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if everyone did it we’d be living in trash

There are many benefits to walking my daughter to school 4 of the 5 days a week and walking other places as much as possible. One of the best benefits is teaching myself and my kids to slow down and observe our world. When we are at our best, we learn so much from each other.

I am 5′9, I have a long stride and I walk very fast, even when I’m pushing my 2.5 year old in the stroller. I haven’t slowed down much for my 5 year old, who, even though she is taller than average, can still not walk as fast a me. Even with her half-jogging, I have still had to slow down.

She teaches me that if you imagine hard enough, your fingers can eat leaves and that squirrels in the city will let you get within a foot of them before scampering up a tree and that one of the campus buildings we pass must have a cafeteria because it always smells of food.

I teach her that if you sing while you walk you forget how tired your legs are and that it’s important to drink water or you get a headache. Another of those lessons is that our choices have consequences.

We live on the perimeter of a large university campus and walk down “fraternity row” and practically through the area of the Student Union to get to Shayel’s school. The sidewalks are consistently littered with liquor bottles, cans once filled with disgusting, “what-the-hell’s-the-point” beer and trash of all manner of grossness. We also often find ourselves crunching broken glass beneath our feet and stepping on dog poo.

This has provided conversation opportunities that go something like this.

“what’s that mom?”
“that’s a broken bottle, it’s sharp, please be careful so you don’t get any pieces in your crocs”
“how did it get there?”
“someone dropped it there, do you think that was a good choice?”
“no, yuck, they should have put it in the recycle”

- - yes young green earth hippie child, we have taught you well hehe.

She’s receptive at this point so I continue the conversation.

“why do you think they should have put it in recycle?”
“so they can make new bottles”
“good answer, why do you think they shouldn’t drop it on the ground?”
“cuz it’s dangerous, someone could get cut”
“also a good answer, why is it a wrong choice to do something that would hurt someone else?”
“it doesn’t show respect”
“and why should we show respect?”
“because God made them special and he loves them very much”
(thank you veggie tales hehe)
“and what would happen if no one showed respect and everyone dropped their trash everywhere?”
“we’d be living in trash and that’d be gross”

Yes ma’am, well done my little revolutionary. Well done.

This is our ecological footprint according to this website.

FOOD 4.2




Take the quiz here.

We’re doing pretty good, but could still make improvements. It helps that we live in a small apartment with only 4 in our family and that we live in an area that affords us the ability to walk or bike often. It also helps that we only have 1 car which forces us to drive less and get creative with our transport. Off the top of my head I can think of a handful of things on which we can improve.

1. eat less meat - we currently eat meat about half the time (I recently read on treehugger.com that they’ve concluded that eating meat very occasionally, less than once a week I think, is actually better than a no meat diet in terms of effect on the earth and allows for the humane treatment of the animals)

2. take alternative transport even more. We walk a lot and don’t drive much, mostly because we only have 1 car. But we could do more with that - esp. if David worked here in the same town where we live (we’re working on that)

3. buy more locally and eat less packaged goods. I’m a convenience hound, like most Americans. I don’t plan ahead enough to buy locally and more conscientiously so I KNOW we could do better at this.

4. use less packaging. Again, convenience. I have the bags and containers to buy more in bulk and use less packaging but I often forget or don’t plan ahead enough for my shopping. We recycle more than we put in the landfill but we need to reduce more because our overall trash (recycle and landfill) output is not much less than our neighbors I would guess.

Why is this important? Because, as my 5 year old so wisely observed, if everyone ignored it, we’d all be living in trash.


  1. sally — November 11, 2007 #

    one step at a time, and with raised conciousness on this stuff we will make a difference. So good to hear that conversation.

  2. Paul — November 11, 2007 #

    I’m impressed that they are thinking of banning plastic bags from all supermarkets in London - that is a pretty big step. I know that i often say no the plastic bag but then again sometimes i have to say yes - if they don’t have bags i can’t give into that temptation and will have to find another way instead of being lazy :)

  3. Don — November 11, 2007 #

    I took the quiz, and I’m embarrassed by the results. It’s rather sobering and has me thinking.

  4. Jennifer — November 11, 2007 #

    “young green earth hippie child”….at some point I’d like to change in that hippie part for an evolving vocabulary, but that’ll do well for my children too! Cute.

  5. Julie Clawson — November 11, 2007 #

    Wow you’re good. The whole house and cars and no public transportation thing really makes things hard around here. but we do what we can.

  6. Pingback - all said and done » Starred: October-November — November 19, 2007 #

    [...] If everyone did it we’d be living in trash - Makeesha and Shayel/Swinging from the Vine [...]

  7. Ryan Taylor — November 21, 2007 #

    Thanks for this post. Kids can be amazing little prophets.
    We’ve been doing alright with the one car decision as well.

  8. Mak — November 21, 2007 #

    Ryan - good for you :)

    Jennifer - yeah, but hippie works, sometimes it’s fun taking a term that others use disparagingly and use it in a positive way.

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