Waste Not, Want Not: Modern Society Teaches Waste Lots, Want Lots

Dating back to 1772 and some would say back to a similar phrase from the 1500s, the phrase, “Waste Not, Want Not” seems to have become lost in modern society. It was actually first cited in 1932 in “Topper Takes a Trip” by T. Smith.

While the little bit of history of the phrase “Waste Not, Want Not” is fascinating, it’s not the reason for this post. Instead, I want to look at how things have changes because Waste Not, Want Not isn’t even a phrase or a way of life most modern generations can even understand. However, I do believe there are a few pockets within each generation practicing this type of lifestyle, even though it has become incredibly difficult to do in modern society.

...Waste Not, Want Not isn't even a phrase or a way of life most modern generations... Click To Tweet

How Society Has Flipped Waste Not, Want Not


For anybody still living that uses this phrase (most of us may have heard it from a grandparent) it really became a thing during war times and the Great Depression. With so little to work with, most families couldn’t afford to throw away a potato skin because they only wanted to eat the inside of it or throw away the bones from a chicken they happened to be lucky enough to have. Everything had to be used and the actual trash had to be incredibly minimal.

Everything had to be used and the actual trash had to be incredibly minimal. Click To Tweet

While the phrase may not be that old, this concept dates all the way back to the times of the Indian tribes in America and probably further. Indians were famous for using every single part of the animal when they were able to kill a buffalo, deer or other type of animal.

They didn’t just cook the good meat and throw away the rest. Intestines were dried to create rope, bones were fashioned into tools, hides were prepared as clothing and shelter and, of course, the meat was used for a feast.

Modern society has completely flipped this concept upside down and made it normal to waste and to want. Not only do we in the United States waste more than any other country on earth, but we also are one of the most dissatisfied groups of people in the world. We waste constantly and never stop wanting. It starts in childhood and, for many, never stops.

A Few Quick Stats on American Waste


Did you know that most grocery stores won’t even stock any fruit or vegetable that doesn’t look “perfect”? If they do, they sell it for a discount off in the corner where nobody will really find it. There’s nothing wrong with the produce other than the way it looks. In fact, it could taste great, but that doesn’t matter because they only want perfect-looking fruit and vegetables on their shelves.

This, along with many other things, has led to the following statistics when it comes to American waste:

The list of stats like these few is very long as those in the United States lead the world in food waste and general waste. We throw away more than other countries have every single week and with the food we discard, we could feed nearly every hungry individual in the world.

It’s absolutely sick that we grow produce and only eat/sell half of what’s grown because of the way it looks. If this doesn’t convince you that we, as a society, value the way someone or something looks more than anything else, I don’t know what will.

Why We are a Society of Waste Lots, Want Lots

All you have to do is step outside your comfort bubble and start looking around. Click To Tweet

All you have to do is step outside your comfort bubble and start looking around. Go work in a restaurant for a week or stroll down the wrong side of town during the day. Waste is all around us. In fact, a New York Times Article put it in the best way possible, “We’re a wicked throwaway society.”

It's absolutely evil the way we waste and the entitlement we show in what we want. Click To Tweet

It’s absolutely evil the way we waste and the entitlement we show in what we want. We are so dissatisfied that we often think getting that next thing (whatever it may be) will make us happy. Like I said earlier, it starts in childhood.

I’d love to blame all parents, but it’s not your fault, at least not completely. The blame goes directly on the consumer-rich society we have created where marketing has turned into a game of mind manipulation and we allow anybody to target anybody, including children.


There was a time when alcohol and prescription drugs couldn’t be advertised. In fact, The American liquor industry couldn’t advertise on TV until 1996. When prescription drug commercials became a normal thing, the average American went from seven prescriptions a year to 12.

We have many epidemics in our country today including both addictions to alcohol and prescription drugs. These are two great examples of how marketing has manipulated people into addiction simply to make a profit.

We would have to be the most naive, brain-washed, moronic society to think this isn’t happening to our children. In the 1990s, children didn’t sit in front of TV all day, every day. They played outside. I can remember my TV time was about an hour, maybe longer during TGIF.

I didn’t need someone promoting an hour of play a day to get me outside because my parents didn’t allow so much TV and it was normal to play kickball outside, play in the wood, play hide and seek or play some other game outside.

By no means does this make my generation better or better raised than any other. It just makes us different. I didn’t have a dozen screens in the house I grew up, maybe 2-4, depending on the time in my childhood.

The temptation wasn’t as great and marketers didn’t have my attention very often. Sure, you can skip commercials today, but kids don’t always have the awareness adults have to do so.

