Plastic bags. The nemesis of the environmentally-minded. They are an old issue but they are still a big issue. And there are two things about them in particular that make me want to scream.
.. But first, let me please preface this by saying that honestly, I could live in a world with disposable plastic shopping bags and not feel the need to go on a crusade. I get that people use them as rubbish bin liners and without them just end up buying plastic bin liners anyway. And I don’t resent people that re-use them in that way. It’s what I do. Mostly because even though I try to remember to say “I don’t need a bag, thanks!”, I sometimes forget and suddenly all my purchases are being put into one and I don’t always have the energy to ask them to take the stuff OUT of the bag. But the stats say that only 3% of plastic shopping bags are ever re-used so the bin liner argument probably isn’t grounds to keep them. But alas, this isn’t even what pisses me off about single use shopping bags.
Here is my first major pet peeve about them –
- Is it really necessary for merchants to put ONE SINGLE ITEM into a bag? I mean, is it really that much harder to hold a bottle of juice than to hold a bag holding a bottle of juice?
I mean if I was buying a big black dildo or something, I’d be all for it. Bag that shit up! But juice?? My favourite phrase in the world is “would you like a bag?” because it at least gives you a chance to think about it and be like, “oh duh, no I don’t need a bag for this one single thing”. Or if you’re a girl, you might think to yourself, “My purse is gigantic. I might as well put these two lip glosses I just bought into my purse instead of the TINY plastic bag that they’ll give me” .. because let’s face it, you’re NEVER going to use that tiny, useless bag again because it’s way too small to serve any kind of practical purpose. Nope, you’ll just throw it away as soon as you get home. Of course you imagine it’ll go to a landfill like it’s meant to but there’s a good chance it’ll fly off the back of the garbage truck on the way there. I’ve seen sooooo many bags fly off garbage trucks and I’ve seen soooo many animals with bits of plastic bags inside them. I hate it, I hate it, I hate it.
And here’s another thing that just kills me –
2. Is it really necessary for merchants to wrap “wet” items in separate bags to save your other items from the moisture?
Often I bring a re-usable bag to a shop and will buy something like a bottle of coke. The merchants almost always start putting the coke into a plastic bag to “save” my re-usable bag from the condensation. This happened to me just the other day and the conversation went a little something like this:
“oh I’ll just put that in my bag here”
“but it’s wet, I’ll just wrap it up for you”
“no it’s ok, I don’t mind”
“you don’t want a bag?”
“no, it’s ok”
“yeah, I’ll be fine”
Ummmm. Hello, have you not considered that I brought my own bag because I HATE PLASTIC BAGS??!!! I mean I get that I’m not in the Pacific North West anymore and there is a very different culture here around the environment but I’m sorry, a tiny bit of moisture won’t hurt anything but plastic bags do .. all the time! Enough already! I’ve realised that the wrapping cold items in separate bags thing is considered good service but it just drives me totally insane. The coke bottle incident happened at my local convenience store which is about 200 metres from the Pacific ocean! It just kiiiiiiiiiiiiills me.
Will we ever wake up?
Thank you to all who have followed me over the past year and a half on my journey to a simpler life. You encouraged me as I de-frumped my wardrobe, had several attempts at buying almost nothing for various periods of time, and eventually gave up any kind of structural residence and lived out of my car for three months. I went over a year with virtually no furniture to my name (just a book case) and learned that it is possible to be happy in life without all the ‘stuff’.
I also learned that I am more resourceful that I ever realized and I was surprised by the way that I really didn’t miss the many boxes of possessions that were safely stored while I ventured into volunteer homelessness. I also realized that despite all I had learned along the journey, I actually really do like having somewhere to live.
For most people that would be an obvious thing to know about oneself but for me it really wasn’t. I had always harboured this romantic notion of living life out of a car with no strings and the wind at my back. I soon realized though that the sense of liberation wasn’t worth the general annoyance. For instance, it’s not always easy to find a shady place to park up at night that is reasonably safe, close to a public toilet, and not out in the complete sunlight. It doesn’t take many hours of daylight, as I discovered, for the Australian sun to COOK a human woman inside a Subaru forester.
