The mission:

go a full week, from Saturday morning until the following Saturday, without placing any item into a bin, either a rubbish bin or a recycling bin. Alter the lifestyle for the week to be one where throwing away something isn’t necessary.

This looks like:

  • Eating the entire apple, sans the stem, so I wouldn’t have to throw away the core.
  • Saving the avocado skins and orange peels from picnic lunches to feed to the goats back home.
  • Reusing plastic ziplock baggies with the bulk food bins in markets.
  • Bringing my own bread bag to Il Forno.
  • Not using q-tips, face wipes, napkins in favor of a small hand towel.

I had a few exceptions, the points when my life intersected with others’. For instance, when I was cooking on the weekends at Il Forno, I chucked away plastic wrappers, paper towels, and recycled cardboard boxes and egg cartons. And while cooking dinner for Barbara, Max, and Samuele, I would occasionally have to open a can of tomatoes or chickpeas and then recycle the can. I felt no loss of goal for those, because the overall essence of this week was to be as little-impact as possible. Both on the environment and those around me.

It was far, far easier than I expected to do something like this.

Part of that was because of the family I live with, and their already heightened awareness of waste and attempts to minimize impact. They’ve got a fantastic compost system, reuse ziplock baggies, and bring veggie bags to markets. They have goats and chickens, which, thanks to the generous donations of the animals, saves on having to buy plastic milk cartons and cardboard egg cartons.

Another part of the ease was that I caught myself in a good time: I wasn’t on my period, I wasn’t on the last dregs of shampoo in the bottle, I didn’t need a new tube of toothpaste.

In fact, I fairly forgot about the mission because it was so simple and easy to upkeep.

Guess the only thing that’s next is Enlightenment, I thought, as I sat on the bench in Starling Park on Thursday afternoon, eating the core of my apple.

The sun was bright and shining, the spring breeze fresh, and I had two hours before anyone expected anything of me. I had finished writing for the day, gone for a breezy run, and listened to a guided Sam Harris meditation. I was feeling zen with the earth and one with the world.

I saw a glint of sunlight off the grass from the corner of my eye. I disengaged myself from cross-legged position, and leaned over:

muesli bar wrapper.


I wrapped myself back into crossed legs, and sighed, thinking: if only I weren’t on a no-trash week. I would throw it away. Too bad that I can’t.

And then the non-Ego part of my being zipped back into consciousness and slapped me.

“What the hell!” she shrieked.

“What?” came the reply from the Ego. “That wasn’t us.”

“You think you’re holy, don’t you? Just on top of the world, with your zen and your no-impact declaration and imaging how you’re going to write about the week. Just subtle enough to not be obvious, but bold enough to market your semi-enlightenment.”

The Ego groaned.

“You’re just being dramatic.”

“No, frankly, I’m not,” she replied. “You’re being a hypocrite.”

The Ego did not like that. It bristled.

“I’m not a hypocrite! Have you seen the progress of this week? We haven’t thrown anything away, we weren’t the ones who bought the box of individually wrapped muesli bars, and then chucked it all around the park. We’re saving the earth.”

Non-Ego rolled her eyes.

“You’re missing the point.”

She paused.

“This week is to increase mindfulness. Awareness of use. Awareness of personal impact.”

“I’d say mission accomplished, eh?” smirked the Ego.

“No. That mindfulness is the intention, but not the point. The point is to increase compassion and love, through mindfulness. Compassion and love for those around you, anthropomorphic and non. Throwing away someone else’s rubbish is more mindful, more compassionate, more loving than going a week without throwing anything away.”

The Ego stuck out its bottom lip.

“I disagree.”

“I know,” non-Ego said. “Which is why you’re never helpful.”

Not only has the week made me look into my own issues of self declared holiness, but it has created space for the question:

What’s the point?

What’s the point of recycling? What’s the point of trying to reuse as much as possible? What’s the point of sacrificing a little bit of ease—individually plastic-wrapped cheese slices—for something with less impact?

And what’s the point of it, when it doesn’t feel like others are playing along?

I don’t assume that I was the only person, that entire week, to try and limit my impact on the environment. In fact, almost all of the kiwis I have met are superior at eco-friendly living. Absolutely blow-you-out-of-the-water environmentalists.

But with bigger things, like practicing patience, or self-discipline, or even boredom, it feels like I am alone. And what’s the point of trying to be better, when they won’t?

That is a hefty question. One that needs space.

A big part of that answer deals with control. I can’t control anyone else around me. When I try, which I do often, I feel rejected, dismal, empty.

I can, however, control myself. I can control how I think about the world, the choices that I make, the way that I respond to others. When I feel in control of myself, I feel empowered, weightless, vibrant.

Choosing mindfulness, I feel connection to the earth, to my soul, to the souls of those around me. Again: empowered, weightless, vibrant effects. So this week was about choosing mindfulness—and then examining my own reactions to it.

Another part of the answer was explained by being humbled.

The point is compassion. Love. Respect. Completely internalized notions that are free from the temptation to control what I can’t.

Compassion, love, and respect are every bit a practice as running, playing the piano, or cooking.

Peace and blessings,


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