Living with Less in a More Society

Just a quick post today about self sufficiency and using less natural resources. I read that quote above either in a Little House book or another similar pioneer story book, and it stuck in my mind. I will admit, I don’t follow it well enough, but who does these days? We live in a very throw-away society. If something breaks, or a sock gets a hole, the tendency is just to throw it out, rather than repair it. I mean, who knows how to darn a sock anymore? Who paid enough for their socks to justify the time spend learning how to repair a hole? Many items today are cheaply made, and cheaply obtained, and quickly forgotten and sent to fill up the shelves at your local thrift store or fill the ground at a landfill.

I started thinking more about this quote recently, with regards to paper towels of all things. We ran out of paper towels, and I kept forgetting to buy more, for probably a month. The funny thing is, it wasn’t that inconvenient! I cleaned my counters with rags (which I already do, but sometimes I’m lazy) and my floor with rags and drained bacon grease with rags and cleaned my cast iron pans with bits of old t-shirt (in fact I think it worked better than paper towels!). I have a lot of rags. So that was no problem. Sure, it makes a little more laundry, but I have a baby and use cloth diapers, so I’m pretty much doing laundry all the time anyway, no biggie. So we were at Target, I said let’s get a couple rolls of paper towels, we haven’t been using them that much, so they’ll last.

We used up the first roll in something like 3 or 4 days. DAYS! We didn’t have paper towels for an entire month and were just fine, but when they were handy, we blew through them in a hot hurry. So it got me thinking. How much money do we waste on things for convenience, when those things are not necessities and we can do just fine without them? Just out of curiosity I just Googled how long it takes for a paper towel to decompose. 2-4 weeks. So for the next month, those paper towels that took me just three days to use up will be sitting in a landfill. A wool sock takes a year. A disposable diaper takes 550 years. A plastic bag? It says 20-1000 years!!! (Here’s the link for those numbers and more). It gets even scarier if you start looking up how much goes into MAKING all of those products. So maybe I will learn how to darn socks and fix my favorite REI wooly socks instead of just buying more right away. Maybe I’ll think twice before I waste a paper towel on a small spill that a rag can clean just as well. And maybe I’ll try a whole lot harder to remember my reusable bags at the store. Just a few small actions can save a lot of money, energy, and natural resources!

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