Please Don’t Throw Old Socks In The Trash
And other tips to save time, money, resources, and planets worth saving.
Sock it to me?
Use your old socks in place of paper towels. Bleach them, sterilize them, and re-use them. A ton of carbon has already been spent to create them; and why not save some trees (and your money) instead of conforming to bad societal habits?
I don’t know how many hundreds of dollars I have saved since I stopped buying paper towels more than fifteen years ago. You can do the same. I find that old, cotton athletic socks, especially, are absorbent, sized right, and handy to dispense, right out of my cut off milk jug dispenser under the counter.
If you are not a holey sock fan, use old t-shirts, sheets, and shabby towels. You can still make all of these things “disposable” if you wish, after their wear has proven your goodness.
Human psychology and waste
When the Covid-19 lockdowns began there were rushes and shortages in stores. Most famously, and hysterically, were the runs on toilet tissue and paper towels. Why, my partner and I kept asking ourselves, do people think they need toilet paper — more than anything else — to survive a deadly plague? There are old phone books, catalogs, tons of junk mail, or even leaves.
It was a joke that actually turns out to be kind of cruel.
The answer, from a psychological perspective is two-fold. We rush to buy to beat the shortage because we need to feel in control of “doing something.” We need a sense of control when an outlook is bleak. Second, we do what everyone does because it’s the habit, the norm, the conformity, and the “team” spirit for our particular tribe.
Think outside the SOX
The climate crisis is a slower emergency than a pandemic, but we still have to regard it as real.
To think outside the box — or mountains of plastic wrap around our ubiquitous paper cylinders in this case — we need to look at all of our destructive habits differently.
Let us arm ourselves with some facts.
Even while the whole west was seemingly on fire in the summer of 2020, more than 50,000 other trees were harvested to make your paper towels. For every ton of paper towels that is made, more than 20,000 gallons of water are consumed. After one use, paper towels are tossed, destined usually, for the landfill. As they decompose, they emit methane gas.
If you are also tossing your old fabric belongings, too, then you are using up even more trees, water, packaging, pollution and so on.
It makes perfect sense, then to do the right thing and reduce consumption of any product that is redundant as a matter of our brainwashing to conform. All marketing at present urges more consumption but our demand is what perpetuates that model.
The answer is so simple that it eludes most of us: Stop wasting stuff.
Capitalism and your old socks
Many people are very quick to point out how giant marketing efforts pass the responsibility of our polluting habits back on us. And, it’s true. As long as someone as powerful as a soft drink company can scold us into recycling while they continue to profit by placing plastic first in human hands, and then into choking turtles and albatross chicks, the problem continues.
A similar thing happens with our greenwashed brains wiping up our messes with paper products. All the advertising is designed not to save the planet, but to get you feel good about their green hype, and to buy.
Why are you buying it?
But what I am advocating for is not that we reduce public pressure on corporations and their fancy footwork to avoid responsibility. Quite the contrary. The more that everyone has awareness of the true costs of clean up, the more everyone, from an individual with a big toe blow out in a sock, to the powerful chair of a giant industry, can fix things.
There are thousands upon thousands of ways that we can conserve, save trees, save habitats and save ourselves. Each choice you make is a statement about your values.
Freedom before nagging and scolding
A lot of people, due to our psychological settings, again, do not want to come across as Sunday socks hole-lier than thou. But you don’t have to become a scold to feel good about your choices.
When I use canvas to shop, buy second hand (every article of clothing you have ever worn once is “used” after all), refuse to idle my car in parking lots, or refuse bottled water, I don’t feel smug or superior. If anything, I feel sad that I am too shy to let others around me in on my secret savings plans and their unseen costs spent on a degraded world.
I never mention it, but maybe you are confident enough that you could.
As to the put downs about virtue signaling, I assure you, not one single person I know outside our home, knows that I use old rags — sometimes sterilized socks — instead of paper towels. All they know is that I show up to potlucks with cloth napkins and real flatware for all because I go for classiness over trashiness.
Or they know that I prefer food outlets that do the same.
You don’t have to talk up your better choices, you need only to do them to feel like you are impacting the world in a positive way.
The next coming plague, fires, and floods
Covid 19 was a disaster made by humans through our bad habits of deforestation, animal consumption, global distribution,inequality, and simple carelessness.
We don’t help ourselves by blaming bats, or Chinese people, or secret nefarious labs.
We only help ourselves when we help the biosphere, which begins by just nudging little habits one carbon molecule at a time.
Take power and responsibility for not just food, but all the trappings of our destructive habits that lead to zoonotic illness, pollution, poor nutrition, and all that smoke in the air.
For the next giant plague or disaster arm yourself with evidence, scientific data, the collaborative benefit of millions of people worldwide determined to do better.
And if your sock gets a hole in it, thank the gods that be for one more tool to help you waste less, and live more.