I find that I am deeply affected by the student who chooses to drop their peels and cores in to a trashcan instead of seeking out a compost bin, as they have been taught. I can openly admit that I cried quite recently when an airport security guard confiscated my barely serrated butter knife and threw it away (but didn't take the fork I had stabbed myself with only the day before while searching for something else), thus contributing to landfill contents I've pointedly avoided by transporting said silverware set from place to place every day. (Side note: that fork, knife and spoon have been in my backpack for about two years now and that means I've been through at least twelve airport security checkpoints...Way to be consistent TSA). I have a sense of dread that my apartment company doesn't actually recycle the contents in their dumpster titled "Recyclable Materials."
Just last week, while waiting for a plane out of Houston, I watched a TED Talk about the lack of nature in our lives which stated, "Prison inmates and chickens spend more time outdoors than the average children. The average child spends seven and a half hours in front of a screen," one way or another. It has been deemed unsafe for those inmates and chickens to spend so much time inside, so why not extend that to un-incarcerated humans? Part of if it seems to be that we have become incarcerated by our technology and put that walk around the block or weekend hike on the back burner.
Waiting for that same flight, I attempted to get coffee at a Starbucks. Nowhere near my first choice but my flight had been diverted, I didn't get much sleep and I was craving the comforting tastes of a vanilla latte (lovingly made with beaver castoreum-look it up). I can tell you, I walked away from that Starbucks empty-handed. My "religion" prohibits me from getting a coffee drink if I don't have my own mug. Well, I had my own mug today dang-it but was told they couldn't fill it. "Cross-contamination" was the given reason. Hmmmm, Starbucks sells re-usable mugs. Starbucks employees handle money and have the provisions necessary to wash their hands to combat said "contamination." Why couldn't they fill my perfectly clean, respectable Maine Audubon/LL Bean coffee mug? Just one more reason I don't need to support the Starbucks corporation.
Monday, I sat my high school students down and had a conversation about origins and meaning behind Earth Day, which occurred the previous Friday. We went through the When, Where, Why, What, How of it all and I told them what my Earth Day consisted of this year and ten years ago. Ten years ago, my college classmates and I created a pamphlet to warn sunbathing students of the toxicity of Roundup. They were unknowingly exposing their bare flesh to this glyphosphate carcinogen by sitting on the green spaces around campus. Being the pride and joy of campus means one cannot have dandelions growing among the flawless green grass so what do you do? Kill them all.
Our one contribution to the students on campus that Earth Day may not have changed the world but it did have an effect. Similarly, this year, I went to a water-centric conference about sustainability, ecological and environmental aspects of water resources in the Texas Hill Country. This subject was all well and good but it wasn't until lunch rolled around that I looked around in search of a recycle bin and found a major flaw. Plastic water bottles were handed out in bulk, our catered lunch contained embarrassingly unnecessary amounts of packaging and don't even get me started on where all the uneaten food ended up. Admittedly, one person can only do so much...
Instead of sitting by and being a willing accomplice in further additions to a flawed disposal system, I rounded up some trash bags and tape, then created signs and stood by the trash cans as conference participants unloaded their empty (or not-so-empty) vessels. A few people lent an extra hand, one offered to take some of the large bags of recyclable materials home and many even put their lunch remnants in the correct location. However, more people than expected (at a sustainable resources conference mind you!) put their recyclables into the trash. The joke was on them however, as I rounded on the three trashcans and corrected their mistakes. By the end of the day, I had collected six bags of plastics, papers and metals to take back to the big city and salvage the wealth of materials.
These stories are not told to toot my proverbial horn or gain recognition. I have no desire to that effect. I only wish to convey the hope that the citizens of this limited earth ponder their choices. Can you take the extra 30 seconds to walk to a compost or recycle bin instead of using the trash can? Will you pour your unused liquids on a plant or ground outside instead of down the drain? Do you bring reusable containers or materials everywhere so you don't use disposable ones? Think about where "it" goes when you throw something "away." What resources, time, energy, money, passion, etc went into making it or processing it after you're finished with whatever "it" is. With more thought and calculated action, only then can we all change the world, one action at a time.