LOOKING FOR A FIELD trip that’ll inspire you? It may sound strange, but I suggest visiting your local landfill. I just went to mine to discard a rug. I returned with a commitment to change my behavior.
The landfill was a surprisingly busy place. This was my first visit, so I was confused about where and how to drop off my rug. Dozens of more-seasoned visitors sped past me to drop off their loads. Seeing them made me ponder the ease with which people throw things away.
I was surprised that a large portion of the items still appeared to be in working condition. Furniture and toys topped this list. I saw several bikes with air in their tires that could have been ridden home. I may have tried to snag a few lawn chairs if not for the “no scavenging” signs. Couldn’t these have been recycled or passed on to someone else?
Another section that caught my eye was the area for appliances. I had never considered where old appliances ended up. There were dozens of stainless-steel dishwashers and refrigerators. Again, many appeared to be in decent shape. I would guess that most were within a decade of their original purchase. Certainly, some appliances are donated or sold, but why not more?
My landfill experience made me reflect on how wasteful we can be. I’ve since made three pledges to limit my personal waste. First, I’ll try to repair household items when they break. The internet makes it easy to find replacement parts, and it seems like there’s a YouTube video to guide every home repair. I’ve kept dishwashers and barbecues working through such efforts.
Second, I will emphasize quality when making purchase decisions. Pinching pennies is tempting, but there’s truth to the adage that you “get what you pay for.” I worked for Patagonia for years and still enjoy the quality of its products. I’d rather have one Patagonia jacket that lasts for decades than a cheaper brand I need to replace repeatedly.
Finally, I’ll try to find someone who can use my old items before I discard them. My preference is to give used items to friends and neighbors. I’ve had success placing bulkier items on the street with a sign that says “free.” I won’t get a tax deduction from this form of giving, but I take comfort knowing the goods will be used. In the future, I may consider using the Buy Nothing Project website, which facilitates sharing among neighbors.
A landfill is not a joyful place, but it’s a jarring one. With my three pledges, I hope to stay away for a long time.