5: Managing Household Waste


This chapter investigates how eco-conscious households manage the disposal of household waste, including trash, recycling, composting, diapers, and toilet waste. These eco-conscious households were almost universally concerned with reducing their consumption, and for many, the waste generated by their lifestyles and practices serves as an uncomfortable reminder of their shortcomings in the sustainability realm. For some households, practices that prevented waste from going to a landfill, such as composting and recycling, are sufficient to alleviate the guilt associated with waste-generating consumption. Other households attempt to purchase items with as little packaging as possible because recycling and composting are not enough for them to feel absolved. In this sample of households, the topic of packaging elicited powerful and unexpected reactions, while practices that involve allowing organic matter to decompose in the backyard or leaving urine in a toilet bowl unflushed elicited few negative reactions. The work involved in consumption has been described as the “other side of the paycheck.” For these eco-conscious households, practices involving the disposal of household waste are the other side of the other side of the paycheck—the final phase of the consumption they wish they could avoid.

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