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Waste is a Tax on the Whole People


“Waste is a tax on the whole people” (Albert W. Atwood) – a simple, profound statement that reminds me of our shared environmental responsibility.

After the Long Beach Magazine story came out, a few of you asked me for tips on living more environmentally responsibly. Since The Lorax is all the rage right now, here are a few tips on how to cut down fewer trees and send less stuff to the landfills:

  • Cut down trees to create…toilet paper? That’s a pretty sad reason to kill a beautiful, air-cleaning, climate-moderating, water-conserving, and wildlife-harboring living thing, especially when it’s unnecessary. Buy recycled TP. If every U.S. home replaced just 1 roll of 500-sheet virgin toilet paper with 100% recycled ones, we’d save 424,000 trees, landfill space equal to 1,600 garbage trucks, and a year’s supply of water for 5,000 Americans. Here’s my fave.
  • Do you contribute 365 disposable coffee cups to landfills every year? Here’s my favorite travel mug, which I use for hot and cold beverages. Unlike plastic-lined cups, which make coffee taste funny, stainless steel retains the original taste of your coffee and is healthier.
  • Break your paper towel addiction, and use sponges and cloths instead. Here’s a handy $1.69 item sold at Whole Foods.
  • Buy recycled office paper. Print less. Print double-sided. Reuse the blank backs of paper as scrap paper.
  • Eat less take-out from places that use styrofoam or plastic containers.

These are just a few examples, but important ones. In general: buy reusable instead of disposable stuff; when you buy disposable stuff, buy stuff that’s biodegradable or recyclable; buy things that are recycled not virgin; reuse or recycle everything you can; and look at what you throw ‘away’ (since there is no away) to figure out how to reduce it to zero in the future. Shop at small, independent stores and your nearest Green Festival whenever possible; check out the eco stuff at chains like Target and Whole Foods; and take advantage of the green discounts at

I applaud anyone who tries to do better, because we’re all in that boat. No one’s perfect. Sometimes we forget our travel mug, sometimes we buy bottled water. Just do your best and be happy!

…While still carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders, of course. After all, as President Teddy Roosevelt said, “To waste, to destroy our natural resources, to skin and exhaust the land instead of using it so as to increase its usefulness, will result in undermining in the days of our children the very prosperity which we ought by right to hand down to them.”

Here’s to taking personal responsibility for ensuring a prosperous planet for our children.


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  • greenbizmama says:

    Excellent point, MinimalMom! Cloth napkins instead of paper ones or paper towels is another biggie, and Audrey and I love feeling fancy at every meal. 🙂

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    I love this! We stopped buying water bottles (unless we are in a pinch), going out for coffee and we send our preschooler to school with resuable containers with her snack, most of the time. There are certainly other things on this list we could strive to do better in our household, like eliminating paper towels and moving to cloth napkins. Thank you for sharing these tips 🙂

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