An Early Christmas

Most recently, I’ve been feeling a bit aged. Whether it’s because of the comment, “CHRISTINE, you’re a big girl now!,” or because I’ve just reached the end of my first work week, I suppose I can say I have officially reached adulthood: I am now a working adult!

It’s going to be a challenge to adapt packageless to the busyness of working, but here’s a quick update of my first week:

I was able to contact the coordinator for my orientation week and plan out what to bring for our catered lunches, and so, every day I used my corningware, reusable napkin, and utensils. It got me through all my meals and as a plus, was a great conversation starter. I was also so relieved on my part, especially as I saw that all the utensils were plastic and the plates, expanded polystyrene, one unrecyclable culprit.

Bringing my own water bottle was also a huge benefit, as I avoided plastic water bottles: I tend to be as thirsty as a race horse, so I’m glad I didn’t have to resort to using so many bottles.

However, I did slip up a few times, realizing that paper towels, napkins, muffins, and spontaneous frozen yogurt runs can be a culprit when it comes to waste generation. Nevertheless, my handful of trash this week was a reminder that going packageless is a learning experience — I am slowly becoming more accustomed to this lifestyle with small behavioral changes each and every day. Even better, I was super glad I wasn’t close to generating the 4.3 lbs the average American produces daily.

Now the rest of this post is surprisingly, dedicated towards a rather different dilemma I ran into on my first day. While it may not be a problem for the majority, I totally forgot to anticipate one of the perks that come with being a new college-hire at a large corporation:

Freebies.

Sounds harmless right? I beg to differ.

packageless has been a venture focused on food and food packaging waste, but has also opened my eyes to seeing how much STUFF we accumulate, hoard, and eventually place into the waste bin. I witnessed this problem of stuff in college, as there’s no denying that poor college students love the thrill of getting freebies. From job fairs to orientation events, university entities and recruiters alike lure students with grab bags, billions of pens, notebooks, and other free goodies.

When you come to think of it though, how many of those things do we actually use and keep?

I probably use less than 25% of the things I’ve gotten for free at events — most are cheaply produced, and thus end up in my waste bin. And what am I going to do with a free light-up bouncy ball? I’m not too sure.

So here I was, sitting with all my gifts on the first day of work. While I am eternally grateful for the hospitality of my company, a headache arose as my mind registered that I didn’t need anything in this massive pile of ‘corporate swag’. I now have a collection of three wireless mice, three pairs of headsets, bunches of lanyards, another pen to add to my ever growing pen stash, and much, much more.

So what is one to do with all this stuff, and what should I be keeping in mind for the future?

  1. Sharing is caring: Luckily, I went home to show my parents all that I had gleaned on my first day, and realized something — I can find someone else that may make better use of these gifts. Turns out my mom and dad happily took some of my freebies for their own use. Guess my household had a bit of an early Christmas this year, with me trying to be resourceful with all the gifts I had received. Now, does anyone need a wireless Bluetooth keyboard? It’s on me.
  2. Continue to be proactive about your purchases, questioning if you really need something before you buy it, or by going over one of these buying guides.
  3. Ultimately refuse if you don’t need it.

This first week was a wake up call. Especially working at a large commercial corporation, I’m going to have to continually face the fact that we utilize so much stuff every day. Going packageless is one thing, yet I’m learning to think twice about getting and using more stuff, free or not: the more we buy and accumulate, the more packaging that comes with it, and the more trash we produce.

As Art Buchwald stated, “The best things in life aren’t things.”  I encourage for those of who you are reading, please learn to share, be generous, and live lightly. Life is far too wonderful to think about so much stuff, and should be spent experiencing what this beautiful world has to offer.

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