Each year that goes by I search my soul a little more and a little more.
(Dramatic, yes, but I've just had a huge cup of coffee and haven't found an outlet for my surge of energy yet.) My husband and I have a Costco membership- this point is super unrelated to the soul searching, but give me a minute and I swear I'll bring it back around. Said membership is mostly used for prescriptions, but we also buy toilet paper, paper towels, and alcohol in the summer. Anyway, I didn't grow up shopping places like Costco. My husband did, so I think this is why he's not as shocked as I am, but seeing an enormous cart filled with paper products that I KNOW are going to end up in a landfill really makes me feel some type of way.
Those Costco trips for paper supplies are what first pushed me back into my fierce recycling habits from college. Back then I really believed that if I rinsed and recycled enough local, organic yogurt cups I would witness in my lifetime an earth that smelled and looked cleaner (seriously, I took my own flatware with me everywhere and refused to use disposable forks or eat anywhere that offered styrofoam). I thought that my few little parts would add to everyone else's little parts and that we would all bike to work, buy exclusively local produce, and just generally be nicer to each other. I guess that's how every 22-year-old feels in their own way- That they're going to be part of the generation that saves the world or at least makes it a better place.
Needless to say, I grew up, fought through the years of lower than anticipated income as a post-2008s' economic slump graduate, and had to adjust my belief system and priorities. I felt internally divided and alienated from my beliefs. I worried that in my youth I had been tricked into thinking these practices were so simple only to realize they can be simple for those of means and a burden of guilt for those without. I write this because I feel it's something to be discussed. The more I talk about sustainability with friends, the more I realize I am not alone. I suppose balance is crucial here. And I suppose nothing happens overnight.
The last few years I've come to the conlusion that compromise is key. I've been choosing a few every-day changes I can make to feel that I'm doing my part. Last year a bulk grocer opened near our house, so come January 2017 my husband and I decided to commit to one garbage bin fill per month, or half of the garbage we'd been generating. Sounds easy in theory, in practice- not so much. We're always reminding each other to take canisters along on grocery trips and avoid packaging that can't be recycled. Some choices are more obvious than others. We're eating tons more fruit since those "wrappers" are biodegradable = win. We're cooking at home a lot more and learning creative ways to make the things we can buy in bulk staples (those items are often more affordable)= win, win. The next piece I'd like to tackle is our coffee consumption.
We're not coffee nuts. I know lots of those from working as a barista for 8+ years, and I really don't mind not being counted among that crowd. As long as I feel more awake, I'm fine with whatever coffee we drink in the morning, for the most part, but We do consume quite a large amount of coffee in a month. I've bought reusable cotton filters for our chemex (two of these can be re-used for up to a year!). I also started buying locally roasted coffee in brown paper looking bags only to realize later that the waxy lining on the inside makes these bags un-recyclable. Merp.
Not a great way to end this long and lame tale, but I think it's important to share. You see, I still haven't figured out a way to have coffee that tastes decent but doesn't make me feel that tiny pang of guilt every morning. First world problem, but it's frustrating all the same. I can tell you, though, that in trying to source more environmentally friendly ways of living, I have learned so, so much and am taking more ownership of my choices every day. We may not ever make our goal of no trash coming from our house, but I think the importance of acknowledging how far we've come is just as important as recognizing how far we have to go.
I've decided I need to relax a little and allow myself some time to figure out ways to make better, affordable, but practical choices. I encourage you to let go of some of the pressure you put on yourself. I don't want to get too mushy, but I do often feel really frustrated living in a town where everyone pushes themselves so hard. Very often great things result, but sometimes, it's okay to take a little time to figure things out; it's okay to go a little easier on ourselves every once in a while. My own little PSA.
Now, for a few more interesting reads about shopping for coffee.
You can learn a little more about the huge impact our coffee habit
Choose the roaster closest to you and lessen the effect of transport.
An interesting read for locals on the subject.
I hope you enjoy a happy, realxing weekend.