Does Your Stuff Make You Happy or Does It Become Waste?

Baby Blanket

“A raggedy blanket, a tattered teddy bear, the dog eared appearance of our childhood possessions is a testament to how dearly we hold our sense of ownership.  Humans are materialistic by nature, but we have an odd relationship with the things we own.  Possessions enrich our lives but they also come at a cost, both environmentally and psychologically”.

This is quoted from an Special Report in New Scientist titled The Meaning Of Stuff.  You can subscribe at  Its an amazing magazine to stay informed and get a quick fix for current science studies.

The article covers “Our Urge To Accumulate Has Deep Evolutionary Roots”, by Allison George, “Creature Comforts”, by Graham Lawton, “The Bare Necessities”, by Geoffrey Miller, “My Precious”, by Michael Bond, “Possessed by Possessions”, by Sally Adee, and “Things To Come”, by Chris Baraniuk.


Food Waste Makes Rats

This past week has been “Rat Week”.  Our Coop’s garbage cans have been chewed through by rats.  In addition, I came upon one of our members doing his garbage turn and he was white with fear!  Household garbage had been wrongly discarded into the paper recycling can with no lids and it attracted numerous rats.  As the bags were pulled out, the rats came with them.  The few rats that didn’t ride the escape train were trapped in the can and squealed with the intensity of an animal the size of a large pig.

I stupidly googled “Largest NYC Rat” and screamed as the image from The Daily News article about a Marcy Housing White Rat Pitchforked by the Super, came up on the screen.  I seem to be irrationally afraid of rats.  Extreme Caution Needed if you click this link!

Further research uncovered The NYC Garbage Project consisting of 14 student journalists who report on NY garbage related issues.  Paraphrasing from one of their articles: Rat teeth are as strong as steel. They are notorious gnawers with a  particular attraction to wires. In his book “Rats,” Robert Sullivan says that rats cause up to 25 percent of all unsolved fire cases, 26 percent of electric-cable breaks, and 18 percent of phone cable disruptions.

The 30 million estimated rats in New York City thrive on 12,ooo tons of garbage thrown away every day.

The city relies on a multi-pronged effort to engage in this war on rats. Vacant lots are hand-inspected, garbage violations are ticketed, people are educated—and then there is extermination, which is the least effective method since rats are difficult to poison or trap and are such prolific breeders that exterminators cannot keep up. When extermination begins, rats accelerate their breeding. A single pair of rats can produce 15,000 offspring in a year and they breed until they have maxed out their food supply.  I can’t even think of how to calculate the numbers on that much garbage, that many rats and 8.5 million undereducated, multi cultural, garbage producing, neighbors with numbers growing.  One day on my job,  I came upon a Chinese factory worker feeding a factory rat that he was raising to eat.  I am not making this up!

Rats fear new things placed in their environment, so they avoid traps. Poisoning is the most effective way of killing them but rats can detect poison in as small a quantity as two parts per million.

The only effective way to get rid of rats is to get rid of garbage. If garbage were disposed of properly rats would run out of places to live. If you feed squirrels, pigeons and strays you are feeding rats. Bag your garbage in plastic and put it in a can with a tight-fitting lid.  Reduce your food waste by composting and balancing what you purchase, eat and throw out.

The New York rat is the brown rat that lives in basements and sewers and is relatively shy. When a rat bites a person it is usually a sign of a bad infestation in the area. According to the American Journal of Epidemiology 514 New York City residents reported being bitten by rats between 1991 and 1994.

Rats are continuing to thrive in New York City. A representative of Broadway Exterminating said that his employees were all working 12 hour days and still not getting their work done. “There are just too many rats right now,” he said.

Our Waste Matters is developing garbage cans that keep rats out as well as add beauty and awareness.  I will report on the success of peppermint garbage bags and NYC Composting in future blogs so stay tuned.  Thanks for following!!  Sorry about the big rat photo link!

Art From Waste

On a recent kayaking venture in Jamaica Bay, Martin, my partner, and I found ourselves picking up all of the litter that had washed ashore on one of the islands.  We collected three buckets full of lids, plastic bags, cans and a carefully wrapped voodoo doll that had been thrown into the water by someone hoping for a better life.  Barry takes his litter collecting to a whole new level by turning it into works of art.  His ability to see the beauty is a gift.  His talent to reuse our waste is an even greater contribution.