Many of the people who have heard of my endeavor have immediately gone to a place of seeking contradiction or hypocrisy or pointing out some way that I am bending the rules or being dishonest. I'm fascinated by this element of human psychology.
I also wish I knew the remedy for people like this, people who react to someone else’s art with their own sense of negativity. My friend has a word for people like this - "negasaurus".
The reality is that I created the project and I set the rules. I set up the rules so I could have an experience and learn from it. The point of the project is not to preach anything to anyone or prove anything to anyone or make vast sweeping political statements about what is right and wrong. The point of the experience is to have an experience, to treat it like any hypothesis, to start with one pre-conceived idea or notion of the way things are, to go out to challenge that sensibility and to grow through the process. The key, in my mind, is not what the rules are but how well I stick to them. My true test of integrity is my own honesty with myself, my own discipline when no one else is watching. That is what has made this a spiritual experience, like most of my life.
So, here are the rules. They are simple. There are really only three of them -
- Save all trash the I create first hand in my personal life – packaging of any kind, junk mail, to-go containers, electronics packaging, wax from melted candles, dental floss, etc.
- Save all recyclable products that I create first hand in my personal life – glass, plastic, aluminum, all of it
- Compost all organic matter. Every single food scrap gets turned back into fertilizer to feed the earth
The tricky part is in how the rules are applied. Here are
some scenarios to give you a sense of the way I interpret the rules I’ve made
- As the rules suggest, I keep everything I generate first hand in my personal life. I don’t keep all of the trash I generate at work for work specific purposes. It would be far too vast. But, trash that I create for personal use at work does have to be kept. For example, if I go out for lunch and get a burrito during work, I have to keep the aluminum foil that wraps the burrito. If I get a bag of chips, I have to keep the bag. If I get a drink, I have to keep the bottle or can. However, if our company orders boxes of food from our organic wholesale distributor, I don’t take the empty boxes after the chefs empty them.
- If I go out of town, I have to bring everything back with me. I went to Hawaii for 2 weeks during February of 07. I brought home roughly 15 lbs of trash with me in my suitcase.
- If I go out to eat and there is a white piece of paper covering the table instead of a linen, I take that piece of paper home with me. If I order French fries and they are served on top of a piece of paper I take that piece of paper home with me.
- I keep dental floss. I keep condoms.
- I don’t keep toilet paper, but I keep the toilet paper rolls so I know how much I’ve used in a year.
- If I go backpacking for a week and take a ridiculous amount of packaged food with me, it all comes home with me at the end.
- Virtually every time there is a judgment call to be made, moments in question where I have to decide if I keep it or leave it behind, I keep it. Seriously. I have been diligent, disciplined, committed, and determined to stick to the spirit of this challenge. It’s been an amazing meditation.