Saturday, July 5, 2008
What is it about Americans that makes us think that we can continue to consume everything in sight and not give a damn about the impact we are making on the world as a whole? We have more open space in our country than most countries in Europe and yet we take it all for granted that the natural resources we rely on will just continue to exist for as long as we need them. We pollute our air and our water and don't give a damn about what it will mean for our children or our grandchildren - let alone the species of the planet that are unfortunate to have to co-exist with us and deal with how we are ruining their habitats. Most people would call me a tree-hugger like most of my extended family does but that doesn't mean that I am going to change my ways. (And yes, I have been known to hug a tree now and then.) My in-laws live in a farming community in the Midwest and on a recent visit it appalled me to learn that their sewer doesn't go to a septic tank as I had always assumed but instead drains across the road into the river to float downstream in the water supply. It is OK, they said, because the farmhouse was so old that was just how they did it back then. I about died and yet it was just accepted as normal to them. For a week I cringed every time I flushed as much as I cringed every time I threw something in the garbage and had no recycle can to chose when appropriate. I believe that even the small things will make a huge difference and wish that more people would take the time and effort to change. We spent 2 weeks in Germany several years ago and man, were my eyes opened in those two weeks! They have garbage cans half the size of our behemoths and they only get collected and emptied every other week. They have two - one for trash and one for recycling - and neither can contain glass containers which have to be deposited in a glass recycle drop separately. Most of their packaging is paper and cardboard so that it fits nicely into the recycle program and I don't believe I saw an ounce of plastic the entire time we were there. Then, there was the lack of a garbage disposal in the kitchen sink. That took a bit of getting used to and I asked what the reasoning was behind that. Want to know? They don't put food down the drain because then it takes more energy at the water treatment plants to get rid of it. What a fucking concept! I was a changed person when we came home. We are lucky to live in a community with a recycling program through the city and have 3 trash cans that get picked up weekly. One for trash, one for recycling, and one for green waste. We are fanatical recyclers and now have separate boxes to collect glass to drop at the glass place when it is full as well as a bag for bad batteries to recycle appropriately. On top of that, we've eliminated paper napkins for cloth ones. No, they aren't just for special occasions when you bring out the china, folks! You're doing laundry every week anyway, what's a few more napkins? We only typically eat one meal a day at home with both of us working full time so it isn't a big deal. We also don't use our garbage disposal anymore. I know the water treatment plant has to treat other people's trash in the water supply still but maybe not having ours added in makes a tiny little difference, or at least I hope! The latest thing I've added is asking for paper instead of plastic bags when I shop for groceries. It freaks those poor baggers out that someone would actually ask for paper and I've even seen them hunt for a stack of bags. The craziest was when the young kid bagging today's purchases said "paper is so complicated" as he was trying to fit my stuff into the rectangular area of the bag to which I replied "yes, but it's so much better for the environment!". We don't even have the luxury of being asked "paper or plastic?" before they start throwing the stuff in plastic anymore. You know that every plastic bag that you use and then throw away ends up in a landfill or worse, in the ocean? It costs thousands to recycle the plastic which they can then only resell for reuse for pennies so they just don't do it. Sea creatures and birds become entangled and eat the crap and then die. Or worse, the polymers break down in their digestive tracks and fuck with their DNA potentially destroying the species. (Read "The World Without Us" for some insane looks at what we do to our world if you're interested!) The even crazier part of all those plastic bags? They are made from OIL products!! By eliminating the use of plastic bags in our lives, we are at the same time limiting our dependence on oil... another resource that will soon run out because it isn't a self-renewing thing. I am proud to set myself apart as an environmental freak and hope that by doing small things like I do it will somehow rub off on others and start a chain reaction that will impact the world in a positive way. I wish more people were like me in this regard.... Blessed are the non-consumers for they will preserve the planet!