The 3 R’s are actually listed in order of importance. So why do we only hear about the last one anymore? Our society believes the more we have, the more we grow / create / build / etc., the more successful it means we are. This leaves little room for reduction. And reusing is generally not fashionable. Sure, there is an awakening of sorts happening that encourages Pinterest-worthy DIY crafts to be made from old stuff; there’s spoon jewelry, you can use a worn out boot as a planter, and there are 100’s of ways to turn a spent t-shirt into a reusable shopping bag. Unfortunately, brand new reusable shopping bags are still being manufactured every waking moment, no matter how many we make ourselves. New jewelry and new planters for that matter too. It can feel like an uphill battle. Likewise, it can feel incredibly confusing. The same people telling us how to “do our part” don’t seem to be doing theirs; shaming us for using a plastic straw while they continue to make them. They must know if plastic straws were banned and replaced with compostable straws we would continue living our lives and buy those straws instead. Why haven’t grass straws caught on yet? What if they did better first?
Now don’t get it twisted, recycling is definitely important. It conserves precious non-renewable materials, reduces greenhouse gas emissions, and generally reduces pollution, especially water and air. The bad part is, it also creates pollution, uses a lot of energy, and apparently is not very cost-effective. If we dramatically decreased our trash production, and focused more on reducing and reusing, these issues caused by recycling might be a little more manageable, but at the moment they are on top of the big pile of problems we already have. I am no pessimist though and sort of see the current state of things as a transitory period: the old and the new ideas are all crowding the same room, but we as a society are cleaning house and working on sweeping out all the dusty, outdated ideas.
Like a lot of things in life, the most rewarding is often the most difficult to do, and reducing is no exception. I have this theory that being a consumer is just a basic part of human instinct, not necessarily something evil that “the Man” has brainwashed us into doing. After all, we literally must consume to survive. So, walking up and down the isles at Target is, in a way, our 21st century human version of gathering sticks for the fire or berries and nuts for the meal. I think it does us no good to feel guilty for what we inherently need to do to keep living. That being said, the way we’ve gone about it is not doing us any good. One of my favorite phrases is “the poison is in the dose” and I think it is an appropriate metaphor: If consumerism is natural and necessary, it can also be very dangerous if indulged in too extensively. Being more mindful consumers = reducing consumption.
I recently read an article about materialism where the author had a very different perspective than I am used to hearing. They suggested that, although it is often described as a negative trait and that our world is grossly obsessed with material possessions, maybe we are not as materialistic as we think. The word itself suggests someone who takes care of what materials they have, treasures them, fixes them. We don’t really do that anymore though, we throw everything away. It seems we are actually anti-materialistic. An ex-punk anarcho-idealist encouraging consumerism and materialism? I bet that is not what you were expecting to read about!
If we took care of what we already had, found better ways to satisfy those primitive instincts passed down from our Paleolithic ancestors; if we shared more, treated ourselves and each other more kindly, I believe it would make a difference. That, and if we started holding big corporations a little more accountable. Walrus Oil is not pointing fingers; we recognize we are not perfect. But we are constantly looking to set the bar higher for ourselves, and are so excited to continue finding new ways to do better. We just want you to join us on the journey! ♻