Cultivating Joy: Areas Worth Exploring

I’d like to switch gears a little with this post, and the direction of this blog. I’ve been writing a lot about what’s difficult, but what I’m realizing now is that I’ve left out a large part of the picture. The things that bring joy. So it’s with this idea in mind that I want to begin exploring the areas in my life and in general, that make us happy. It’ll be a little different for everybody, but we all have the capacity to experience joy. I’ll still be focusing on interpersonal and introspective topics about relationships, but I thought I’d throw in some positivity to balance out some of the heavier topics.

In the next few posts, I’m not sure how many yet, I’ll be going over some areas in my life that bring me a sense of ease, peace and joy. I’ll be exploring some of what motivates me and the ways I go about finding joy in the things I do. So let’s jump in with sustainability.

The Joy Of Sustainability

This is a big one for me. I’m not sure why I derive so much joy out of recycling, or using that one plastic cup at work for 2 months straight. But the feeling is a light one. Knowing that I’m doing my part to reduce my footprint and use fewer disposable products makes me happy. Also the feeling I get when I leave the grocery store with only a few containers that are all recyclable is satisfying.

I’d like to go over some of the habits I’ve picked up that are sustainable, my point of view as to why we’re so hung up on our “disposable” world, and how to change our frames of mind about the topic. So let’s talk a little about why we’re so attracted to a disposable lifestyle. Maybe we can get to the root of our filthy habits.

Disposable Lifestyle: Why it’s so Attractive

There’s no doubt that we are attracted to beauty. It’s advertised to us every day. In the ads we watch and read, to the shows we see and the trends celebrities are setting. But when you think of sustainability, do the words “cool” or “sexy” come to mind? They don’t for me. And let’s face it, there is nothing sexy about sitting in a fast food restaurant shoveling a most likely unhealthy meal into your mouth with a plastic spoon. But what if we made that the new sexy?

I’m joking, kinda. As I’m sitting in my room typing this post, next to me on my side table is a spoon rest that I saved from the garbage, with a plastic spoon in it. I use it to stir my tea when I bring a cup up stairs. At first, the sight of the plastic spoon felt trashy. I didn’t like the idea of having something disposable sitting at the ready to be used again. For me, I like the well polished look of a beautifully designed environment. But what changed my opinion about the spoon on my table are two very important people in my life.

Conviction is the New Sexy

I work as a baker at a local bakery. The owner of the bakery is one of the most driven, dedicated and practical people I’ve ever met. She works fifteen hour days and knows all of her regulars names and what’s happening in their lives. And she is also passionate about recycling.

I started working with her when they opened their business about two years ago. One of the things I remember from our first interactions was, that she used a disposable plastic cup for her coffee. This wasn’t so remarkable at first, but what really stuck out was, that she used that cup for about six months. That’s pretty impressive for a disposable cup! This made me think about the ways I use disposables in my life.

The other person is my step mother. She makes and brings her lunch to work with her everyday. And with her lunch, she has been using the same plastic utensils for as long as I can remember her going to work with a lunch. This is impressive, that she can make something “disposable” last so long.

I love sustainability and it brings me a great sense of joy, that’s for sure. But how sustainable am I really? When it comes down to it, am I ready to reuse that plastic cup I purchased a drink in? Does having a piece of “trash” around me make me feel cheap because it doesn’t fit in on the cover of one of my favorite design magazines? The answer to this question used to be a resounding yes. But I’ve come to change my opinion on this matter. Let me tell you what I’ve come up with.

The More Attention We Give to Something the More Special it Becomes

One day, I forgot my water bottle at my house when I went to work. So, I grabbed a plastic cup and in step with the owner of the bakery, I reused that cup. It’s actually still in use, and waiting for me the next time I go in to work. The same is true of the spoon I have on my side table. I can’t remember why I got it, but it’s been here ever since. Waiting to stir my tea.

What’s so strange about these items is, at first they were trash to me. I didn’t like the idea of reusing a piece of garbage. It made me feel cheap, like I was worth less for using them. But the more I used these items, the fonder I grew of them. It seems so strange to me now to think that I’m actually enjoying the plastic spoon that sits on my side table. But there is no denying, that that spoon now brings me joy.

I’m happy to be using something that would have gone into the garbage otherwise and it now feels like it belongs in my surroundings. The same with the plastic cup at work. Knowing that I’m reusing something that still has life left in it brings me joy. It also has my name with a little smiley face next to it, Adam : ). This also brings me joy : ) So my boss’s and step mother’s conviction for recycling has given me a new perspective on what I find to fit in with my image of beauty.

