I grapple with a small problem most days. I have several problems, most of which don’t require explanation, but my ziplock bag issue is the one I bump up against almost every day, therefore it’s vexing to me.
For me, there is something about having that hard, plastic zipper on certain plastic bags that bestows added value to them. I just can’t throw a ziplock bag away. I wash and reuse them until either the zipper no longer works or the bag gets mung-y enough that I feel it can’t be properly cleaned (this is another issue altogether I’ll save for another post). I wonder what it was that happened to me in my early development that created the groundwork for this dilemma. Maybe it’s the way the zippered bag, with its own intrinsic value, dovetails in with another one of my issues which is waste. Modern day America has become a disposable society and this is a perversion I fear we won’t be able to sustain for long. Between the generation of garbage (18 billion disposable diapers a year in US landfills!!!!) and the usurping of the resources used to make more of what we throw away, being disposable doesn’t lend itself to the long-term survival of a species. I believe that as a society, we need to think about this way more than we do. Most people aren’t even aware of where their garbage goes, other than out to the curb. You put it out, someone picks it up, and it’s gone. Poof. I actually think, that instead of paid advertising on television, breaks in programs should be long, mandatory, and constitute educational information about landfills and the Pacific Gyre Garbage Patch–the shocking consequence of dumping garbage into the oceans. These are issues that effect every living thing on the planet. As distasteful as it is, garbage and the issues associated with it need to be brought front and center, the impact and effects of it highlighted in all of its garbage-y horror. Until this happens, most people will happily remain in their sheltered state of ignorance, perpetuating the current, ongoing state of inaction we are in.
I come by the saver gene honestly. My parents were children of the depression era, and as I grew up, I watched my Dad save everything from the wire ties on bread bags, to corks to coffee cans and peanut jars (including all of the lids, of course). I grew up around people who recycled and conserved. I remember one winter–I was probably a smartass teenager around about this time–I made a snide comment to my Dad about his practice of filling his saved plastic gallon milk jugs up with tap water and placing them on the hearth in the winter when we had a fire going in the family room. His thinking was that the water would get warm from the heat of the fire (passively, of course), then he would place the jugs in colder parts of the house to help warm those rooms closed off from the furnace. This seemed ludicrous to me. I was of an age where I was testing and pushing my boundaries, and the water jugs never even got warm to the touch because to get the water warm enough to do any MC delta T= MC delta T good, they would have to be placed so close to the fire that they would melt. I’ll bet that in all the years my Dad did his winter-milk-jug-water thing, he never even came close to raising the temperature of any of the rooms he placed the “warm” jugs in even a 1/1000th of a degree, and this seemed like a waste of time (and water) to me. I got my ass kicked for my criticism of his system, and I learned not to tease my Dad after that. He didn’t take well to it at that particular time in his life.
I started collecting and saving stuff at an early age, too. I remember being 7 or 8, and picking up anything metal I found in the street and stashing those treasures in some of my Dad’s saved planters peanut cans. We had lots and lots of those. I also started collecting and saving acorns, which seems very odd to me now, but at the time it made perfect sense (I think I was 6 or so when I took a yen to the mighty oak nut). Whatever the events that conspired to mold me into the saver I am today, I remind myself of my milk jug warming Dad at times, and the ziplock bag dilemma is one of these. I don’t have any trouble tossing a zipperless ziplock bag, even the ones with the double set of ridges that change color when they mesh. You’d think that would up the ante on their value and make me want to wash and reuse them but it doesn’t (esp the off brand ones, which never zip correctly).
My idiosyncrasies sometimes vex me but they also sometimes impress me. I credit my early childhood collections for helping me keep and contribute to multiple investment and savings accounts, a step up from nails and acorns. At least I can one day use the cash stashed away in a mutual fund. What are you going to do with 300 planter’s peanut cans full of rusty nails, bolts and acorns?
It seems that every time I go over to my parents’ house, my Dad asks me if I can use something he has saved for 40 or 50 years before he throws it out, something he is doing more and more as he ages. I usually pass on these offers, but every now and then he presents me with some relic I actually have a use for, something that makes both of us smile.
Read more about the Pacific Garbage Patch here: