I've never been a very good environmentalist. It's not that I don't care about the environment, or that I don't think there's real danger, but I grew up in a culture in which environmental protection was, or at least seemed to be, at odds with my family's livelihood, and there really wasn't room to be wishy washy on the subject, as we were just getting by as it was. As I got older, environmental concerns just seemed really far away. I can understand, intellectually, that we are running out of clean air and clean water and natural resources, but I can't see it in my day to day life. Which makes it hard to justify making sacrifices. Sure, I recycle and try to curb my use of nasty chemicals, but I still waste and waste like a typical American.
Well, it's come home lately.
Since I've started frequenting the bins, I've been told that the stock at the stores turns over at least once a day, and that what doesn't sell gets thrown away. I didn't really believe that, though--I mean, how can it really be true that hundreds (thousands?) of pounds of stuff are being thrown out every day, much of it in good condition and almost all of it in usable condition? So I decided to try to find out for myself, and proceeded to visit one of the bins stores four days in a row.
They're weren't lying. The stock has completely turned over every day.
And I get it now.
We're killing ourselves with our own consumption. Creating these mountains and mountains of trash that isn't trash at all, until we're all buried under it, and all the time buying more and more new stuff. I'm as guilty of this as anyone, and guiltier than many. And, in part, I've justified my consumption by donating my old stuff to the Goodwill, with the idea that someone else will use it, and it supports a good cause, so it's OK. But it's become clear now that someone else doesn't always use it, and when I buy something to "replace" something that doesn't need replacing, I'm not really helping anybody.
So reduce, that's step one. Just buy. less. shit. It seems so simple, and yet it is the single most difficult thing I've ever attempted. Why is that? I can't see this resolving itself, but I'm hoping that the picture I now have burned into my brain of forklifts loading trucks to take usable stuff to the dump will help. I can literally imagine being buried under it all. It's a chilling image.
And secondly, reuse. And what that means to me, in part, is that thrifting has moved from a hobby to a business to a responsibility. I simply cannot, in good conscience, buy stuff new that I know I can get used. Now that I know, and have seen with my own eyes, just how much stuff is getting thrown away just in my little corner of the world, how can I rationalize adding to it? Sure, there are certain things I "need" to buy new (shoes are a good example, due to my size issues) or just can't quite stomach not buying new (underclothing, etc.), but for 95% of what I wear and use most days, there is no good reason to buy new. Yes, buying new is easier, but so is not recycling, so is driving instead of walking, so are a million and one other things that I and people like me all over the world are doing that corrode the planet. Easier just isn't a good enough reason anymore.