(Expanded from my comment on post/think, Dana Guthrie Martin’s project collecting and displaying her daily waste.)

I agree that donation isn’t a license to waste, but not as an absolute assertion. I don’t want anyone to feel the pressure of being 100% aware of everything 100% of the time. We have limited knowledge and limited willpower. Even helping everyone be aware 25% of the time would be a huge step forward. So while I understand the guilt behind the initial consumption, I hope people can recognize when they do far, far more than what is needed by all.

I don’t think that any one (or two, or four) of us doing far more will help. Nathan and I try to lead by example of doing more, but not necessarily the 100% individual solution. (We also cheat and don’t always tell people what we do. Doing more gives us the freedom to tune our message to the audience. Unfortunately, I’ve learned from experience that the worst cost of bragging is turning people away from doing what they can.)

A few of the items in the attached photos may be frivolous after the fact, but I also see many things that are not necessarily frivolous. I’ll focus on the pasta machine, as that item made me think more deeply on sending items away. We loved making our own fresh pasta. It’s cheaper, we can ensure the flour and eggs or water are from a good source (well-raised in the former, tap in the latter), and so on. Now that Nathan’s experiencing an intolerance to (domestic, at least) wheat, we aren’t using it. I’m holding on to it out of hope.

If anyone tries making pasta and decides not to continue for whatever reason, donating the machine lets someone else make a similar attempt. They can try it with even less initial outlay. And if they don’t like it or can’t use it, they can pass the pasta machine along without much problem and with very little waste.

Similarly, the stack of books and magazines can go to those who may or may not use them. But the items can continue on for a few more cycles of people trying new things without creating new waste.

There is a trade-off between trying or creating new things and waste, in my opinion. Donations of the remains of an attempt towards creation (successful in some way or not) help keep the waste at most constant without reducing attempts at new things. That seems incredibly important to me. The cost of the item (in water, plants, land, etc.) is amortized over the minds through which it passes. Sometimes those passings sprout new, local businesses. Sometimes they sprout a home-made meal rather than a take-out meal.

Also, sometimes people raid thrift stores for items useful to donate to non-profits. There’s one locally (RRISA, helping refugees) that just benefited from Nathan’s ability to find excellent deals at a Goodwill in a high-end neighborhood… People coming from below what most consider nothing into an apartment equipped with English-language magazines as learning material benefit hugely from this waste. Places like Goodwill also serve as the non-profit middle-men for charities.

oh hai

I still need to reply to your comment over on my site. It was very thoughtful and I have stuff to say about it. I could say them here, I suppose. I’m somewhat wiped out right now, though — heavy writing day, heavy day emotionally.

Thank you for reading Post/Think and responding to it and posting something related to it here. You and Nathan are doing great stuff.

Comment by Anonymous
Thank you!
Keeping some track of our waste has been a big deal for us. We feel horrible when we throw out too much, even when it’s “excusable” because of life changes. But we’re never gone so far as to pack it out when not on a trail.
Comment by Jason Riedy
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