The War on Waste from an Eco Worrier

At the weekend, a post-menopausal friend suddenly dived, mid-conversation, into her handbag, exclaiming, “I’ve got something for you!”

How lovely, I thought. A girlfriend gift for no reason! I wondered what it might be. A tube of hand cream? Bag of salted caramel somethings? Picture of Donny Osmond when his teeth were young?

I mentioned that my friend had journeyed through Menopause and come out of that long tunnel into the brilliant daylight of the place we shall call Apres Fecundity because it’s relevant.

Because what she gave me was her last tampon.

“I just couldn’t throw it away,” she said, “I can’t bear waste.”

It was not Donny Osmond, or salted caramel things; it was not hand cream. It was a non-applicator tampon and here’s the thing… I wasn’t disappointed!

I hate waste too. And I think it’s an Executive Youth thing.

When I flew the parental nest and had to start doing my own shopping (admittedly on a credit card paid by my dad) I’m ashamed to say that I was a spendthrift. I bought so much stuff and not all of it was from Oddbins as he’d have you believe.

Quite a lot of it was expensive make up. Obviously, now I’m a little older, I realise that expensive make-up – in fact, any make up (mascara excepted) –  is entirely unnecessary for young people. The natural glow you get when light bounces of unlined skin is your USP.

I, however, had absorbed and internalised all those dreadful messages from the trillions of women’s magazines I was also spending my non-earned cash on.

As a consequence, where there should have been important books from my reading lists and piles of handwritten notes drenched in sweat and tears, there were hillocks of cosmetics.

My wardrobe was home to the European fabric mountain and I still looked dishevelled (but not in a cool way) or thrown together (but not in a LFW way) because I had yet to work out that a woman dresses for her own body, not Elle Mcpherson’s (Elle Mcpherson is 6’ tall. I am 5’3” on a good day with a following wind) and that you could buy everything there is in Joseph or Whistles or anywhere else you shouldn’t be able to afford to shop at 22 but it still won’t make you look like her.

As for the bathroom. I had a thing for toothpaste. I tried every toothpaste in existence and this meant that I never seemed to actually get to the end of any one tube. The area around the basin became a sort of toothpaste-tube graveyard where bloated, abandoned cadavers lay in eternal discomfort.

Not for me the frugal trick of rolling the tube up to get every last squeeze out. No, no, that was something my hard working, consumption-conscious father would do!

I bought a house and settled down. There was no recycling collection back then. I cheerfully threw glass bottles in the kitchen bin and thought nothing of emptying the out-of-date contents of the fridge into black refuse sacks…

My dad was so appalled at my profligacy that he took a black marker pen to everything in the parental fridge to obscure the Best Before dates before I could spot and reject them.

That was who I was. 

And time passed. And now, I am practically my dad. I have become concerned, guilty even, about excessive waste.

I have a cupboard full of nearly-but-not-quite empty bottles of suncream and a drawer full of elastic bands, the clips from loaves of bread and other things that might (OMG, can’t believe I’m going to say this) COME IN HANDY.

Nothing gets thrown out of the fridge unless it has achieved an A* in decomposition or bacterial growth.

I go round the house switching lights off after my easy-come, easy-go children (God knows where they got that approach from) and swearing under my breath.

I’m not at the stage where I want to make macrame dog leads from gift ribbon, but I am at the point where a friend can give me her symbolic last tampon and it can make me warm on the inside. (Actually, literally.)

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