Been thinking about wastefulness lately and what it is that really makes something wasteful. There is no doubt that where you come from makes a big difference to what you would judge as wasteful, and it is very much easier to see and judge the wastefulness of others rather than our own. And of course there are degrees of wastefulness.


One of the ways we seem to judge wastefulness is by making comparisons, such as how the cost of security upgrades at Nkandla could have provided housing for many homeless. I don’t know that this is a very useful way of judging wastefulness, because these kind of comparisons are true of almost every purchase. If I had not spent money on the meal out, I might have provided a few tickets for The Haven shelter. If I had not bought these beautiful proteas, I might have bought some sensible and worthy thing instead.


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This is one of the criteria of wastefulness then; is it necessary? I doubt if anyone would accuse you of wastefulness if you were buying dull and worthy things like cleaning agents, say. But when there is something frivolous and unnecessary about things, we get into judgements about wastefulness. Again I think this is a difficult thing to judge, because we could argue away all sorts of life’s pleasures and riches by judging them to be unnecessary.


We could get into some seriously depressing discussion about how we have wasted the resources of the earth and the dire consequences of such waste. We could talk about the wasting of lives because of substance abuse. We could bemoan the good food that lands up in landfills. Let’s face it, we have seriously wasted many precious things because of greed and dodgy motivations.


So how do we avoid waste and what criteria do we use to keep us on track?


A very long time ago and for a very short time, I joined the Girl Guides. I remember doing my Thrift Badge and being surprised that one of the things we were encouraged to do in order to be thrifty was to polish our shoes. The idea behind this was that if you took care of things, they would last longer and therefore you would not be wastefully getting through lots of pairs of shoes. I think this is a good principle on which to build an antidote to waste. Care of people, care of resources, care of time and energy, should surely help.


I also like to believe that giving pleasure and being generous to others is antithetical to waste. So, my bunch of proteas gives me, and anyone who visits me, so much pleasure that they surely can’t be judged as a wasteful expense. Before I get caught out in some tricky arguments here (Nkandla probably gives pleasure to quite a few people??) I shall end this post with a question to you. What do you judge to be wasteful and how do you act against it?

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