I also found it incredibly challenging to find a way to complete all the writing of my master’s thesis that I was in the middle of writing when I started the volunteer homelessness challenge. Libraries were very helpful but I seem to be one of those people that strangers want to have long, in-depth conversation with for no apparent reason. I don’t usually mind that but when the library closes at four or at one on Saturdays and then doesn’t even open on Sundays you really don’t have time to socialize. Luckily my friends came to my rescue in this respect and a couple of them offered me their homes to stay and write as needed. I really don’t know what I would have done without them.
I normally wouldn’t have attempted such a full-on challenge with a major assignment so nearing its due date but I didn’t realize when I first started the challenge how much writing I was going to have to do for my thesis (I didn’t realize for a long time that a substantial literature review was required). When I embarked on the challenge I was also expecting to get a lot more away-work than ended up happening. I am usually away for weeks on end, happily living and working out of hotel rooms but ironically just when I got rid of a permanent structure over my head our company experienced a lull.
In the end I did end up moving into a smallish (though plenty ample for me) apartment which for me was the right move. The apartment is literally about 100 metres from the beach. Even with the windows closed I can hear the roar of the sea as I drift off to sleep. I don’t know what it is but there is something about seaside living that just perfectly lends itself to someone such as myself who is searching, amidst chaos, for a simple life.
Since moving in I have allowed myself the freedom to furnish the place but in keeping with the spirit of minimal consumerism for the sake of the environment I have purchased almost everything secondhand from Gumtree (the Australian equivalent of Craigslist). The place is by no means sparse but I am trying to maintain and employ many of the lessons I have learned in my dabblings into minimalism. I am trying to keep the space uncluttered and relatively – though not obsessively – organized. I want there to be room to breathe, room for the sea breeze to flow freely and not become stagnated and stale by getting caught on tchotchkes or other random objects with no use, purpose, or meaning.
I also want to have a purpose for every room and to not let other purposes infiltrate those spaces. For instance, I am going to make a serious effort to keep the guest room as a sanctuary for friends and family and not let it become an overflow storage space for myself (admittedly I have already commandeered the closet though … sorry guys).
Most of all I want to use what I have learned over the past year and a half to allow my new home and any future homes to be a place that you can enter after a long hectic day and find respite from the many troubles of the world.
It’s good to be home 🙂
Some of you have been asking me about my adventures in voluntary homelessness.
It’s been both good and bad. For some reason I had always had this romantic notion of what it be like to live out of my car – or in a van if I could be so lucky (which I am not although I love my little Subaru, not complaining!) The lifestyle had always seemed to me so delightfully gypsy-like and etheric. It’s so free. Nothing to hold you back. The world at your fingertips. No rent. The reality, however, has turned out to be somewhat different.
I’m a month away from submitting my master’s thesis which is a bit of a daunting thing. I have been making a lot of use of libraries which has helped but as much as I love libraries they are not always ideal. They are only open for limited hours and not at the times when I do my best work (aka at night). They are also only open for a couple of hours on Saturdays and virtually never on Sundays. I won’t rant on about this but I really don’t understand the point of that and why so many other institutions that we all need (the post office, the bank, etc.) are never open on weekends when people are actually free! Anyway … oh and you tend to run into a lot of colourful characters in libraries which isn’t always fantastic – especially when they want to tell you their life story and you really just need to get some work done. Despite this, libraries are truly incredible places, though. Especially considering that they are air conditioned!
