Viewpoint: Commit to reducing waste

BY ADRIANNA BOJRAB

Published October 21, 2010

In Sanskrit, “darshan” means “vision.” How befitting this is, as Dashan Karwat, a Rackham third year Ph.D. student in the aerospace engineering program has devoted one year of his life producing little to no waste, including recyclables. Karwat began this lifestyle metamorphosis on March 29 after realizing how wasteful his lifestyle was. Darshan, a humble and focused individual, is not looking to gain notoriety through his pursuits. Karwat was born in New Jersey, but his family originates from India. He is currently studying “the environmental impact of alternative fuels in aviation through experimental combustion studies, and regulatory policy for air pollutants,” according to a Rackham student spotlight.

His commitment is rooted in his passion for creating a more sustainable environment. He has produced between one and two pounds of waste in the past six months, including recycling products. The average person creates 821 lbs of waste in the same amount of time. His humble experience is quietly chronicled through his online blog, entitled “Minimizing Entropy,” enabling many to follow and support him on his daily pursuits. His minimalistic approach to life is “refusal,” he simply rejects the idea of becoming a part of the waste problem that is negatively affecting life around us.

Living in Ann Arbor, many of us choose to support the local community by buying our groceries from the farmers market and skipping food packaging, which amounts a large portion of the waste we create each year. Though many people opt to recycle packaging, and it does prove to be the lesser of two evils, recycling still generates excess waste.

Committing to limit this waste altogether would be the better option. Karwat was recently quoted in an Oct. 10 AnnArbor.com article saying "recycling is something people do to feel good about consumption. Rather than simply buy less or use what you have, you can feel that you're doing your part when you recycle.” He is absolutely right. Karwat describes his experience as simply a change in consciousness. The more conscientious people are of their individual choices, the more they can impact the world around them.

I am an ardent practitioner of yoga. Yoga teaches Ujai Breath, a sort of “ocean-like” sound, bringing a sense of awareness and a burning focus. When I find myself in challenging situations, I focus on my breath, utilizing a new sense consciousness of a traditionally involuntary practice, breathing. Though it takes practice, it is possible to bring awareness to even the most involuntary practices, like breathing — and waste.

Waste is automatic, involuntary, something that few of us have reflected upon. We have always chucked things into the garbage, never daring to think how it may be affecting our Earth. Filling up landfills and polluting our air, we can no longer ignore the detrimental effects. However, if you employ a new sense of consciousness, you can reverse this vicious cycle. Though most of us aren’t as extreme, and will not commit to producing no waste in the next year, we can do small things to reduce our consumption and minimize our guilt.

Investing in a metal coffee mug or glass water bottle is a good first step to reduce the hundreds of paper cups, plastic bottles, lids and insulators we students rely on each day. In addition, many local coffee places will discount your total as an incentive for green living. Even the smallest of changes, like dishtowels instead of paper towels and bringing your own bags to the market, can be beneficial. We can be the generation to turn the tables on the lazy practices of waste. The more conscious we are, the more successful we will be in our everyday efforts. Karwat even carries his own set of silverware to restaurants. Make a commitment and stick to it. Live intentionally by challenging yourself to make one environmentally friendly decision a day and renew a sense of focus back to a thoughtless ritual, waste.

Adrianna Bojrab is an LSA junior.