Apparently of all the materials we mine, extract, harvest and so on, after six months, less than one percent is still in use or in the product we got it for. Over 99% of what we get from the earth is used that long. I found that statistic from The Story of Stuff (video and annotated script).
These two pages 21 Surprising Statistics That Reveal How Much Stuff We Actually Own and Surprising Stats give even more insane statistics about how much we materially consume.
It feels like we could use an interaction like the scenes in the shows about people who weigh over 600 pounds where they have them look in the mirror, which they never do because they prefer denying seeing themselves, and they break down and cry. Dramatic TV because of the shock to the subject. Most of us could use an honest look in the mirror with our consumption and waste.
Actually, most of us could that look for both our bodies and our waste.
Anyway, when I talk to people about not flying or eating so much fiber-removed or packaged food (or total food for most Americans), many respond by equating less stuff with less happiness or deprivation.
It’s not. Getting rid of unnecessary stuff—or better, in my opinion, avoiding getting it in the first place—forces you to improve your life by your standards if you get rid of the least important stuff. Getting rid of less valuable stuff by your standards means what remains is, on average, more valuable to you.
Getting rid of or not accepting stuff forces you to learn your values and to act on them, which gives you skills to improve your life yet more.
Trying to equate material stuff with emotions, which is where value comes from, doesn’t work. One is material and finite, the other is neither.
If you see less stuff—packaging, food for entertainment instead of sustenance, … anything unnecessary—as making your life worse, I recommend reconsidering your perspective.
On the flip side, if you see less stuff as a chance to improve your life, think of the potential: improving your life by spending less and having more time and space for things you like more.
Can you tell I’ve been learning about our garbage lately? I guess because Earth Day is coming up.
Usually I think of avoiding waste in terms of taking responsibility for my effects on others. I should remember it’s not just about other people but also about improving my life too.
Come to think of it, most of the above applies to burning fossil fuels too.
Learn to make Meaningful Connections
with a simple, effective exercise from my book, Leadership Step by Step.
- Step by step instructions
- Video examples of me and Marshall Goldsmith
- An excerpt from my book