Jewish Journal


September 26, 2011



One of the most disturbing moments in any film is at the end of Titanic when Gloria Stuart flings the priceless blue diamond necklace into the water.  I know we’re supposed to be moved by that extravagant, romantic gesture:  Instead - thriftaholic that I am - I am horrified by the reckless wastefulness.  So you can imagine how challenging it is for someone like me to live in our “disposable” culture.  Here are just a few of my pet peeves.

• Throw-away cigarette lighters, which were invented by Satan.
• You are given a tall glass of water in a restaurant before asking for it, and it is surreptitiously refilled all night long – even in drought-prone places like Los Angeles.
• Theater programs are glanced at once, then thrown in the trash. (I always return mine to the usher.)
• You buy five pairs of socks, and come home with five useless plastic hanger/hook gizmos which go right into the garbage – unless you happen to have a hanging-sock closet.
• I’d like to do away with paper plates, paper napkins, and plastic utensils. It’s cheaper, greener, and a lot more inviting to use pretty dishes, flatware, and linens that you pick up at tag sales.  Plus, wine tastes a lot better in a real glass than in a paper or plastic cup – even to my underdeveloped palate.  True, you have to wash everything afterwards, but that’s what spouses, partners, kids, and house guests are for.

Excessive climate control makes me nuts.  I resent having to bring a sweater to the movies in July, and then sweltering in a department store in December.  It’s time to scale back on these not-so-comfortable “comforts.”  I will admit I feel differently if I’m in a stifling heat wave in France.  Europeans think air-conditioning is something only used by “spoiled Americans.”  They even sneered when I asked for some ice in my drink.  Let me tell you something, Mr. Fancypants Euro-man: on a scorching summer day, a lukewarm Campari and soda doesn’t really do the trick!

Hotels can be criminally wasteful.

• Every towel is washed, bleached, and dried after one day’s use.
• The air-conditioning is left on all day, even in empty rooms.
• Empty mini-fridges are running constantly
• A raging waterfall blasts out of the shower.

The worst offenders are in Vegas. I love Steve Wynn, and I love the over-the-top fabulousness of his hotels, but I think his next venture should be an eco-friendly place called The Palace Green.

And then there’s the packaging nightmare.  I bought some low-fat Jarlsberg cheese at Whole Foods that was encased in a non-recyclable plastic container so thick I had to use a hammer and chisel to bust it open.  I prefer the old-fashioned neighborhood deli (if you can find one) where they slice the cheddar onto a piece of waxed paper - which I use again to wrap half-used tomatoes.

No country is as lavish as we are with electric lights.  We just leave them burning burning burning all the time.  In Europe, when you enter a public restroom you turn on the light, and when you leave – guess what? – you turn it off.  Not too difficult.

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