September Letter from the Editor: When did we become a disposable society?

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Taking a step backwards to borrow a lesson from a simpler society can be the first move in reducing our waste and living a greener, healthier life. I went to Vietnam but you can look just about anywhere. Maybe even to your own childhood to learn how to turn away from being a participating member of our disposable society.

vietnam man fixing fan with souldering iron

Reflections from Vietnam

Earlier last month I was heading out to Sapa, Vietnam, for a multi-day hike through the tribal highlands (check out some photos I included at the bottom). Sapa was a magical experience stepping back slightly to a place where communities live in closer harmony with the land. Simpler rural lives respecting nature but still easily connected through smart phones, internet, and GPS positioning. On my way out there, I stopped in Hanoi, one of my favorite (and most delicious) cities.

As my curiosity often leads me, I wandered the streets stretching the lens of my camera. I captured moments in time of hurried men and women on their way to work. Teenagers zipping around town, and laborers going about their daily lives. I paused in front of a garage to watch an older man who caught my attention. He was soldering broken rungs back on the grate of a table fan. Cigarette in mouth and flame in hand he spent upwards of an hour maneuvering each small piece until the ventilator was in proper condition.

What would have ended in the trash at our homes was painstakingly repaired and given a new life. It got me thinking, when did we (in western culture) become such a disposable society? And to what end? These “trashing” habits are what drives the waste of products, food, and resources, while fueling our insatiable hunger for more.

Our wasteful lifestyle

Some people might wonder what the big deal is to have a wasteful lifestyle. For starters, new products and increased food production raises carbon emissions leading to human-induced climate change. Habitat loss and deforestation results from mining and grazing land. All the while, pollution remains inescapable. But there is something we can do about it. I don’t expect anyone to take out a blow torch to fix their broken iphone (with the latest software update I just might), but we have to take a step back to be more conscious of what we waste, what goes straight in the trash, and the physical energy and resources that end up in the bottom of our bins. 

Acknowledging waste and backpedaling to a more conscious lifestyle is the very thing that we all have to do if we want a healthier and safer tomorrow. Our grandparents certainly led simpler, less wasteful lives, so why can’t we? As always, never hesitate to reach out if you have any questions or would like to learn more. This September issue has two articles on reducing waste if you need some ideas to get started. 

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Safe travels & happy swimming,

Giacomo Abrusci, Executive Director, Editor-in-Chief

See the slideshow below for some great snaps from our hike through Sapa, Vietnam.

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