That’s the other thing .. sleeping in your car is messy business when you live in Queensland, Australia and it is SUMMER! My car bed is actually really comfortable because my car is long enough that I can put the back seats down and stretch completely out. BUT shady parking places are not easy to come by which means you often have to park out in the open and will wake up COVERED in sweat. Suffice to say, I don’t imagine I will keep up with this lifestyle much longer. I have been impressed, though, by how possible it is to live this way. A good friend of mine has been living the lifestyle for over eight months, now. I love her, she taught me that you can always find a hot shower at a truck stop because the truckies need to have facilities. I had never thought of that before but it makes sense. I am also grateful for the experience in the way that it has hi-lighted for me what it would be like to be actually homeless – aka homeless because there was no other option. I have options. I am actually choosing to live this way. And I have a car. That’s a major, major thing. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to wander the streets with nothing and no-one. I was never one to judge homeless people but I especially never would now. People tend to judge homeless people as being lazy and wonder ‘why don’t they just get a job?’. Well I imagine they have tried. I imagine there is much, much more to the story.
Oh well .. I don’t really want to get into a rant about that either. .
I will just say I am grateful for the experience and even more grateful for friends who will extend to me the use of their couch. For now I am house sitting for a friend who is away for a couple of weeks. I’m so appreciative for that as it gives me a bit of an opportunity to work hard at my thesis and get it all squared away. I don’t want to move into a place of my own just yet because my day job situation is up in the air at the moment and I haven’t quite worked out what state I am going to be settling in. But I’ll work that out soon enough.
Blessings to you, everyone 🙂
Some of you would remember when I did a personal experiment on simple living and vowed not to buy anything for myself (sans the usual grocery items) for a month. It was a challenge but really helped me to identify the luxuries in life that were free or that I already owned. I saved quite a lot of money that month and it put me on a path of thinking harder about the financial and environmental consequences of my daily purchases. I realized that I had fallen into a pattern of absentmindedly buying stuff to ignore the feelings of boredom or glumness that were showing up in my life. I also realized that the practice wasn’t really accomplishing anything. I had fallen into debt and I was becoming irritated by all the clutter, further adding to the rather shitty emotions I was experiencing.
Even shittier, I started feeling really guilty about what I was doing because I knew I didn’t want to be so actively participating in our culture’s emphasis on constant acquisition. It was costing me a lot and I knew it was stupid to get sucked into the modern day acceptance of credit card debt. I was also feeling guilty because we live in a world of finite resources and it felt selfish to be consuming so much when so little of it was necessary and almost none of it contributed to a more fulfilling life.
A few months after the month long experiment I completed a three month experiment which I called a ‘consumerism detox’. Even though this challenge was three times as long I found it easier. I had sort of realized by then that it’s actually ok to sit and wait and want something for a while and that you don’t have to just immediately rush out and buy (or charge) whatever it is that you’re wanting. I had also started to get used to enjoying what I already owned – my books, my movies, my internet connection. In the end I was more excited about getting rid of stuff than getting new stuff, especially on the day I de-frumped my closet.
Well it’s now been nine months since I completed the three month challenge. Since then I’ve continued to live a more simple life although I haven’t had any specific ‘rules’ to live by. I paid off my car and almost all of my consumer debt (just about one more month to go on that) and have just began a new experiment, this time with no specific end date in mind. I am sure it will seem extreme to many of you but I have actually become willingly homeless.
I have moved out of the house that I shared with two friends and into a storage unit with no plans to get another place any time soon. My friends were going to be moving out of the house we shared anyway and since I am away most of the time with work I don’t really want to waste my money on rent when I could pay the same (or less) and just get a hotel for a few days or camp out somewhere. I usually only have a week or so off in between work assignments so my plan at this stage is just to cruise around when I am off work. Go visit people, travel, volunteer, work on the film that I have been needing to head up to the Atherton Tablelands to get footage for, stuff like that.
The only problem that I can see with it is that I am one of those people that loves to be at home. The idea of not having a home is a little confronting but I do think that this experiment will be character building and will (hopefully!) allow me to save up to actually buy a little place somewhere in the next year or two – hopefully somewhere peaceful in the hinterlands and not to far from the beach.
I shall keep you posted!
To see how I’m going with this, click here