Posts Tagged ‘waste’

No wonder I felt pangs of guilt while watching “The Ball”. The movie acted as a mirror for my outrageously wasteful lifestyle. It is no consolation to learn that I am joined by the rest of my fellow Americans. One quarter of food wasted, is a hard number to reckon. This is to add to the amount of food wasted in our bodies when we overeat.

Of course our surrounding culture of waste and excess is to blame. At some point, however, one needs to start taking responsibility, and say, enough! I am starting to experience Prad’s comments about my grocery shopping habits, very differently. No longer as an intrusion and an attempt to control my actions, but rather as an expression of his deep concern for his fellow beings. Of course, it does help that he was born in India, a country where access to food is a privilege, not a birthright.

Guilt is good.

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Last month I accompanied my friend Christian Forthomme, during one of his visioning seminars. Christian’s job is to help companies imagine their future and devise a plan to make their vision a reality. Makes sense. It is hard to move forward without having a clear picture of what to shoot for. As we struggle with finding solutions to the current climate crisis, we would do well to spend time visualizing what it is that we want. This is different than thinking about the problem and relying solely on our brain to come up with answers. 

What I am suggesting instead is to take some quiet time alone, and slowly let a picture emerge, of the kind of world we want for ourselves, and our children. I tried it, and I was surprised with how difficult it was. Here is what I saw:

A world with lots of bikes and walking routes, and buses and trains. Cars and trucks are all electric as in the Better Place Project. Gas stations are now serving as battery recharging centers. All the energy comes from renewable sources, cultivated in solar and wind farms throughout the land. In a way, I want to go back to life as it was on my grandparents’ farm. When time was slower, and we lived with the rhythm from the seasons. Food is all grown locally and organically. Cities and suburbs are experiencing an overall greening, with many people involved in urban farming, starting with children in schools. There are trees along all the streets and the freeways. People spend most of their time working from home or very close. They work shorter hours, and they use video conference technologies such as Cisco Telepresence. There is a bustling green economy, with green collar jobs replacing lots of the retail jobs. Malls are a vestige from the past. Instead of buying things, people are consuming experiences. The obesity rate has gone down, due to people walking and biking more, and eating less junk food. Fast food places are now serving organic nutritionally healthy Happy Meals. The water crisis has been averted thanks to new technologies and smart conservation policies. Businesses have turned into social centers that help connect people in developed countries with their counterparts in developing countries. Municipalities have a no waste system, where everything gets recycled or ends up in compost. The world feels happy and at peace. 

Now, your turn! What do you see? 

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Below is a copy of the email I just sent today, to the Computer History Museum, that is based here in Silicon Valley:


I am a blogger here in the Valley, and just featured a very powerful movie, ‘The Digital Dump’, in my blog. The 23′ documentary was produced by the Basel Action Network, and will be shown as part of the United Nations Association Film Festival, next week at Stanford University. ‘The Digital Dump’ is about the scandal of junk electronics, mostly computers, that are being dumped by the US and Europe, into developing countries such as Africa. The mountains of unusable computers end up being burnt, right in the middle of residential neighborhoods, resulting in extraordinary environmental health hazards, especially amongst children.

It struck me that ‘The Digital Dump’ story is a part of the computer history, here in Silicon Valley, and I was wondering if that is something you would consider showing in the context of your museum?

I look forward to your response.

Today is Blog Action Day, featuring the Environment. I felt moved to act, beyond just blogging. And felt stirrings of activism brewing.

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Sorting through the mess on my desk. I come across paper with old to-do-list, no longer relevant. Thought: ‘Look on the other side, see if it can be used.’ Back of paper is blank. Thought: ‘I should save paper to write on.’ I crumple the paper, and throw it into garbage can. There is something about starting fresh with a 100% virgin sheet of paper. I have toned down my habit quite a bit, and am usually pretty good at saving half used sheets. But in this case, Prad got these super thin sheets made out of recycled paper. They feel as if they can only handle one sided writing.

