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Sunday December 25, 2005, 02:07

I've recently discovered the joys of eBay. While I realized that this particular ship has already sailed, with mom and dad setting up mini micro enterprises selling everything but the kitchen sink (though a bit of searching can probably reveal at least one if not more than one kitchen sinks) and larger retailers have moved their entire operations to the 'Bay, it was only a couple of weeks ago that I decided that I was tired of tripping over the NES cartridges that I had found in the trash outside of my apartment and decided to forget the fear of perhaps not getting the highest price possible for my trash-for-sale and just go for it.

That's right - the biggest fear that I had in selling stuff on eBay was that I would not command the highest possible price for my crap. Literal trash that we'd rescued from the trash room. Granted, I took some time and some old fashioned spit and polish to freshen those puppies up, but in the end, the trash fetched upwards of fifty clams online (plus shipping).

My god! What a scam!

And this is precisely why I hesitate to buy anything on eBay myself. Not that I don't - in fact, much of my 35mm camera equipment was purchased from there, and it's all worked well. And I guess there's that heavy dose of caveat emptor that comes along with buying anything site unseen, and I was perfectly up front about how these cartridges were decidedly untested and sold "as-is" which in online parlance means "I found it in the trash," and lo and behold, the person that bought the lot seems perfectly happy with it and posted me some positive feedback.

Well anyway, since I started I've sold the NES cartridges, the NES itself (with controllers and such), a Gameboy Color and most recently, a toner cartridge for a printer I never had. All of these things were, for some period of time (the printer cartridge for a period of time extending years, YEARS), taking up space in the apartment. The wonderful thing about putting bits and pieces of the apartment up for sale on eBay is not so much the posting, which is time consuming, or the money, which is probably not really worth the time it takes for me to post, package and ship in the end. No, the really wonderful piece is the bit that appeals to the part of me that takes plastic containers with me back to my parents' house in the 'burbs to recycle since the big city only handles a small subset of the spectrum of recyclables. It's the part of me that was thrilled to bits about the roll of paper towels that is perforated every half-sheet, making it easier to wipe up those small spills with small paper. It's the part of me that would rather hold onto something than know that it's destined for a landfill. So when I know I can take something with otherwise limited value to me and give it to someone else who will make full use of the item, it really does give me that sense that I'd doing some amount of good in the world.

Granted, the money's nice too.

Why do we consume so much? And why, in consuming, do we have to discard so much? Every day, from our small apartment, bags of garbage flow out, and while these are only small grocery bags of rotting food, leftover takeout containers and product packaging, I know people who discard full garbage bags full of stuff every day. Where does it all go?

Well, we know where it all goes, but does it really need to? That's really scary. I was having this conversation with a friend of mine the other month, about the more environmentally conscious attitude of most of the west coast. LA has recycling bins in every house. San Francisco has recycling containers attached to garbage cans on street corners. New York has residents who actively go out of their way to not recycle, and in most every office I've worked in, the recycling containers get emptied right into the trash bins.

The theory that seems to have gained the most traction is that there's so much nature out west that people are part of it every day. People actually live in some sort of environment that existed before them, that is not only resembling nature - it is nature. The cities of the east coast exist as self-contained little worlds that have been plunked down on top of the environment that once existed there. The trees are all landscaped and carefully placed, and the assumption is that nature is just another checkbox on the list of items that make up the urban experience.

So when a west coaster sees trash and sees it going out the door, there is no question that eventually, this trash will end up in the surrounding environment, encroaching on her everyday life. The east coaster sees a steady line of trash leaving the city, magically vanishing to distant parts of the world. Maybe to outer space. Nature is so rare here though that unless he is tripping over the trash in the streets, there is no consequence of disposal, nothing of beauty to destroy.

Well that's clearly not true. There is an impact, there is such a thing as too much stuff, and discarding is not always the right answer. That an entity as commercial as eBay is able to appeal to this part of my very core is a testament to the platform that they've developed.

And to those people who don't believe in recycling (and those other two "R's") I only hope your kids forgive you for being such a short-sighted dipshit.

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