Today, we have a screen in front of our kids nearly 24/7. If they could watch TV or play a video game in their sleep, they probably would. Whether it’s a TV, computer, phone or tablet, your child, and most children probably have their eyes glued to a screen for more than 6 hours a day. Adults really aren’t much better as the average adult between 35 and 49 years old watches 36.5 hours of TV a day.

This work was created by, and attributed to, George Hodan

In 1970, a child may have started watching TV on a regular basis at the age of four, according to an article from C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Today, the average age children begin interacting with digital media is 4 months. In fact, the same article found that most 2-year-olds in 2015 had started using a mobile device on a daily basis.

Pre-teens suck up between 8 and 10 hours of screen time every single day, which has been liked to attention issues. About 75% of teenagers own a smartphone and 24% have describe themselves as “constantly connected” according to the article from C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Another 50% actually describe themselves as “addicted” to their phones.

Marketers love this incredible amount of screen time from children. They know these little minds are very moldable and it’s the perfect time to brain-wash them into using a specific product or even get them addicted to something so they can make a profit. This was a huge way the tobacco companies advertised and it seems like we’ve just decided it was a one-time thing.

Like I said, parents are not to blame. However, they do need to be the answer to this wasteful society we live in. It always starts with one and it always starts with teaching the next generation in a different way.

Marketers are manipulating our youth into becoming a product producing machine for them. Click To Tweet

Marketers are manipulating our youth into becoming a product producing machine for them. They hook kids early and a huge percentage of advertising is targeted directly at children. According to the Campaign for a Commercial-Free Childhood, companies spend around $17 billion every year to market directly to children, which is far less than the $100 million spent back in 1983.

Marketers have also manipulated adults, however. We see advertisement every single day and while we may not realize it, marketers are teaching us how to live their definition of the “American Dream” and how to teach our children to strive for their definition of a “Better Life.” So often, we see TV shows and movies all about getting out of the ghetto or creating a better life for our kids. We even hear it from our own parents as they talk about how they sacrificed to give us a better life.

Getting Back to Waste Not, Want Not

This work was created by, and attributed to, Padraic Ryan.

Living in a society where everybody rushes out for the next big gadget is absurd. It’s not good in any way, shape or form. That ridiculous need you feel to get a TV on black Friday or make sure you get the next iPhone comes from only one place and it’s pure evil. Most marketing in today’s world should be labeled with a warning stating that the message will likely manipulate your mind and could possibly create an addiction to something in the future.

Society has to change and it's ripe for changing. Click To Tweet

Society has to change and it’s ripe for changing. More and more people are joining movements to recycle and reuse. Many of us, me included, have started the process of minimalizing our lives, which comes in many forms. Society has to get back to the waste not, want not principle or we are going to struggle to survive. The way of life we currently live in the United States is simply not sustainable.

The population of the United States makes up about 5% of the world’s population. Does it seem right that 5% of the population should be consuming about 24% of the world’s energy? This is not sustainable for the long term and we have to stop finding ways to rationalize our wasteful way of life.

Waste not, want not is a principle we have to find again in our world Click To Tweet

Waste not, want not is a principle we have to find again in our world or we will continue to be lost and unfulfilled. Who really wants to be chasing money at the cost of 60+ hours per week? Who really wants to pine after the next screen they can put in front of their face? Who really wants to waste their life in front of a TV, computer, tablet and smartphone?

We are Designed for Waste Not, Want Not

If the economy crashed right now and a large portion of the United States was without jobs and without the luxuries we are used to, some would find a way. We are designed for waste not, want not, but have become a society of convenience and instant gratification. The devil has instilled “easy” into our world far too much and things should never be so easy.

There are two paths we can take: one, a path belonging to the sheeple who blindly walk like zombies towards the next gadget, next big development, next whatever OR two, the path of awareness.

The first path is so wide it can accommodate the entire country’s population. Satan is right there leading the sheeple this way as demons whisper in their ears telling them exactly where to go, what to do and how easy their life will be if they just listen.

The second path is very narrow, but with hard work, it can be widened to include all that are willing. It’s the path of change. It’s the hard path that requires us to step back, look at our lives and really make true changes that not only benefit ourselves, but also benefit everybody around us. This path may have you changing your diet, changing your daily habits, throwing away less, buying less, paying more attention to those around you, working less and finding fulfillment in the simple things.

Waste not, want not starts with the youth. Parents have to make this change by stepping out of the comfort zone of letting children be raised by screens. We all have to step away from the fantasy worlds created for us by TV and movies. It’s time for a technology timeout and some serious changes to ourselves and our society. If we don’t start seeking the narrow path, we will never find true fulfillment and we will be led into a life of convenience.

What can you do to cut down the waste in your house? Click To Tweet

What can you do to cut down the waste in your house? Leave a comment below with your answer.

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