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Prad left for his cousin’s Indian wedding reception in DC. I miss him already. The good part is I have the house all to myself, and I get to clean up our fridge. Green Guru is on this ‘no waste’ kick. Our fridge is full of moldy stuff, that he refuses to throw away. Just now, I threw, hard as a rock half eaten steak, grilled corn from last weekend, super wilted salad leftovers, and Styrofoam cup with week old Indian carryout. I can’t describe the satisfaction.

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Some things, I will not change. Like eating fresh baguette everyday. Green Guru and I just had another one of our ‘episodes’. It irks him that I keep on buying new bread every other day, even when we still have half of the old one left. Rather than wasting, he insists on eating the old bread. Green Guru has not eaten fresh bread in a long time . . .

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I just finished separating the Sunday San Francisco Chronicle into two piles of equal height. The sections I read, and the other stuff, what I will not read. In the ‘will not read pile’ are mostly ad booklets for various advertisers. In France, the Sunday papers are a tenth of the size of their American counterparts. As far as I know, French newspapers are still making money. My question to the American newspapers is this: why do you need to use so much paper? why do you need to have so many sections? why do advertisers need to take so much space? can’t you start working with advertisers to reduce all that waste of paper? I know we live in the land of ‘bigger is better’, but in this case, bigger is clearly worse. And I am a passive accomplice, as long as I keep on subscribing to the stuff.


To-do-list: 1) stop subscribing to paper version of newspaper; 2) even better, start public dialog on issue, boycott.

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Once a week, Prad and I go out to dinner to Il Fornaio, our favorite Italian eatery in town. Last time, we went with the children. Everybody was hungry, and we forgot our habit of splitting every order in half. We ended dinner with most of our plates still half full. And a doggy bag to take the stuff home. America is the only country I know, with doggy bags. One could say, it is a great way to avoid food being thrown away. I look at it differently, as another manifestation of the super size phenomenon. I can’t count the number of times when our doggy bags’ remnants linger in the fridge, until we end up throwing them away.

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Today, in my mailbox: 1) Cabelas Deer Hunting catalog, a remnant of my days as a performance artist, when I was looking for a camouflage outfit; 2) Garnet Hill clothing and home decor catalog, addressed to my husband’s ex, and still coming to our house; 3) Van Dyke’s taxidermy catalog, from the times when I was making sculptures. Today is a light day. Usually, we get a lot more junk mail. With Green Dimes, there is really no reason why I should tolerate such wastage any longer.

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The Art of Navy Showers

Navy Shower anyone? I just found this post in TreeHugger, where the writer advocates that we all take abbreviated showers, just like those guys in the Navy. There is even a method to it. And since we are in America, even the simplest things come with an instruction manual . . . You may go to Wikipedia and find complete instructions for how to take a Navy Shower. In short, you just turn the shower on, just enough to get yourself wet, turn it off, soap yourself, and then turn it back on to quickly rinse.

The Farm Showers of my grandfather

This reminds me of my days back in my grandparents’ farm, when we did not have a shower. My grandfather was the only one to take a full ‘shower’ once a week. I still remember him stripping down to his underwear, and getting into the ‘abreuvoir’, what looked like a big cement bath tub, and was really meant as a drinking station for the cattle. The sight of him almost naked in the cold morning air used to make me shiver. The ‘Farm Shower’ – I just made up that word – consisted of one bucket of cold water poured over his head, quick soaping, and rinsing with a few more buckets of cold water. The women, my grandmother, my mother, and I, were content enough with occasional hand baths, using our ‘gant de toilette’, the French version of washcloth, which literally means toilet mitten. According to American standards of hygiene, we may have been dirty, but our lives did not suffer, and the clean country air did its share to minimize our natural body odors.

I love American Showers

Fast forward fourty years. While I look back on these years on the farm with great nostalgia, I certainly do not miss those hand baths. And I regard the long, hot American showers as a hard won indulgence that I am not willing to give up. I love the gushing of water, the washing away of the impurities of the day, the warm cocoon of the shower, where for a few minutes I can let my body relax. It is my daily version of a cheap massage. A luxury I am taking for granted. Of course, I am well aware it may not last. Water is going to become the new oil, a resource so precious that people may wage wars because of it. For now, I am not hearing, or seeing anywhere in my radar screen, that I am to stop taking long, hot showers.

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