How much do you throw away? If you’re like most Americans, the answer is disturbingly high. We Americans throw far too much away: we waste staggering amounts of food, use disposable products, and buy cheap stuff that constantly needs to be replaced.
Here in Portland, things are sometimes a little different. Portland is known for being a green city full of people who care about the world’s future. But we can all do better, and even our city has been infected, to some degree, by our throwaway culture. So how do we stop it?
What is throwaway culture?
When we talk about a “throwaway culture” or “throwaway society”, we’re talking about our tendency to toss things instead of valuing them. In our modern world, things can be made cheaply and quickly and shipped fast from anywhere else in the world. It’s convenient and easy to just throw something out and get a new one. Sometimes, it’s even more affordable to do so.
But this is not a good thing in the long run. When we use disposable grocery bags or buy cheap clothes that we’ll throw out next season, we’re contributing to a huge amount of waste. Here in the United States, we’re actually running out of space in our landfills for all of the garbage we produce.
Reusing, recycling, and upcycling
The simplest way to avoid throwing something out is to use it again. If you invest in quality goods that stand the test of time (more on that in a moment), then you can use an item for its intended purpose time and time again.
And when you can no longer use it for its intended purpose, consider using it for a new purpose: upcycle it into a new tool or a piece of art. If you must toss something, be sure to recycle whatever you can. Portland has great recycling programs that you can take advantage of.
Avoid disposable products and short-term solutions
Of course, not everything can be reused. But you’ll have fewer belongings that fit that description if you take care when you’re buying things in the first place. Avoid disposable items, and you’ll have less to dispose of.
There are lots of great alternatives to disposable items. Invest in cloth diapers, reusable grocery bags, and more. Use non-disposable (and non-shatter) plates at cookouts and picnics. Get cloth napkins. You don’t have to get throwaway goods!
Be careful of short-lived items, too. “Fast fashion” may not be “disposable,” exactly, but it’s pretty close. Consider “buying for life” instead. Get great clothes, boots, home goods, and other items that will last for decades, if not longer. Buy them once, and keep them for good.
Repair and maintain your valuable possessions
One great way to stop throwing so much stuff out is to simply fix what you already have. This idea goes hand-in-hand with our “buy it for life” ethic. Valuable things are worth repairing, rather than replacing. And when we give our possessions the maintenance and repairs that they deserve, they will serve us better.
Take your appliances, for instance. Portland appliance repair experts say that too few people stay on top of their appliances’ needs. A well maintained appliance is a more efficient and reliable one, meaning that you’ll save money and help the planet in more ways than one.
Yes, you should occasionally upgrade to more efficient modern models, but don’t constantly be upgrading and replacing old appliances. Quality care can keep them going efficiently for years and years, and you’ll save precious space in landfills.
We throw a lot away in the United States, and Portland is no exception. But Portland can be a part of the solution. Care for your things, keep them, and avoid disposable alternatives.