Saturday, September 3, 2011

52 Small Steps - Week 7

I think the thing that disappointed me the most (environmental-awareness-wise) this summer were the picnics I went to.  I went to several, and at each one, well-intentioned, kind people had provided all the conveniences - plastic cutlery (non-recyclable), Styrofoam plates and plastic cups. 

So - the change this week?  Next time you have a picnic, do finger food, use paper plates and paper cups - or, better yet, ask people to bring their own.  Educate yourself about single-use plastics.
I always revert to:  what did people do before?  What did people do at picnics before the disposable generation?  Well, they brought plates, cups and utensils!!  And why can't we???  I have a mesh bag with plate, cup, bowl and utensils in it.  I take it to camp-outs with Beavers or Cubs.  It works great.  Why can't we all do that at picnics?  (and I'm not ragging on you - I didn't think to take my stuff with me to any of these picnics, either)

Why?  Because we are spoiled!  We are used to the convenience of disposables.  Just throw it away.  We all learned that life was much easier if we could throw everything away.  But where is "away"?

"Away" is the landfill.  Which is a place in every community where we take our garbage.  But what happens when the landfill ... well ... fills?  Take a look at New York City - it's much more obvious there.  They shipped all of their garbage to Fresh Kills Landfill on Staten Island - 2200 acres that was filled in just over 50 years.  Now they have to ship it to other states.  "Away" suddenly really is far, far away.  But the people who live "away" are probably not thrilled with New York's garbage being in their back yard - and we can all see that this is not a sustainable solution ... can't we?? 

The real answer is to reduce our waste.  And the way to reduce our waste is to reduce our consumption.  Stop buying unnecessary crap, people.  And, in my opinion, plastic cups, Styrofoam plates and plastic cutlery are not necessary.

And for those of you who say:  But they are recyclable!  Not once, at any of the picnics I went to, did anyone but myself collect recyclables.  NO ONE!!  (except one person who collected a few plastic cups after she saw me doing it - but good on her!).  And here's a little morsel to chew on - the utensils aren't recyclable unless they have the recycling symbol, the styrofoam isn't recyclable at all in most locations, and very few plastics actually get properly recycled even when taken to the depot.  Most are shipped to China (another "away"). 

And ... if that isn't enough ... plastic is not recycled - it is "downcycled" - which means that unlike glass, paper and aluminum - which can all be reconstituted to their original forms - plastic can only be changed into a less-recyclable form of plastic - so your water bottle is recycled into a fleece coat which cannot be recycled again - so when it's done with, where does it end up?  You've got it!  The Landfill.  Recycling plastics is also not a sustainable solution.  It's better than nothing (although most of the time it is nothing), but it is not a long-term answer.

For a good read, get "Garbage Land - on the secret trail of trash" by Elizabeth Royte.  And watch "The Story of Stuff":

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