stuff all the time now. When I was in college, one of my shop supervisors worked days at the Shit Plant- that’s what he called it. I learned everything there was to know about what happens to our shit after we flush the toilet. I hadn’t thought about it before then, where my waste went. Most of us who were raised in Western Society don’t think about it.
It was different before modern plumbing, when townspeople had to be aware of the levels of crap in their outhouses. Just a week ago I came across an article about a medieval dig site in Denmark, and how they recently excavated four wooden barrels of human excrement. What they found was the communal shit house. When the barrels were full, they were sealed, covered in dirt, and four new barrels were placed somewhere else, and the external bathroom was moved. And guess what? Seven-hundred years later and the shit still stinks.

We consume, we create waste. That’s what our bodies do. What about the waste we create outside of our bodies? How much waste do you produce, externally, on a daily basis?
Years ago, a friend of mine was on walkabout, working at a foundation in Ireland. We were sending her a care package from the States and she asked us to unwrap anything that was individually-wrapped as there was no garbage service, and she had to carry her garbage around with her. We got creative with the packaging, trying to use filler that could be reused or burned cleanly. And I began to wonder how much garbage I would accumulate if I had to carry it with me.
There is a challenge I encourage others to do for a week, to get the tangible feel for the weight of what we discard. All you need is a reusable bag and the awareness that throwing things in garbage cans is a habitual action you need to pay attention to. Instead of throwing your bits of trash in the nearest garbage bin, put it in your bag. Unless it’s uneaten food, because that’s unsanitary- although that alone could cause you to rethink your portion sizes.
I started doing just that as a personal challenge, to exist in a state of mindfulness about the garbage I produce. At first, I did it in spurts here and there, cultivating awareness. After doing it long enough, I can now be found shoving bits of garbage into my pockets, purse, or backpack, even if there is a garbage can right beside me.
The goal with this exercise is awareness, and to reach it, you have to see the truth of what you discard. From what you collected, sort out things that can be recycled in your district. If you aren’t sure, look it up with your local sanitation department. After the recyclables have been sorted out, what is left to go to the landfill?
What story do the remaining items tell you? Do you see ways you could pare your waste down? Any ways you could buy items in bulk? Be good to the Earth, for we are at her mercy, and it falls upon each of us to leave it a better place for those who will come after.

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