"Waste Wise champions environmental, simplicity values"
June 25, 2008 · Updated 1:29 PM
"Waste Wise volunteers Liz Berg, Barbara Deck, Gloria Wahlin, Peggy Scalf and coordinator Janet Hall carry clutter out of their own offices at the Fort Casey lighthouse. The cleanout is in keeping with the new mission of the Waste Wise organization, which is to help people make their lives simpler and better.Matt Johnson/staff photoGet simple, get wiseWaste Wise offers a number of other tips that can speed Island County residents down the road to simple living.Say no to activities that are not meaningful to you. Keep a log of every penny you spend. If you have to write it down, you might think twice about buying.Toss the TV. If you can't do that, at least cut back your watching hours.Don't go shopping.Take care of what you have and wear things out before you replace them.If you haven't used an item in a year, get rid of it.Choose a place to live that reduces the need to drive.Eat less meat, drink more water, and buy organic food.Don't do two things at once.It's time for Americans to cut back on their stuff consumption, says Janet Hall, coordinator of the recently re-organized Island WSU Waste Wise group. Previously known as Waste Warriors, Waste Wise and its corps of volunteers are ready to help Island County residents reduce the amount of stuff they buy, store in their homes and throw away.Hall said Waste Wise will continue the Waste Warrior mission of reducing waste through recycling and composting, but will also champion the values of voluntary simplicity and ecological and economic sustainability. Though this may sound like a complex goal, Hall said it is actually quite simple.What we'd like to do is deal with the stuff before it comes into the house, Hall said.Waste Wise's goal is to help individuals and families buy less, throw away less garbage, and spend less money while at the same time promoting a way of living that's reasonably satisfying. At a sustainable living workshop two weeks ago at Freeland's Trinity Lutheran Church, Hall and other Waste Wise members demonstrated the negative impact too much stuff can have on a household.Buying and maintaining stuff - which can be anything from a $2 plastic toy to a $30,000 car - costs money. Speaking to about 40 people, the Waste Wise group reminded their audience that money is often equated to time. By not eating lunch out every day or by driving a used car instead of buying a new one, individuals and families can free themselves of considerable debt and the work time needed to pay that debt off.It's a life change. It's a behavior change, Hall said.Giving an example from her own life, Hall said she started taking the Island Transit bus to her job at the Fort Casey lighthouse last summer. By doing this, she saved money on gas and on repairs for her truck, and cut down on extra work hours because the bus schedule forces her to spend no more than eight hours a day at her workplace.Though it sounds simple, changes like this are not always easy to make. Hall said it took her more than six months of vowing to take the bus to actually get around to doing it. Others who try to live simply have other challenges. Freeland residents Charlene and Stephen Suzuki have been part of a voluntary simplicity discussion group for several years. They cut down on the number of things they buy, the amount of television they watch, and the miles they drive their cars. But since the birth of their 2-year-old daughter, it has become difficult to cut down on baby toys and baby gifts from friends and relatives.There needs to be a voluntary simplicity class for kids, she said.Hall acknowledges that making the change to a pared-down, simple life is not the easiest thing to do. Getting rid of the things that take up space around the house can be a gut-wrenching process for some people. Waste Wise will not get involved directly when someone feels he or she needs to clean out the garage, basement, or living room. But Hall does recommend getting the help of a good friend when it comes time to lighten the load of possessions.Going through people's homes is pretty personal stuff, she said.Having a neutral third party can take much of the sentimentality out of a closet cleanout, Hall said. She said the best thing a friend can do to help the process along is to physically pick up each thing eligible to be tossed and ask the owner, How about this?If you have to think about it, it's gone, Hall said. "