Saturday, April 28, 2007

Scarcity and Waste

How do you drive your car when the fuel light is on? Personally, I turn off the air conditioning, slow down, coast to red lights and – depending on how far away the nearest refueling station is – even turn off my car when I’m stopped at red lights. What if I drove this way all the time? What if I rinsed out dish detergent bottles or turned ketchup bottles upside down, even if there was another bottle in the cabinet?

It seems that having a sense of scarcity causes us to conserve more than we do when we consider ourselves to be in a state of abundance. When we have plenty of something, we tend to be more careless and wasteful with it. It’s good to keep your gas tank above one quarter full, and it’s good to maintain a well stocked pantry of food and health and beauty items, but can these actions cause us to be wasteful? If I have 5 bottles of shampoo that I paid no more than fifty cents each for, I’m much more likely to be okay with some spilling down the drain or with using more than I need to wash my hair. In truth, though, this is a mistake. A stockpile or a pantry is there so that you don’t need to buy full priced items later, not so that you can use more than you need to. Waste is waste, no matter how much you spent on it and no matter how much of it that you have, but no matter how frugal you are, sometimes it is hard to get your mind around that.

Perhaps it is helpful to consider your goods in a larger context. In a global sense, everything is scarce. Our economy is based on scarcity. Increasingly, we, as a planet, have a scarcity of gasoline and plastics, we have a scarcity of food, a scarcity of clean and healthy water. No matter how easily the water flows from your faucet, no matter how much gas you have in your tank, no matter how much food you have in your freezer, these are still not expendable items. Wasting them is a loss to you and to the world. It’s really a shame.

So next time you come to end of a box or bottle, pretend it’s your last. When you’re on your way to work, pretend you’re almost out of gas. Enjoy the abundance in your life, but remember the scarcity in the world, and be frugal.