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What If Your Trash Was YOUR Responsibility?

By Melanie Ethridge on Jun 17, 2016

The disappearance of Malaysian Airlines flight 370 on March 8th, 2014 was a true tragedy and mystery. I do hope that by the time you are reading this, that mystery has been solved and the families affected either have their loved ones back or closure in knowing what happened.

But for me, in the hours, days, and weeks following the disappearance, a new tragedy emerged.

“Two oil slicks spotted in sea south of Vietnam.” And later, “Oil slicks not from missing airplane”

“Large debris spotted and believed to be from missing airliner.” (LARGE pieces of debris—up to 70 feet in size, just rolling in our oceans). And later, “Large debris spotted is not from missing aircraft.”

 “122 objects spotted in search for debris.” Once recovered, the debris was shown not to be associated with the missing plane.

“More debris spotted in search for missing aircraft.” Followed by, “Debris found was determined to be pallets and shipping containers from cargo ships.”

 “Cluster of orange objects spotted in the search area.” And, you guessed it:  “Orange objects are from fishing boats, not missing flight MH 370.”

“Large Debris spotted in new search area.” To which an expert guest on CNN replied, “This has to be the plane. Certainly we have debris and garbage in the ocean, but not of this size and quantity.” But apparently we do have debris and garbage of that size and quantity in our ocean, because later, “Debris spotted is not from missing jetliner.”

“Oil slick spotted in the Indian Ocean near believed crash site.” And then, again, later:  “Oil slick not associated with missing plane.”

“It’s not like looking for a needle in a haystack, it’s like looking for a needle in a needle factory.” In response to looking for debris in an ocean full of debris.

I wish that I could do something to help find that airplane, but honestly, I don’t have the authority, resources, or skillset. But this trash…that’s a problem we all need to wake up to. And we can all do something about it.

How have we allowed ourselves to fall into such a state of complacency about the health of our earth (and what we’re leaving to our kids and grandkids) that news of giant pieces of garbage and oil slicks in our oceans don’t even phase us?

I do want to make it clear. I’m not an environmental activist. There are hundreds and thousands of people out there who are more educated, knowledgeable, and experienced than I am in the effect of our garbage on our planet. But what I am is a citizen of planet earth. And it is in my heart to better honor the gift earth has given me in allowing me to live here. Most importantly, what I am is a person who is in charge of my choices. And so are you.

I think the problem is that we can live quite comfortably turning a blind eye to the garbage issue because we don’t have to SEE it or DEAL with it. Right? (Hey, I’m guilty here, too—but now I’m more aware and I’m making changes.) We consume our stuff, put the rest in the trash, and someone neatly and quietly comes and takes it away from us. We NEVER have to be faced with the consequences of our consumption and waste.

And this is a dangerous system. I mean, ask yourself with everything you throw away this week

“If I were to take this and put it in my backyard (or the corner of my living room if you’re in an apartment), and I continued to do so with every piece of trash I generated, how long before my place would be full of garbage?”

If we could take everything that we have thrown in the trash over the last year, bring it all back, and visually see what we’re ‘contributing’ to the earth—and then have to deal with it ourselves, then all of a sudden there would be a wake-up call. It would hit close to home, and we would be able to clearly see the results of our actions, and probably, our actions would change.

But there is no immediate consequence for our high production of waste. We never have to actually SEE the piles and piles of non- or slow biodegrading stuff we’re throwing out there, so most of us blissfully ignore it and go on about our business and meanwhile, our oceans, our landfills, our entire world is being overrun with it.

For 10,000 years people lived on this planet without leaving a garbage footprint. In less than 200 years we’ve created such a waste output that our oceans have become fields of debris. And that’s just the stuff you can see. I’ve heard that there are areas of the oceans that are so contaminated with non-visible plastic particles and byproducts from the plastics that have ended up in the ocean that it poses a serious threat to life in that area of the ocean—and eventually us when contaminated sea food makes its way to our dinner plates. But, I digress.

It wasn’t my goal in writing this to harp or complain, but to point out something that I believe must be addressed. I believe that we all must become awake to the consequences of what we likely do each day without even thinking about it.

I’m all about Growth. And I understand that growth is a journey that starts with awareness. 

When we become aware, then we can more consciously choose how to act. So it is my encouragement to you today to take a special awareness of everything that you are dropping in the trash. Realize that magic trash fairies don’t come and make it simply disappear. It goes somewhere. And sits there for a long time. And if nothing changes, even if it’s never an in-your-face problem for you, it probably will be for your kids or grandkids. Don’t let that be your legacy.

Small, seemingly insignificant changes can actually yield huge results. Don’t make the mistake of thinking small things like throwing a plastic bottle away instead of recycling it doesn't matter because “It’s just one bottle.” It does matter, and even that can make a difference. This is a process. Become aware and then start acting accordingly.

Several years ago we started recycling. Then I began swapping plastics for glass whenever possible. Then I switched to earth friendly soaps and cleaning supplies. Then I started growing some of my own food in a small container garden. Then I began to get creative in reusing things instead of just throwing them away.

It doesn’t matter to me where you are in your ‘earth-friendly-awareness’ journey (as long as you are on it—even if you’re just getting started), I’d love to hear one thing that you are doing to reduce your waste-output and make the world a better, healthier place. Take a quick second and share your thoughts below.


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