With media outlets from the New York Times to individual blog “reporters” typing at their kitchen tables covering the recession — with news, conjecture and as many opinions as there are people — one facet of all this doom and gloom that isn’t getting much attention is the impact of the recession on our collective environmental footprint, especially all that consumer-culture waste we seem so eager to flog ourselves over.
The Washington Post reported that landfills around the country are noticing significant decreases in the amount of trash they’re receiving, and it’s logical to conclude that if a newfound frugality means less shopping, that also means less waste for the trash pile. Think about it: fewer purchases means less packaging (cardboard, plastic, packing peanuts, Styrofoam, etc.), and not just when you’re talking about a new flat-screen t.v. Cooking at home often translates into more fresh produce and fewer frozen dinner purchases. And since we’re all buying fewer new things, it seems we’re more inclined to repair what we have or purchase or trade used items. All of these decisions result in less trash. Not to mention that a lower demand for goods can — and does, as we’ve been seeing a lot lately — lead to factory closings. The obvious, serious, bad news there is that hardworking men and women are losing their jobs and their ability to support themselves and their families, at least temporarily. On the other side, one less factory running means one less factory sending contaminants into the air and/or water. Looking around, it seems that one silver lining to the current state of economic affairs might just be less environmental damage from our particular species.
What do you think? Have you noticed less waste and trash in your life because of the recession? Do you think that we might hold on to the better lessons from this experience as we move forward, ultimately, to more prosperous times?