Resolve to be less wasteful during new year

Once again, I was hard to buy Christmas presents for because I buy the things I need during the rest of the year as the need arises, versus going without to save ideas to put on my Christmas list. It’s the same thing for me when it comes to New Year’s resolutions: I consciously try to initiate personal tune-ups throughout the year rather than putting off change until January 1. However, in this unusual case, it’s been the slowdown in life busyness between Christmas and New Year’s Eve that triggered some deep thinking about a deep issue: waste.

Perhaps it was the extreme behaviors witnessed between Thanksgiving and Christmas that got my attention. Too many people appeared to be dashing through the snow on caffeinated and/or alcohol-fueled energy, going to an unwarranted number of places, making unnecessary preparations and spending unavailable funds. And in the name of what? Having a “good” Christmas.

What, exactly, is a good Christmas? While I can’t say for sure, I think it means one on par with what we’ve convinced ourselves others are executing and that we’re entitled to. Again, thank God I’m a Smith, who doesn’t need to worry about keeping up with those over-the-top, commercially-crass Joneses.

This year begat one of the best Christmases I’ve had in a long time, even though its scant wrapped components were purchased on clearance and it wasn’t spent with my kids, who were up north at the grandmother’s house with their dad. I financially supported a handful of community causes, played a lot of good piano, helped with a terrific children’s program at another church, attended services in three different communities on Christmas Eve, caught up with old friends afterward and visited cancer-battling friends at the U of M hospital with my trusty giant sock monkey, Winston, on Christmas Day. The day culminated in stopping with a new friend for Christmas dinner at Firekeeper’s casino on our way home.

Not exactly Norman Rockwell painting-inspiring stuff, but every moment was constructively accounted for: no part of the time went to waste. That brings me back to what I’ve been thinking about lately, “the American Way.” We might as well complete the phrase as, “the American Way of waste,” as our country is infamous for not just hogging, but wasting the world’s precious resources.

There are many categories of resources I could discuss, but for time and space purposes here, I will focus on water. According to what I read at the Environmental Protection Agency’s website, the average American, who comprises only 5% of the world’s population, uses 182 gallons per day, compared to the 7.5 gallons per day of someone in Senegal. If that does not overwhelm you, it would if you had to walk miles to carry it home.

This crossed my mind on one especially cold morning, as I crossly ran the bathroom sink faucet, waiting for its water to reach the preferred temperature for washing my face. Suddenly, it registered I had wasted nearly two gallons of water in the process, more water than a whole family has access to for the day in some drought-stricken countries. But there was no consequence for my resource-wasting behavior, other than quickly-passing guilt.

Just how much water do American’s use daily? Depending on which source you reference, estimates run up to 100 gallons per person. Holy crap! Those who keep the water running during their shaving or tooth-brushing might use as much as 200 gallons on those activities, alone, over a month’s time.

If you think that’s bad, each load of traditional machine-washed laundry requires an average of 50 gallons of water. The flush of a toilet uses up to seven gallons of water. Dishwashing may take as much as 20 gallons of water. Help! Someone throw me a life preserver. I’m drowning in EPA statistics. Worse yet, it’s a waste of my own making.

My New Year’s resolution is to be less wasteful of everything, regardless if I can “afford” to be wasteful. In a world where many live in a state of constant scarcity, I don’t want to be the “have” except in the sense of “have a heart.” Please consider signing on for the same.

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