Under the Sun
To buy or not to buy? Make your own EIS
I LOVE Costco. I hate Costco. I love that it sells things I need, like printer ink, at half the usual price of other stores. I hate that it sells things I don't really need, but would like to have, at half the usual price of other stores.
Bargains, or the illusion of bargains, are hard to resist.
Take pizza. Call in an order with the intention of getting a medium pie with two toppings and the pizza-pusher launches into a pitch about the day's specials.
"If you order a big-bumbucha pizza with a bazillion toppings you can get another for just $10 more. Or if you order two medium pizzas, you can get the bazillion toppings on one of them for free if you order a side of cheesy sticks or buffalo wings."
The dizzying array of deals hyped by an enthusiastic clerk once led me to order one of those combo packages. Foolish me. I had pizza in the fridge for more than a week, and with each passing day, the slices for which I no longer had a appetite hardened until they were suitable for tiling the kitchen back-splash.
That was no deal. I parted with more cash than I'd planned on and not only wasted food, but crowded two greasy cardboard boxes into the trash can. My sole consolation was that they were probably burned for electricity generation at the HPOWER plant and didn't end up in the landfill.
GUILTY displeasures aside, withstanding the seduction of sales is tough, so much so that consumers have adopted shopping as a chief pastime. Nothing on television? Let's go shopping. Weather too hot or too wet for the beach? Head to the climate-controlled mall.
Trouble is all this buying generates lots of trash. Each piece of merchandise, usually grossly over-packaged, is plopped into a bag, both of which wind up in the garbage can. After awhile, worn out, broken, used up or just no longer wanted, the item itself follows.
IT'S NOT like any of us isn't aware of this trail of trash, but since waste disappears from the gray bins perched on city sidewalks every three or four days, we only fleeting confront what we throw away.
Now that Mayor Mufi Hannemann has suggested city dwellers pay an extra fee to stay with the same service, it might be a good idea to look at the connection.
Recycling can be a pain in the wazoo. Rinsing out iced latte cans and sparkling water bottles to get the nickel deposit back takes effort, but most people seem to have gotten used to it. Others donate their containers to nonprofit groups, which are more than glad to do the redemption shuffle for the cash. If the state Legislature does the right thing, stores that sell drinks will be required to take back the bottles, laying another path away from the landfill.
Soon recycling containers will be as routine as signing a credit card receipt. So will sorting paper and other reusable materials when, I hope, the city starts curbside recycling.
But reducing waste has to be approached from the front end too, by not amassing stuff in the first place.
THERE ARE groups of people who do this consciously, challenging each other not to buy anything new except for food, medicine, hygiene products and clothing like underwear, which cannot be found second-hand for obvious icky reasons. They still go to movies and football games, take trips and hang out at bars and restaurants.
Some found they were able to put more money in savings accounts, pay off credit card debts, use the extra cash to host parties or convert mall-spent hours into time for reading or hobbies.
I don't know if I'd go so far, but if changing buying habits shrinks the personal environmental impact, it's good bargain.
has been on the staff of the Star-Bulletin since 1976. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org