Monday, July 19, 2010

What we have already

Here is an email that Monica sent to me yesterday:

I never buy plastic bags for sending sandwiches in lunches, but the Wrap-N-Mats I've used for Greg and Maddi finally wore out. I bought them maybe five or six years ago, when Maddi was in grade school. They're fabric on the outside and thin plastic sheeting on the inside, sewn together, and they closed with a small piece of Velcro. After a few years of use, the plastic started getting tacky and sticking to itself, and I was worried about chemicals in the plastic that might leech out into the food. Since the time I bought those, a lot of new products have come out (see the lunch section at, and I was shopping that site yesterday to see which ones looked best, or to see if I could make something myself. Then, last night after having looked at that site, I found this in a magazine I get . . .

I had one foil coffee bag, so I just tried it, and it works pretty well! I don't have good luck with pre-sticky Velcro staying put on anything (the hook and loops hold together better than most glues to non-porous surfaces, so you end up pulling one side or the other off with the hook and loops still attached), so I think I'll just close the coffee-bag sandwich wraps with a rubber band. So now I'm thinking I'll buy maybe two of the ones from the web site, just to have a couple that are super-sturdy, but then make a new one every time we finish off a bag of coffee! :)

This email made me re-realise how important my base set of packaging has been to me to undertake this project. As I mentioned a while ago, although I have not acquired any new packaging materials since this started, I decided to make full use of all of the packaging that already existed around me. This point, however, speaks to much larger issues of what we have already. We have already committed ourselves to a certain amount of natural resources, e.g, plastic bags from oil, cardboard boxes from trees, wires from copper, pots and pans from iron. We have also used natural resources to make gadgets and gizmos like computers, which today do much more than most people could have ever imagined, and much more than what we "need." However, we have the tendency to forget what we have already. We are always on to the next thing, in its new shiny waxed box, with thin plastic packaging around it, styrofoam peanuts preserving such a new marvel. As Wendell Berry has written about, we don't want to be here; we want to be somewhere else; the future is better than the present; it always will be better. But what we necessarily commit ourselves to then is not using what we have already, but extracting more, consuming more, removing more mountain tops, clearing out more rainforests, leaking more oil into waters, breathing more pollutants from air. Indeed, we commit ourselves to more trash. A simple question is this - given all that we've done so far, all that we've extracted and used and created, all the computers we have already, is this enough for our needs today? Is there enough that we have today to be satisfied with our lives from here on out?

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