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Americans and The Napkin Dilemma

How to lose weight - trash weight that is.

Would you believe me if I told you that you generate an average of 4.4 pounds of trash per day? I know that’s hard to believe, especially if you’re actively trying to reduce your carbon footprint, but that’s the harsh reality if you’re an American; 4.4 lbs of trash, that’s nearly double of the global average.

For the past four years I have lived internationally, so I was kind of clueless to how bad it has gotten here in the United States. I was in for a rude awakening when I went grocery shopping and found packaged peeled oranges, clementines and bananas. I couldn’t believe it! Mother Nature and science worked their asses off to make this wonderful biodegradable packaging. We basically gave them the middle finger and wrapped this delicious fruit in something that’s not even natural and could leak harmful chemicals into our food.

What a brilliant idea.

Soon after this, I had a friend visit from India and it was really interesting to see her perspective on American culture. It was a role reversal because for the past year I asked questions about Indian culture and trash was always something that came into topic. Trash was all over the streets but families always made an effort to reduce trash by carrying Tupperware everywhere and often using reusable bags.

We were having lunch in San Francisco, and she asked me what’s the deal with napkins. And I thought,

“ What is she talking about? We’re not napkin crazy, we just use them when we eat”.

I looked around the tables and realized what she was referencing. Almost every table has a fat wad of napkins piled in front of their plates. I couldn’t answer her question, I have no idea how we’ve developed that habit besides the fact that society makes us think the more we have the better we are. When you’re having dinner and you ask for a napkin, almost always the waiter or your friend will bring back several sheets that each gets used a little bit or the majority not at all.

We need to break habits like these to help reduce our carbon footprint. It’s the small things that end up adding to 4.4 lbs. It’s the napkins, the extra condiment packets, produce bags, coffee cups, shopping bags, clothing, rotten food that sits in the fridge and the packaging for day to day items.

But this isn’t the one pill heals all solution.

The industries also have a major role in how much trash we generate. After moving back home to America, I’ve realized how easy it is for us to waste. Our societal values pretty much demands that we generate trash with the way industries are designed and how many people are raised. We live in a society that values convenience over conservation. To change that it’s going to require more than just changing our day-to-day habits. We need to influence industries on how they should prepare items. Ultimately we’re the consumer; we consume what we are provided. If companies start to provide products with little to no trash, then that will make a significant impact on reducing the daily amount of trash.

Now I don’t want you feeling helpless after reading this article. It seems like a big daunting task influencing industries, but it’s easier than you think. You can make a change by shopping at stores and buying products from companies that are actively trying to reduce their waste. It also means reusing those bags for shopping in grocery stores and malls. Your purchases influence industries and your actions influence your friends and family.

We’re in this together!

So get out there and lead by action on how you’re helping America reduce that 4.4 lbs per day to the global level, if not less.

What do you do to reduce your waste? What stores would you recommend that are conscience about the amount of waste they generate?

About the Author

Kelsey Eaton

Kelsey is an international leader for social change focused on environmental and education non-profits. She's also a yoga teacher and creates inspiring content focused on positivity and personal development.

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