Filed under: Waste + Recycling | Tags: grandmother, mottainai, recycle, reuse, trash, waste
Every time I go to my grandmother’s, I’m surprised at her collection of “trash.” She keeps piles of cookie boxes, containers of yogurt, margarin and detergent, used-wrapping paper in a coset, hoping to reuse someday. She grew up during the Pacific War in Japan. She’s used to a frugal life and she cannot throw things away so easily. She says, “Mottainai” and put everything in the closet.
Recently I’m learning a lot from my grandmother and the Japanese word “mottainai.” The literal translation of “mottainai” is “wasteful.” But the word also implies that things can be still useful. For example, I felt “mottainai” to throw away clothes I don’t like, so I gave them to my sister. This is a convenient word, which English doesn’t have. The Japanese often use it with remorse or guilt about what they are doing. I think this word can encourage people to conserve resources. The word impressed an Kenyan environmentalist and civil activist, Wangari Maathai, who won the Nobel Peace Prize. She started the Mottainai Campaign to spread the concept of the word in Africa, Asia, Europe and the U.S. and encourage environmental conversations and sustainable developments.
Even though I recycle, I feel that’s not enough looking at my daily trash. I’m not as hard-core as my grandmother, but try to make use of waste before I throw away. I bring reusable bags for grocery shopping and use the backside of printed papers to outline an essay and practice Arabic spellings. If my sneakers are worn out, I keep them for a rainy day. I cut my old shirts into pieces and use them to clean the bathroom or polish my leather shoes. I keep pasta-sauce bins to preserve food instead of getting new containers. Also, it’s time to reassess our consumer life. Do I really want this? Can I substitute it with a thing I already have?
I’m looking for a more drastic way to reduce my trash, especially plastic materials that cannot be recycled. Any idea?
By Sachiko Miyakawa
This is my 24-hour of trash, including my roommate’s. This is a lot! But I’ll recycle some of it.
My roommate and I keep recycle material in a covert.
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