Zero Waste Revelation: It’s Not Just About Plastic

I’m finally feeling a bit better, and the world feels a magical place again!

I put my body through a marathon so that I could sit in this moment: Monday, the radio show, home to pack, butcher shop, grocers for bulk this-and-that, crossing state lines, picking up Mitra from my brother, and finally landing at home. Tuesday: two stories turned in, a phone interview for print, another for radio, all as snow fell thick and white.

I’m thankful. That’s a lot for two days, considering this body has done so little for weeks now. I’m with the trees.

Now, Wednesday, I find myself distracted by what I see out the picture window behind my computer screen. We got a good 18 inches of snow in some spots of the expansive back yard. Then sun and ice and wind worked together to create a blinding sheen of white: every trace of rough stone or grass has been smoothed away into one gently rolling plain. Far off, in the crack of the old stone wall that separates our property from the park, a gentle hill cascades from one side to the other, so that I almost expect to see tiny mice sliding down it on their bottoms for a lark. A bench sits half buried, lonely, facing no one. My hammock slightly swings in the breeze, the chains nearly frozen. and a ball of snow centering its weight in the middle.

Branches are bare, except for the one bristly pine that, maybe fifteen feet high, towers my three favorite white oaks neighboring it.

It’s all horribly distracting.

“What do I need to do next?”

There are envelopes to open, but I don’t want to open them. They include numbers to balance and pay, and I hate balancing numbers. I haven’t yet eaten, but I’m not particularly hungry. I have words to type, but typing them doesn’t feel as appealing as just thinking them right now.

Because the sky is Easter blue and laced with thin, fluffy clouds. Mitra sleeps, warm, on her bed next to me, at a height so that I can pet her without reaching down, and my hand moves back and forth in a rhythm that comforts us both. It’s so quiet inside that I only hear our breath – so loud! – against the backdrop of wind moving the trees outside. They sway – deeper and deeper in the woods in dense layers; a family reunion of white oaks dancing as one.

If they can outlast this winter and this cold, so can I.

And in a camera’s shutter I realize: In my love for trees, I’ve forgotten them during my Zero Waste Challenge.

This can’t be just about plastic.

My Challenge parameters rule out anything that cannot be recycled or composted. Yes, we easily recycle paper. But I forgot that two R’s come before recyclereduce and reuse.

I’ve disregarded how I print things habitually and without thought. Or what products come in paper or cardboard that I probably don’t need to buy to begin with. Or how paper comes from my beloved trees, and the process of slicing and turning them into the paper makes a footprint, too! The loss might feel less significant than the danger of plastic, but that doesn’t make it insignificant.

So, a new promise: I will continue to reach for cloth handkerchiefs, not paper tissues. I will watch what I print. I will question the need for jotting paper, and Post-Its, and whether or not I can print on the back of what I have already used.

Because, if I might use a delicious sentence from my spirit sister, Miss Anne Shirley of Windy Poplars, “You know I have always been a tree worshiper.”

It’s about time I acted more like it.



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