Confronted With My Own Garbage

12 Nov

When I was teaching environmental education back in 2000, one of the exercises that got brought up at every single training I was at, was making your student carry around everything they throw away over the course of a week. The idea being, if they have to carry their trash around they will see first-hand the impact of their choices.

I never used this activity, it always seemed more punitive than educational to me. However, just this evening I was reminded of that activity when I came face to face with my accumulated week’s worth of garbage.

Erica was about to lie down for a nap when she heard someone moving our garbage can outside in the driveway. I walked out with my flashlight only to find out that the someone was a something, as my flashlight illuminated the small bright eyes of a black bear. The bear was engrossed in an elaborate dance with our 10 gallon garbage can, trying to wrest it free from the bungie cords I had used to secure the lid. The bungie never gave out, but the bear did succeed in prying a healthy amount of trash out of the can.

After a few hours the bear wandered off, a bit more ready for its winter hibernation, leaving behind a driveway full of my cast out stuff. Looking out at the scattered trash I thought about how I used to talk with my students about how we just throw things out and don’t think about where they go. I was amazed at what the bear had revealed, at the amount of trash I had produced, and the kinds of things I was throwing away.

As I donned rubber gloves and picked up the mess I was forced to account for my choices over the past week. I spotted stuff that should have been recycled, stuff that should have been composted, stuff that I shouldn’t have bought in the first place.

It was humbling. It was gross. It was a good reminder.

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2 Responses to “Confronted With My Own Garbage”

  1. akahn November 13, 2008 at 8:34 am #

    A bear in Florence!?

  2. Todd Felton November 13, 2008 at 10:00 am #

    Josh –

    This is a great story. Encounters with wildlife in our yards are wonderful reminders that although we think of it as “our house” or “our yards,” they aren’t really.

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