On my way from Arizona to Brooklyn, I’m spending a week in my hometown of Denver, giving me a chance to practice low-impact living in a medium city before taking it on in the swarming mass of consumption that is New York. I’ve started taking “navy showers”, turning off the water when I lather up. I’m also resisting the chiding comments of my family and friends and avoiding driving and riding in cars whenever possible, instead relying on my bike, longboard and public transit to get around.
The most interesting experiment, though, has been carrying around my trash. Rather than simply tossing stuff into the nearest trashcan/recycling bin, I’ve been stuffing all my waste into a big plastic bag that I try to take wherever I go… though I forget more often than I’d like to admit. The idea is that by making myself directly responsible for the waste I create, I’ll be less likely to create it in the first place.
After four days, it’s been working even better than I could’ve hoped. I’m constantly aware of how much I’ve accumulated – so far, a few yogurt cups, a bunch of newspaper clippings on sustainability (courtesy of my well-meaning parents), a broken clothes hanger, random napkins, envelopes, and junk mail, an aluminum can, a plastic fork, and some banana peels.
Even better, all the little thoughtful things I could never seem to remember before just come naturally. I used to be an awful reuseable-cup-user, but now the idea of having to haul around a bunch of paper cups for a week makes me think twice before I leave for the coffee house. Instead of grabbing a new sheet of paper to write a to-do list, I just reach in the bag and tear off a clean scrap of paper. And because I don’t want to know what week-old salmon smells like, I find myself finishing the all food on my plate (if there was compost around, I’d be okay dumping food scraps, but there’s not).
So far it’s officially a one-week experiment, though it’s been so successful, I’ve been toying with the idea of doing it more regularly. Not only would it be good for my own footprint, but it would send a powerful message wherever I go – I could even come up with a catchy phrase to scrawl on the bag (any ideas?). There’s some definite issues I’d have to work out: separating garbage and recyclables, dealing with inevitable odors, and finding/making a more permanent bag that I can easily carry around and wash out. But as they say, every designer loves a good challenge, and if it brings me that much closer to one-planet living, I just might be up for it.