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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.
|House in Ladakh|
© Dr. Gebhard Gaukler
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.
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.
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.