Daniel and Amanda’s Weblog

February 16, 2008

Why we dumpster dive and recycle, Part 2

So now for the why. Here’s a one sentence answer. We recycle and dumpster dive because we care about God’s earth and its inhabitants, and we believe that consuming and wasting too much of the planet’s resources is destroying both.

As I’m starting to write out my thoughts on this, I’m realizing that recycling and dumpster diving are both similar and different. An obvious similarity is that both reduce waste. Whether you’re pulling something out of the trash or refusing to throw something in, you’re reducing waste either way. The difference? Recycling and dumpster diving are attacking different parts of overconsumption. Again, I highly recommend that you watch Annie Leonard’s video on “The Story of Stuff,” because she explains the life of products much better than I can! I’m not even going to try explaining all the ins and outs of that process, but here’s a small part of it.

In the making of a product, there is consumption of resources to make that product, and there is what happens to that product after its usable life. (Of course, there’s more to it, like the assembly and marketing of the products and all the people involved in the whole process of production, but I won’t try to tackle everything at once.) For resources used to make a product, we use both limited (oil, metals) and renewable (trees) resources. Then, when we’re done with it, we dispose of our wastes in several ways, some more harmful than others. Recycling simply takes what can be reused and puts it back into the process of production, reducing waste and the materials needed to make new items. Dumpster diving not only reduces waste, but also demands less consumption of the earth’s resources.

To give an example, when I redeemed the coffee pot from the dumpster last week, I no longer need to buy a new one for my office. The resources required to make that new product I needed can be saved. I didn’t only free up a square foot in the landfill that coffee pot would have filled, but I freed up resources that would’ve been used to make the new coffee pot I’d have had to buy at the store. It seems totally insignificant when you think of one item, but if a thousand coffee pots were redeemed along with thousands upon thousands of other still-good products thrown away every day…the resources needed to make those, the energy used to manufacture them, and the space they’d have otherwise filled in the landfill all add up.

Recycling. We recycle because it’s an easy and fun way to show concern for the environment. When God gave humankind “dominion” over the earth, I don’t think He meant for us to trash His creation. Dr. Matthew Sleeth, in his book “Serve God, Save the Planet,” parallels that to leaving your kiddo in a daycare and coming back later that day to find your kid beaten and bruised. He also points out that, when we loan someone our automobile, we expect it to come back in the same shape. Shouldn’t we care about God’s beautiful creation at least as much as we care about our cars? It’s easy to find information about landfills filling up, animals being killed from our trash, toxic wastes being released into the atmosphere from incinerators, etc. Aside from our devouring of earth’s resources, we’re causing tons of problems just with our waste alone. In 1960 the average person produced around 2.7 pounds of waste per day. I’ve seen various numbers, but all of them report over twice that currently (some say three times that amount)…we’ve more than doubled our waste production in the last 50 years. Recycling reduces waste, save energy, reduces water pollution, creates jobs, protects wildlife, prevents more contamination of the atmosphere, and creates more demand for recycled products, increasing the effect (source).

Amanda and I went to the Dominican Republic a couple of years ago with a church. We toured two entire “cities” of hundreds upon hundreds of homes built into massive landfills. Before that trip, I’d never given recycling a thought. But I saw the effects of a civilization’s waste, and as I’m finding to always be true, the one’s who were paying for it were the poorest of the poor. It is the same here in the U.S., and will be the same in the future for any country or civilization. It’s the poor family whose children are dying from the toxic fumes of the incinerator, the poor who are drinking water contaminated by the landfill next door, the poor who are forced to find whatever scraps they can and live in the landfill. After I returned, it only took a little convincing by my close friends to let me see how recycling relates to the Christian call to “love your neighbor.”

It’s also fun. We’re amazed at how much stuff can be recycled. It’s almost a game looking for the little recycle symbol (I won the game last night, heheh). I look forward to teaching my children how recycling their stuff is respecting the earth which our God created. We’re showing Him that we think His creation is wonderful, and that we care about it. And, like Dr. Sleeth, I want to involve them in the process…peeling off labels, rinsing out cans, biking together down to the recycle center with a few bags of aluminum cans, etc. Don’t get too excited, mom, we’re not planning just yet. :)

So there are some reasons why recycling is important to us. If everyone would simply recycle, our impact on this gorgeous place would be so much lighter…but it’s not enough. Coming up next are the reasons why we dumpster dive, and one of those reasons will (hopefully) point out why something more than recycling is needed.



  1. Hi, my name is Dustin and I work with a Christian environmental organization called Christians in Conservation: A Rocha USA. I noticed that you mentioned Dr. Matthew Sleeth in your post, and I thought that you might like to know that our organization sponsors him as a “creation care evangelist.” We would love for you to check us out at our website, en.arocha.org/usa. You might also be interested the website for Dr. Sleeth’s book “Serve God, Save the Planet,” which can be found at http://www.servegodsavetheplanet.org.

    Comment by dustin f — February 17, 2008 @ 5:55 pm | Reply

  2. […] dive, dumpster divers, dumpster diving, God, love, nashville, recycle, recycling, waste In Part 2, I discussed the reasons why we recycle. This post will focus more on reasons why we dumpster dive. […]

    Pingback by Why we dumpster dive and recycle, Part 3 « Daniel and Amanda’s Weblog — February 18, 2008 @ 9:56 pm | Reply

  3. Any freegan lifestyle people in the Dayton Ohio area?

    Comment by connie — February 27, 2008 @ 8:19 pm | Reply

  4. […] part 2 of his 3-part series of blog posts explaining why two professionals would take part in such an unusual lifetyle, Daniel sums it up […]

    Pingback by Meet the Burts: Unlikely Dumpster Divers : Sustainablog — March 6, 2008 @ 10:46 pm | Reply

  5. Connie,
    I am in Dayton and need a dumpster diving partner. Email me at bganow@yahoo.com!

    Comment by Bridget — March 26, 2008 @ 10:58 am | Reply

  6. Hello Connie!
    Was glad to read your article. It always makes me happy to hear about others living this way. I did have one qualm though. You said of having dumpstered a new coffee pot: “The resources required to make that new product I needed can be saved. I didn’t only free up a square foot in the landfill that coffee pot would have filled, but I freed up resources that would’ve been used to make the new coffee pot I’d have had to buy at the store.” And I would like to humbly point out that the economic system does not work this way. The new coffee pot has already been made and is sitting at the store. If thousands, millions of people stopped buying coffee pots, and the coffee pot companies finally gave up on trying to produce and market something they can make a profit from, THEN and only then, would your find have had something to do with freeing up space in the landfill because the tragedy is that the coffee pots are already made, and companies–of coffee pots and beyond–will continue producing heaps of things that will end up in the trash. I am not saying this to make you feel bad, I think it’s fantastic that you are living in this way and consuming less and respecting the beautiful earth that god has given us (and I firmly believe that we all should live as responsibly as we can), but simply not buying is not solving the problem that the entire machinery of our culture is based on over consumption. In many of the food industries, the government subsidies keep a few consumers buying less from lowering production numbers (for example about twenty years ago, for all I know it’s still happening now–the government in, I believe it was France, paid farmers to pour out obscene amounts of milk to keep prices stable).

    Comment by click clack gorilla — March 4, 2009 @ 2:03 pm | Reply

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