Imagine the world without anger, without greed. We have the power, the tools, the skills and the resources right now to build a peaceful world, where people live in harmony with the Earth and each other. This blog explores ways we are doing just that, one post, one change, one day at a time. Join me. Tell your stories. Ask for help. Spread your ideas for making the vision real and, well, ordinary.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Societies without trash cans: How do they do it?

Seoul, Korea
© Stari4ek
CC NC ND 2.0
When our friend Claire returned from her first business trip to Seoul many years ago, she told us it was the cleanest city she had ever seen. Even the gutters and storm drains were free of trash.

What's more, when she looked for a waste bin to discard a used tissue, she could find none. There were no trash bins on the streets of Seoul.

Travel backward, to India's Ladakh in 1975, where linguist Helena Norberg-Hodge first met the farmers and villagers. She quickly discovered they reused everything. There were no trash bins, no garbage heaps.
Ladakhis traditionally have recycled everything. There is literally no waste. With only scarce resources at their disposal, farmers have managed to attain almost complete self-reliance, dependent on the outside world only for salt, tea, and a few metals for cooking utensils and tools.
Helena Norberg-Hodge
Ancient Futures, p.25

House in Ladakh
© Dr. Gebhard Gaukler
Creative Commons
The Ladakhi wasted nothing. Spent dishwater was fed to the animals for the small additional nourishment it could provide. Apricot pits were ground for their oil, and the remaining paste hardened into a tiny cup used in spinning yarn. Spent clothing, so worn it could no longer be mended, was soaked in mud and used to shore up irrigation canals.

Where we would consider something completely worn out, exhausted of all possible worth, and would throw it away, Ladakhis will find some further use for it. Nothing whatever is just discarded. What cannot be eaten can be fed to the animals; what cannot be used as fuel can fertilize the land.
Helena Norberg-Hodge
Ancient Futures, p.25

Animal and human waste were carefully collected, composted and distributed on the fields to nourish the soil. Plants we might consider weeds were harvested as surely as crops. Every part of every plant had a use.

Burtse is used for fuel and animal fodder; yagdzas, for the roofs of houses; the thorny tsermang, for building fences to keep animals out of fields and gardens; demok, as a red dye. Others are used for medicine, food, incense, and basket weaving.
Helena Norberg-Hodge
Ancient Futures, p.25

Zero waste is possible

The people of Seoul show us it is possible to live in a modern, busy city without ugly plastic bags, coffee cups, disposable water bottles and other trash cluttering their parks, streets and gutters. The people of Ladakh show us it is possible to live without generating any wasted material whatsoever.

Yesterday, we met the Green family, who are working toward zero waste in their lives. They've got it down to about 100g per week, which is a little more than two-tenths of a pound.

This thing is doable. We can build a society that wastes nothing. Of course, that means we have to stop wasting in our daily lives. When I think of the wasted food I toss every few weeks--uneaten leftovers, the cucumber that liquefied in the back of the veggie bin--I know I have a long way to go. As Mrs. Green said in a comment on yesterday's post, I need to take it one step at a time. I'll share our latest steps next week.

Meanwhile, I'm curious what you all think of this War on Garbage. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

We make peace in a million small ways every day.
All text and images, unless otherwise noted, copyright L. Kathryn Grace. All rights reserved.
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Wanda said...

I think it is a great idea. I am looking forward to the day when I have enough energy to be that creative again.

Deb Shucka said...

It's a direction to head, and actually one we've been way closer to as a culture than we are currently. Those who grew up during the Depression saved and reused and threw very little away. As a child of Depression era parents I still have a hard time not reusing things until they fall apart. We composted before it was the green thing to do.

Hayden said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kathryn Grace said...

Wanda, I send you healing energy, praying for your strength to return.

Deb, my mom, who grew up in the Depression, was thrifty and frugal, but so hated everything about the Depression that she refused to hoard anything. Hated the clutter. No cellar full of cardboard stacks, rolls of string, cans of bent nails, or rusty buckets in our house!

Hayden, yes, it could have, which made my missing it all the more frustrating. Although the city picks up our compost, I would feel a lot better about wasted food if I had my own compost pile, but I'm increasingly aware that when I waste food, I waste the fossil fuels, water and human energy used to grow and get it to me, not to mention throwing money down the chute! Wondering out loud ... whether folks would dump their leaves and such on your land rather than taking it to the dump. Save them dollars and you the trouble of fetching and unloading.

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