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    June 11, 2008

    Wasting Away Just in Case

    This post is not particularly about direct mail fundraising and targeting Gen Y, but something that has been on my mind about my generation for the past few days. And since it came up on a team call at work today, I took that as a sign it was time to blog about it.

    The other day, I found myself at Costco in front of one of those giant bags of rice, wondering if I should buy one "just in case." (The display told me I was only allowed to purchase one bag, so I guess this has occurred to many people other than me).

    I have always been a "just in case" kind of person, I have "just in case" bottles of water, "just in case" cans of beans and jars of peanut butter, and even "just in case" dog food for my dogs. A few years ago, I even asked my mom (and got) a "just in case" 72 hour emergency evacuation backpack as a holiday present.

    People who know about my "just in case" stash generally laugh it off, but being a DC resident I guess they could forgive me for my weirdness-September 11th, the snipers, Anthrax, officials parading on TV advising us to get duct tape, you could forgive a person for being prepared to either dig in or evacuate on a given notice.

    But back to the rice. Standing in front of it, I was very torn. Should I buy it for myself, or for those who might really need it in these times of soaring food prices, worldwide food shortages, and gas prices that compete with milk for greatest % increase in price over last year. Maybe instead of being a paranoid upper middle class gal, I should buy some rice for a food bank that can really use it for people who need it. Plus, I am likely to never use it, and it would probably end up going to waste.

    Lately, I have been wondering if "waste" is really a word my generation, having grown up with individually packaged everything, can understand. I grew up in a former Soviet Republic, where when we got holes in our socks we sewed them up, where we were constantly reminded by our elders about the hunger they had experienced during WWII and you never left food on your plate in homage to their suffering, where sugar was rationed out by government-issued coupons, and where we even saved newspapers "just in case" the stores happened to run out of toilet paper.

    Now, if I get a hole in my sock, in the trash it goes. It's so much easier to use paper towels and throw them in the trash than have to constantly wash a dirty kitchen towel. And heck, I can't even count how many rotten tomatoes, apples, 2 month-old pasta leftovers I have tossed into the trash after buying too much food and not being able to eat it all.

    Yes, every morning I feel good about doing my part to help the world by turning the water off when I brush my teeth. And I harass everyone at work about recycling. And I've switched to eating my yogurt out of one of those giant tubs instead of individual portions.

    But I think that when push comes to shove, I would have a very difficult time truly not being "wasteful" like students in China who huddle around a light bulb to conserve electricity, people in Israel who have to wait for a water heater powered by a solar panel to heat their shower water before showering, Europeans who have to think about which recycling container the packaging their new iPod came in under threat of being fined for just tossing it in the trash, and these are people who actually have access to electricity, hot water, iPods...

    Waste. I have a feeling we are all going to be hearing a lot about it in the near future, especially food waste. And I have a feeling that my generation really has no idea how "wasteful" we really are and what "conservation" really means. I have a feeling, we are about to get a crash course.

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