Tips & Hacks for Getting the Most Out of Your Garbage

I’d like to go over some of the habits I’ve picked up in the area of living a more sustainable life. Most of these suggestions aren’t new ones. But maybe they are if you’re still in the frame of mind that single use plastic is garbage. The suggestions below focus on how to get the longest life from the items we use daily, making our habits a little more sustainable and maybe even creating some joy along the way : )

1 .Public Transit & Walking

Due to some early childhood trauma, I have a condition where I dissociate on occasion. It started happening about seven years ago, and since I haven’t been able to drive. So, I walk. I walk or I take public transportation. Luckily for me, I live in a suburb of Boston. So the public transit system is first class. At first, I disliked taking the T, as it’s referred to in Mass. But the more I use it, the more appreciative I am of it.

I also have had to walk a lot of places as well. I used to be pretty sedentary in my former life. Now, I don’t think twice about walking somewhere that’s two miles away. I enjoy the exercise I’m getting and feel good about lessening my carbon footprint. This is a win, win in my book.

What I’ve come to realize is, that even when I’m able to drive again, I think I’ll still be using public transportation and walking a lot of the time. It’s reliable, it’s keeping me in shape and I’m doing my part to keep emissions down. Sure, the convenience of having a car is nice, but maybe we can switch out some of our normal driving routine to public transportation instead. Or carpool with friends and coworkers. Cars are nice to have, but they are not always necessity.

2. Reusing Single Use Items & Replacing Them with More Permanent Solutions

I’ve already written about the cup and spoon I’m currently reusing, but there are also other things we can reuse. For example, I always bring my reusable shopping bags to the store with me. But I also get and use paper grocery bags once every so often to use as trash bags in my room. I like them because they are recyclable and compostable.

The other side to the reusable single use plastics coin is, replacing disposable options with more permanent solutions. One that would help immensely is, switching to a water bottle instead of disposable plastic bottles. The bottle is a one time purchase, most places are happy to fill your bottle and you won’t be creating tons of waste. The same is true of portable coffee mugs. Brew your own or ask your barista to make your morning cup in your mug for you. Other swap outs include, woolen drier balls instead of drier sheets, making your own bandanas and handkerchiefs, if you use them, from old T-shirts. Here’s a link to The Good Trade and an article on making more sustainable swaps if you’re looking for more inspo.

3. Refusing Single Use Items

This one was a new concept for me. I was already concerned with reducing my plastic consumption, but what I was overlooking was, that you can refuse items as well. For example, when I’m out getting an iced tea, I will often times refuse the straw they offer. I don’t use one at home and it’s only when I’m given one that I feel compelled to use them. This is a no brainer now, but it took some time to come to this understanding.

Other items we can refuse are lids for cups if you’re eating in. Only take the napkins you need or use a handkerchief you’ve made yourself. Bring your own containers to the grocery store when buying bulk goods. Carry a backpack or tote with you when you go shopping for non-food items, so you don’t have to use the bag from the shop. Here’s a list of what’s polluting our oceans so you can steer clear of these top items.

4. Gardening & Composting

This is another tasty option to cultivate some joy. Especially if you love fresh food as much as I do. Starting a garden is a great way to cut back on food miles and eat fresher produce. You’ll also bee saving hundreds of dollars on veg. Not to mention how beautiful a vegetable garden is while it’s in full bloom. And if you don’t have a yard, not to worry. There are usually community gardens located in urban areas that allow access to land where you can grow your own. Usually for a small annual fee.

And if you do have the space, composting your kitchen scraps is a great way to recycle food waste. All while building your soil and adding extra nutrients to your harvest. another win for the planet. And if you really want to compost, but don’t have the space, there are companies that collect food scraps like garbage collection, to compost off site.

5. Visit Your Library

Your local library has so many resources, that it’s amazing more people don’t utilize it. You can loan books for sure, but also barrow movies, music, and there’s usually something going on that’s community focused too. Some libraries give tours of their facilities. Scheduling one may yield other hidden secrets that are just waiting for you to discover.

Remember it’s About What Brings You Joy

It seems funny to correlate joy with something as mundane as recycling. But if you enjoy the natural world, then taking care of it should definitely bring a sense of happiness. I know I feel better when my surrounding environment is at its best. So try working some of these sustainable habits into your daily routine. And hopefully, you’ll find a little joy along the way : ) Peace & thanks for reading : )

Image Credits: “joy” by Ganesh K S is licensed under CC BY-NC 2.0.

Author: nolabelsliving

Social worker by day, blogger by night. I have a lot of lived experience which is why I started my blog. I was not given any direction when I started out on my journey, but have been blessed with some amazing support and guidance along the way. Just want to give back a little of what I've received : )

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