I’ve been reading “The Art of Asking” by Amanda Palmer of the Dresden Dolls. Previous to writing the book, Amanda gave a talk at a TED conference because she was one of the first people to crowdfund a massive amount of money, all from her fans for the purpose of creating a new album.
Her book, at the core, is about her crowdfunding experience and the situations that got her there. She talks about how she built her music career on asking for help and collaboration from friends, family and fans.
She believes that’s what has connected her to her fans and made them so loyal, because she had a relationship with them.
Today I was musing on what I had been reading and happened to glance over at a pile of cloth diapers that a friend had given to me.
And it suddenly occurred to me just how relevant “The Art of Asking” is to reducing waste.
While I was pregnant with my daughter, I reached out to a friend of my bosses. I was interested in cloth diapering, which she happened to do, but it felt a bit overwhelming, so I asked her if she wouldn’t mind talking me through some basics.
She immediately invited me over (which I understand now, because once you start cloth diapering, you get REALLY excited to share with other people who are interested!) so she could show me all the different types and so I could get a really good feel for cloth diaper.
We spent spent a good 1-2 hours together as she taught me all about cloth diapering and at the end sent me home with a great stash to start with. I was shocked and so grateful that she would help me like that.
As my daughter approached 10 months, she was growing out of some of the smaller diapers, and so I knew I needed to start looking at getting some more. I knew that this friend had recently potty trained both of her boys, and so I thought I would ask if she was done and if I could buy some from her. When I asked, she instead offered to just give them to me. I was so awe-struck by her generosity.
Reflecting on that experience and a few others, I realized how integral asking has been to my goal of reducing my waste. I’ve come to realize that there are a few different ways of asking for help that have gotten me closer to my goal.
ASK when you need to borrow something from someone
The other day I wanted to hang a flag pole for my mom (okay…that’s a lie. I wanted my husband to hang it for her). He said he needed a stud finder to be able to hang it and we didn’t have one. I started thinking about where we could buy one and how much it would cost. Then my husband interrupted me and mentioned that my sister-in-law has one and suggested we ask if we could borrow it. She happily lent it to us.
This same sister-in-law occasionally needs a hot glue gun and I have one, so she often borrows that. We both save money and space by being able to borrow items that we don’t use enough to own, but occasionally might need.
ASK when you need something, and someone else has it and no longer needs it
While I was pregnant, I seriously considered getting a maternity pillow. Sleeping was uncomfortable. But I didn’t know if it was worth the money, if it would actually make a difference. So I thought I’d see if anyone had one I could try out (yes, I know. Total personal choice asking for a used pillow. I’m honestly just not that squeamish!).
I asked on Facebook, and several people said they had one I could use. I gratefully accepted one from a sweet mom of a child who I used to care for as a preschool teacher and was SO grateful I asked! That pillow was like having your own personal cozy nest!
ASK when you don’t know how to do something
I’ve recently decided to give making kombucha a try. I had been buying it and decided that that was one area where I could improve on reducing waste. One of my awesome friends just happened to make a post on Instagram offering her extra SCOBY’s (the starter culture of kombucha) to anyone who wanted any.
I asked her about them, and not only did she give me the SCOBY, but she spent an hour teaching me how to make kombucha so I didn’t have to try to fumble around and learn on my own! Just an FYI, once you start making your own kombucha, you’ll think twice about buying store bought ever again. YUM!
ASK when there’s something you don’t know
I used to really struggle in this area. For some reason, I always felt like I should be an expert on everything, and so admitting when I didn’t know something felt embarrassing or whatever. But, I’ve realized that going about your life that way pretty much ensures that you’ll never learn much, or at least, not nearly as much as you could.
My other sister-in-law recently called me to ask me some questions about how I handle various different zero waste problems. I was pretty stunned at first, because honestly, I feel like she is a lot farther in the process than I am and that she knows a lot more. We talked and I told her my answers to her questions, and then I asked a few of my own to her. She gave me some really great perspectives and ideas that I can’t wait to try out!
Each one of these suggestions will take you much farther down your path to waste reduction. You’ll be buying less stuff, thus reducing the demand for more stuff. This will lead to less materials being used up, less pollution on the production side, and less trash ultimately ending up in landfills. Asking also means you’ll be learning more skills, tips and tricks to apply to your journey in reducing waste.
Just ASK. People may surprise you with their willingness to help. What are some things that you can ask the people around you for help with in your waste reduction journey?