How You Can Cope in a Throwaway Society

“IN NATURE . . . there is no such thing as waste.” That, according to Time magazine, is the opinion of one respected expert on recycling. He was referring to the remarkable way in which dead or discarded material from one part of an ecosystem is always used to benefit other parts. The same expert reportedly feels that “humanity can emulate nature’s garbage-free ways, but it will require innovative technology and a big change in attitude.”

Most of us can probably do little to develop some innovative new technology. But our attitude is something we can control! And the right attitude toward certain basic principles of good conduct  will help us to cope better with the problems of living in a throwaway society.

Avoid Being Wasteful

Every fifth person on earth goes to bed at night hungry. Knowing this should impress upon us the need to appreciate food and to avoid wasting it. A couple who returned to Europe after 28 years of missionary work in Africa said that one of their biggest challenges in getting used to their home country again was coping with “the wasteful way people throw away food.”

Wise parents teach their children to put only as much on their plates as they can eat. Doing so reduces garbage and waste. It is better to take small portions at first before asking for seconds. Of course, parents must set the example. Jesus set the example for all of us by showing genuine appreciation for God’s provisions, both physical and spiritual. The Bible indicates that Jesus carefully avoided wasting food​—even though it had been miraculously produced in abundance!​—John 6:11-13.

The principle of avoiding wastefulness may also be applied to clothes, furniture, and machines. Keeping things in good repair and using them as long as it is practical to do so shows that we appreciate what we have. We need not fall victim to the advertising world’s attempts to make us feel dissatisfied with what we have by offering us something bigger, better, faster, stronger. Of course, we may have every right to replace possessions that are still usable. But before doing so, we might want to evaluate our attitudes and motives.

Avoid Greediness

As they traveled through the wilderness on their way to the Promised Land, the Israelites  were given food in the form of manna. According to the Bible report, the manna was supplied in sufficient quantity. The Israelites were warned, however, not to become greedy; they were to take only enough for their immediate needs. Those who disobeyed discovered that greed did not pay, for the leftover manna bred worms and began to stink. (Exodus 16:16-20) In no uncertain terms, the Bible strongly and repeatedly condemns greediness.​—Ephesians 5:3.

The Bible is not alone in making this point. Seneca, for example, a first-century Roman philosopher and playwright, recognized that a greedy person is never satisfied. He observed: “For greed all nature is too little.” Erich Fromm, a philosopher of the 20th century, reached a similar conclusion: “Greed is a bottomless pit which exhausts the person in an endless effort to satisfy the need without ever reaching satisfaction.” Beyond avoiding greed and wastefulness, there are some positive steps that many have chosen to take.

Learn to Share

Before discarding items still in good condition, consider who might be happy to have them. For example, when children grow out of their clothes, could other children still get much use out of them as hand-me-downs? Could you do something similar with other possessions that still have value but that you no longer use as much as you once did? Share the joy an item gave you by passing it on to another. American author and humorist Mark Twain once wrote: “To get the full value of joy you must have somebody to divide it with.” Perhaps you have experienced that joy shared is joy doubled. Besides, by sharing in this way, you help counteract the negative effects of a throwaway mentality.

Sharing with others is a virtue that the Bible highly recommends. (Luke 3:11; Romans 12:13; 2 Corinthians 8:14, 15; 1 Timothy 6:18) Indeed, how much better the world would be if all in it were willing to share!

Be Content With Necessities

A contented person is a happy person. This is a universal truth. A Greek proverb says: “Nothing will content him who is not content with a little.” And the Japanese say: “He is poor who does not feel content.” The Bible also speaks in glowing terms of contentment. We read: “To be sure, it is a means of great gain, this godly devotion along with self-sufficiency. For we have brought nothing into the world, and neither can we carry anything out. So, having sustenance and covering, we shall be content with these things.”​—1 Timothy 6:6-8; Philippians 4:11.

Of course, being content with what we have may require “a big change in attitude.” A young woman named Susanne recently realized that she needed to make such a change. She said: “I made up my mind that since I couldn’t have everything I wanted, I must learn to want what I have. Now I am happy and content.”

Contentment really does lead to happiness. Professor Argir Hadjihristev, a Bulgarian expert on the subject of aging, says: “The basic evil is, first of all, not being content with the little that a person has.” Referring to the health benefits of being content, he adds: “The person who doesn’t try to live better than his neighbor, who doesn’t always try to have more and more, lives without competition and therefore without stress. And that is good for the nerves.”

Yes, a throwaway society can never bring about true happiness. Even less so a throwaway mentality! It appears that more and more people are getting the message. Are you?

[Picture on page 9]

Children need to learn how to avoid wasting food

[Picture on page 9]

Jesus set a fine example in avoiding wastefulness

[Picture on page 10]

Why not give others what you no longer use instead of throwing it away?