This week my trash crate contents raise a sensitive issue. After receiving a box of chocolates from a loved one in the mail for Valentine’s Day, I’d like to discuss the difficult task of refusing gifts. I will start by saying that the gift-giver in this case sent the most decadent, delicious chocolates I have ever tasted—dried figs infused with chocolate ganache, then dipped in dark chocolate. It was a thoughtful and loving gesture, especially because figs and chocolate are two of my all-time favorite foods. But it’s difficult for me to fully enjoy them as I look at all the paper and plastic they arrived in. I brought the plastic packing to my work where I know it will be reused at least once, but the plastic business card (what?) that came in the box will go straight to the landfill.
I have made a real effort to explain my No Trash Project to everyone who knows me. Especially around the holidays, I try to express that I do not want to receive any material gifts. Of course it’s natural to want to give to those you love, and package-free gifts are particularly difficult when separated by long distances. Our lives are busy. It’s not realistic to imagine that we can all have a “shared experience gift” with everyone on every special occasion. When I can’t get together with my friends and family, it feels good to send and receive signs that they are in my thoughts and I am in theirs.
Though digital communication may seem in some ways impersonal and too easy to hold real meaning, I have been enjoying the creative possibilities that come with connecting through email, text message, and social media—sending personalized articles, images, and videos to loved ones near and far. I think being able to share information, images, and ideas on a regular basis brings me closer to the people I miss. If I’m lucky enough to see them in person, conversation, good food, and adventures are the best gifts I can imagine giving or receiving.
Meanwhile, I continue to explain that “just this once” or “but it’s such a small amount of garbage” doesn’t work with my project, which every day feels more and more like an identity.