Dangerous Compassions

disposable culture

Ming and I were talking about disposable culture.  He brought up the idea of takeout containers.  If we want to get Thai food to go once a week, that means we have all these takeout containers.  The places we like use stuff that’s kind of like tupperware but more flimsy.

Ming ends up keeping too much of it because it seems so useful.  We make food for people in the other houses here at Bartlett often.  The takeout containers are perfect for giving food to people in other houses.  But we don’t need 50 of them.

Ming has in his head some ranking of the value of different styles and sizes of takeout containers.  I don’t know his ranking, so I just leave them alone.  But that means takeout containers become his domain, like so many things in our house are his domain, so I lose power and control.

If I don’t throw away any takeout containers for a year or more, I no longer can throw any away.  It becomes a bizarre thing for me to do.  It’s like Ming owns them.  That’s one more way for Ming to hold power over physical objects in our home and for me to feel hemmed in.

Ming doesn’t want to hold more power, or oppress me at all.  But when he cares more about physical objects than I do, I back off, so he gets the power.  It can have negative consequences even though we’re both good hearted and want to be fair and kind to one another.

who decided that was ok

Ming says it’s about disposable culture.  Who decided that was ok, that a Thai place should use this expensive, plastic packaging for their takeout food, and we can’t bring it back to be reused?  That would not be safe, hygienic, or easy.  We’ve created a world where easy is way more important than being smart about resources and the well-being of Mother Earth.

Of course we can recycle, but we have no faith that the local recycling program will responsibly handle take out containers or anything.

Is our recycling shipped to another country, where very poor people sort it more and most is thrown away?  Is it thrown away more locally?  Do we never clean ours well enough, so it just gets dumped every time?  There’s no transparency or feedback–who knows.  Recycling here in Vegas Heights is a mystery.

A community member we live with says he’s seen the recycling cans dumped into the same garbage trucks with the trash.  He thinks it’s a joke.  Still we break down cardboard boxes and stuff them in the recycle can religiously.


I can imagine a Thai place that’s within walking distance.  The employees are paid well and treated respectfully, so there’s low turn-over.  So we get to know the workers and like them, and we have conversations about what matters to us.

Together we find a way to have reusable takeout containers.  We realize it’s just as safe as reusing dishes, silverware, and cups in any restaurant.  Dishwashers work, and we can trust them for takeout containers too.

Then Ming can return the takeout containers, and we no longer keep 50 of them.  We keep five of them, and we have less clutter in our cabinet.  And Mother Earth is less taxed, as less plastic is created for new takeout containers.

This would be a drop in the bucket–please imagine how many restaurants exist in the US or even just in Las Vegas.  One healthy relationship with one Thai place doesn’t seem significant, does it?  Well, that’s my dream anyway.

Capitalism creates the situations where easy is what matters most, the employees cycle through and we don’t get to know them, and the well-being of Mother Earth is a joke.


Here’s me with my good friend Ariel.  The love we share feels opposite of disposable culture.  We’re real, there for one another, and our love can’t be bought or sold.

not disposable culture

By Laura-Marie

Good at listening to the noise until it makes sense.

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