Wednesday, May 28, 2008

who wants to wash dishes anyway?

alex in wonderland 8
Originally uploaded by independentman
The answer to this question, I found to my surprise, is me...well, at least some of the time...

We went away to the ocean for the long weekend, and it was great - we had nice weather, beautiful scenery, and it was really nice to get out of the city and visit a part of the state I hadn't seen before. I'd forgotten how much work it can be to coordinate a big group of people to go away on an overnight trip, especially now that we have friends with kids.

Overall, I think we did some okay, and some not so great things on our trip, environmentally speaking. The destination itself was about 2 hours away, and since the alternative plan originally discussed involved "several" small day trips, I think our fuel use was not horrible.

We cooked all of our meals ahead of time and packed them up in a cooler, so we avoided the waste that is so often involved in eating in a restaurant (or takeout, as often ends up being the case when there are little kids involved).

What was not so great was to witness the amount of trash we created. We separated out glass bottles for recycling (it's California, after all...they must at least recycle glass, right?), but the rental office was closed while we were there and no information was left as to what else we could or could not recycle, so a lot of stuff got put in the trash that, at least in our house, would normally be recycled. I considered bringing it all home but we were packed in the car pretty snugly, and I'm 99% positive that I would have been voted down on that one.

A big part of this trash came from paper products. I have some paper towels left in the house from before I decided to give them up, but we've trimmed our use to the point where we go through a roll probably every three to four months (and a good bit of that use is by visitors). I was amazed then, to see that we went through almost one roll of paper towels every day. I still am not sure why...

The remaining bulk of the paper in the trash took the form of disposable bowls and plates. I still feel some guilt over this one, but to make a long story short, it kind of came down to me either volunteering to wash all the dishes for the whole trip, or agreeing to the disposable paper products. I would have gladly washed some of the community dishes, but I also didn't want to be solely responsible for the task.

Anyway, I'm writing this because I'm curious - how do you handle group situations like this where others may have different priorities than you? I was reminded how easy it is to control what goes into and out of my home, where only two of us live, but it's a lot more difficult to keep tabs on this sort of thing when the household population quintuples!

There's also an element of not wanting to be perceived as the crazy one in the group. I don't want to be seen as condescending or judgemental or an eco-nut job - especially since the people we spent the weekend are the friends I married into - my friends-in-law, if you will - they aren't people I've known since high school or kindegarten and can just say anything around.

What would you have done? Signed up for dishwashing duty? Agreed to the paper? Lectured everyone on the evils of everything disposable? Thrown a tantrum? Suffered silently? Feel guilty until the next vacation, at which time you volunteer to wash all dishes?


Heather @ SGF said...

Tough question. Once at a lunch meeting at work, I dug all the recyclables out of the trash and took them home (in my backpack) to recycle. It made a mess because all the soda and stuff leaked out into my bag. The next time, I just left everything in the trash. Those work meeting are always so wasteful and I feel just sick with all that is tossed in the trash just because there is no recycling receptacle nearby. :(

When we went camping a couple years ago we ended up with a lot of trash too (we normally are psycho about recycling and not using anything that is disposable). We recycled at the campgrounds when we could, but it was so much harder than at home.

I'm looking forward to seeing what others have done. I could sure use the ideas.

april said...

Well, this is what I would do at least:

1. Volunteer to do all of the dishes before you go. Convince everyone NOT to go the "disposable" route.

2. Wash the dishes for the first meal. Do a terrible job. Break a few dishes. Leave lip marks on glasses. Be sure not to remove all food smears.

3. By the next meal, everyone will be too deep into vacation mode to make a trip to the store (bad on gas, too!) to buy disposable. Besides, one of the neurotic mothers will definitely take over at that point. Encourage this along by pointing out how your maternal instincts on things like sanitary cleaning probably won't kick in until you have some kiddos of your own. Until then, it would be great if somebody could model for you...

Theresa said...

April, that is positively subversive, and brilliant!

Sometimes I will play dumb and just do what I would normally do at home, and then express surprise that not everyone does this. It's a fun, turn the tables type of thing that seems to open people's eyes a bit without coming across as judgmental. But April's idea would have more immediate results I think!

Green Bean said...

I just encountered a similar situation a few weekends ago. For the most part, I just did what we do at home. I brought our own napkins, used cloth towels, avoided anything disposable and set up a recycling bag in a prominent spot (our rental had recycling).

April's idea would probably get quicker results though. ;-)

arduous said...

It's tough with the friends in law. With the friends, I would have felt comfortable being like, "Dude, are you really that lazy that you can't wash a couple dishes?" and I would have guilted my friends into doing dishes.

With friends in law it is much tougher and I understand not wanting to rock the boat. Honestly, I think I would have just brought my own dishes and cutlery and washed mine, and let everyone else use paper plates and cutlery.