personal waste reduction (but not waist reduction, unfortunately)

You really don’t appreciate what “fixed income” means until you get the bills for the first few months of retirement. That’s when it become painfully obvious you’re blowing bucks on useless crap, and you’d better start ratcheting all purchases back ASAP. For me that was in February, after January’s bills came in. I’ve been driving out wasteful spending now for two months, having cut spending by well over 60%, and I continue to do so in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic. With the pandemic mixed in, I have no choice as a number of items I would purchase without a second thought are in short supply, usually due to hoarding in the pandemic. I’m either substituting something that’s less expensive for those items, or just doing without.

Getting Rid of Sodas

An example of both doing without and substitution is stopping the consumption of soft drinks, a.k.a. sodas. I grew up in Atlanta and was weened on Coca-Cola, starting with the little 6 ounce bottles from vending machines. When I finished my parents would help me put the empty in the rack next to the machine, with all the other empties. That was back in the distant days when Coca-Cola sold every ounce in glass bottles. Over the ensuing decades Coca-Cola first switched to aluminum cans, and then to plastic bottles. With plastic the soft drink industry (as defined by Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestle, and Unilever) now has such a huge single-use plastic footprint that can cover “83 football pitches (fields) every day,” according to a report from The Guardian ( ). I have certainly contributed to that mess over the decades with my consumption of diet sodas. To reduce that impact, as well as soda consumption in general, we switched to aluminum cans. Starting in late February, we went cold turkey by not buying any diet soda from anyone.

That’s when I started to making two quart pitchers of brewed tea just about every day. I have a nice tea kettle on the stove which can heat a quart or two of water to brewing temperature in less than 10 minutes. Pour that hot water into a two quart pitcher with tea bags, let the whole thing stand for a few minutes, remove the bags and add more water up to the two quart mark, and I’ve got two quarts of great tasting tea. We experimented at first with various flavors and brands; for now we’ve settled on Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime Herbal Tea (Caffeine Free). It takes 10 packets to make two quarts, and I brew it for about five to ten minutes to make it as strong as possible. I purchase my Sleepytime tea through Amazon, where they sell a pack of six boxes, with fourty tea bags in each box, for about $20. It take 10 tea bags for a two quart pitcher, so that means four pitchers full per box, or 24 pitchers full for the entire pack. A little math gives me 80 cents/pitcher, which is quite the bargain compared to a two litre bottle of soda, which these days costs $2 for a two litre bottle (and yes, for the anal, 1 litre is equal to 1.06 quarts, so while not exact it’s close enough).

Not only is my brewed tea cheaper, not only do I not have 24 plastic bottles to dispose of, but the brewed tea is a heck of a lot healthier than anything in that witches brew called diet soda. Sleeptime tastes wonderful, with just a bit of natural sweetness, and when it’s chilled and I drink it on a hot day, it’s wonderfully refreshing. In case I haven’t made it perfectly clear, we are no longer buying any sodas of any type; we’ve gone cold turkey. And depending on our moods we can switch to other teas equally cost effective and healthy. Two people out of a world population of billions won’t make a difference in the total amount of plastic waste, but you have to start somewhere.

Bottled Water Rant

And that leads to bottled water. I’m concerned about bottled water not only because of the plastic waste but because bottled water plants like to set up shop in areas that can ill afford to have their ground water pulled out and shipped elsewhere. For decades (at least since the mid-1980s when I first moved to Orlando) Florida has faced the loss of aquifer water, which the state depends on, due to over pumping. It’s resulted in sink holes in the middle of the state and the intrusion of seawater into the coastal aquifer, especially down in south Florida (Miami-Dade). And Nestle is the worst of the bunch.

In an NPR story from late last year ( ), Nestle was hammered because they wanted to build a water bottling plant in North Florida near Ginnie Springs to draw more than a million gallons of water each day from the springs. While that sounds bad, there’s already a water bottler in the area, Seven Springs, that’s been drawing 1.2 million gallons a day for the past 20 years. So it’s not as if what Nestle wants is unprecedented. It’s still very bad, and considering the use of single use plastic in all Nestle (and other water bottlers) products, it’s morally bankrupt. And yet as citizens we all go and buy our water bottled at our local grocers or other convenience stop and toss the empty without another thought.

There is no reason to sell bottled water the way we sell it now. And there is no reason to let these companies come in and draw it out at the levels they do except for the money. If I were governor of Florida I’d push to severely restrict such practices, if not outlaw it within the state of Florida. But hell would freeze over before I could successfully be elected governor of Florida. But I have certainly digressed…

Back to the Original Posting Thread

The bottom line here is how much waste (monetary and environmental) is built into our purchasing choices by even the most insignificant choices, as illustrated by our former purchasing of canned and bottled sodas. We really don’t need any of that, as the water out of the tap, or the tea brewed in our kitchen, is more than fine for daily hydration. Just as I no longer burn gasoline they way I did when I worked and commuted, I have no reason at all to consume a useless product with major environmental harm that contributes absolutely nothing to our quality of life.

One thought on “personal waste reduction (but not waist reduction, unfortunately)

  1. We have the same problem with bottled water (and Nestle) here in BC. Fools! You can get water out of the tap for free that’s just as good. Better, if you consider the lower environmental effects. If you don’t like the quality of the city/well supplied water filtration can solve that problem. We have a ceramic filter tap for drinking/cooking use and it takes out almost everything except a certain amount of dissolved minerals. I found switching to water for my last drinks of the day eased my reflux as well.
    Yes that fixed income thing is a bugger, isn’t it? Especially the part where prices keep going up anyway. I just had to buy a new battery for the vehicle, which is the kind of unexpected expense you have to plan for – but can’t.
    I see the epidemic as a great opportunity for everyone to rethink how they live, but I know in my heart they’ll all go back to the old ways the minute they can. So much for clearing skies and cleaning waterways.


Comments are closed.