What kind of trash person are you?

A photograph of the author, Austin Bailey.

By Austin Bailey

April 9, 2019

What kind of trash person are you?

When it comes to stewardship of the planet, we all have our own styles. Some of you skip so lightly across the planet that the footprints you leave behind bloom with wildflowers. And then there are the people at the other end of the spectrum, the dreaded Hummer drivers who let their tank cars idle in the parking lot. Most of us fall in between, with our good intentions to use cloth grocery sacks even though we sometimes leave them in the car.

Where do you fall on the spectrum? Here are some ideas for how to lighten your touch.

Earth Angels

photo by v2osk/unsplash

Do you shop at a package-free bulk bodega where customers bring their own reusable glass jars and cloth sacks? Do you make your own shampoo, deodorant and toothpaste to avoid buying products that come almost exclusively in plastic packaging? The metal straw and bamboo spork peeking out of your back pocket as you pedal past us on your bicycle commute make it clear. You care about the planet and know how to keep it clean. Teach us your ways!

Anyone aspiring to Earth Angel level should check out Instagram superstars zero.waste.collective and zerowastehome. They make going plastic-free look glam, and sometimes even attainable. And the Zero Waste Collective blog offers a “Zero Waste 101” that’s straightforward and inspirational.

The Great Unwashed

photo by Sylvie Tittel/unsplash

You know enough about the state of the environment to be plagued by a constant, low-grade anxiety. You drive a fuel-efficient car, although you know walking or biking or taking the bus would be better. You rinse and recycle what you can, but there’s no getting around it. You could do so much better.

But it’s all quite confusing. Can the stuff in your recycle bin really be recycled, or are you gumming up the works? Are you supposed to be a vegetarian, or is eating meat OK?

And now we're learning, after all this time and despite the conventional wisdom, that plastic is better than paper. How can that be true when whales are washing up dead on beaches with their bellies full of plastic bags, bottles and flip flops?

All of it can be daunting. So start small. Try cleaning your bathroom with vinegar instead of bleach and other caustic chemicals. Don’t drink bottled water (tap is fine!) Hang a clothesline in your backyard and use it every once in a while. The Worldwatch Institute has some straightforward ideas that you can easily adopt if you put your mind to it. 

The Pits

photo by Chris Barbalis/unsplash

The best thing about being an ecoterrorist is that it’s easy to make improvements. It takes only a few extra dollars to replace that meat the comes from enormous, polluting feedlots with locally and sustainably grown meats, and you’ll be boosting your local economy, too.

Some people might tell you to stop flushing your toilet so much, but you may want to start with something less hardcore. Here are four baby steps to ease you into a more sustainable mindset.