So it happened over February vacation. I was at a Panera with the kids and a friend. I had one of THOSE MOMENTS where just for a second, you look up, look around, and SEE something. Trash. Lots of it. And Panera is hardly a wasteful establishment as American capitalism goes. They have reusable flatware, mugs, and silverware for their eat-in customers. But fountain drink cups, napkins, chip bags all get thrown away. Yes there's recycling for bottles, but in the moment I asked an employee where I could recycle Isabella's juice cup, and she respnded that there wasn't a place for that, I looked around. And I was horrified. Think about it. That was one twenty minute shot of what goes on in hundreds of thousands of resturants EVERYDAY. That made me start to think of exactly how much garbage (much of which could be recycled) goes into landfills minute by minute. And then I thought about the needed paradigm shift. People bringing a reusable cup with them to more than just a coffee joint. Not just a few people, EVERYONE.
Now, don't get me wrong, recycling is important. But it is also a carbon-heavy, inefficient, imperfect PART of the solution. It is not the answer. In our culture, so much of our economy depends on the manufacture of disposable items that really MUST be replaced by reusable items. Our enviromental survival depends on breaking the conumerist attitudes that say we can buy new things cheaply and more easily than reusing what we have. There are lobbies that prevent the government from creating incentives for us to ensure that our children will have a home to live in at all. But I can't change those things all by myself, or change them right now. But today, on Earth Day's big 4-0, I'll tell you what I can do: REDUCE consumption, REUSE what I have, RECYCLE as much as possible.
I've always identified as a 'crunchy' type, even in 6th grade, before I knew what recycling was, I'd doodle 'peace, love, recycle' symbols on my notebooks. I was raised to compost, to be frugal, to revel in the natural world. So as an adult, I already did alot of the 'obvious' green things: energy efficient lightbulbs, composting, carrying a mug and water bottle around. Bridger is in cloth diapers (LOVE OUR CLOTH!!), and our town charges for trash but recycling is free, so we recycle like crazy at home. Last year we joined a CSA, to support local organic food, and reduce the carbon-footprint of our diet.
Since my MOMENT though, I've made a few more changes. Like stopping using paper towels. I cut up receiveing blankets and we use those instead. I'm buying as much clothing second-hand as I can find. We are buying whole melons and pineapples and cutting them at home instead of buying the pre-cut, pre-packaged fruit at the store. I'm using alot less 'help from the store' - it really doesn't take that much more time to make things from scratch, there is so much less packaging, and it tastes better too. And this might be TMI, but I switched to sea-sponge tampons. In at least 25 years of monthly cycles, feminine products have got to make a huge enviromental impact. The eww-factor is really not that bad. No worse than wiping a baby's shitty behind...
At one point Rob asked if I thought not using paper towels was really going to make a difference, and I was reminded of that story about starfish on a beach. Thousands of starfish were tossed up onto a beach after a storm. A person is walking on the beach, throwing them back into the sea, one by one. A passer-by asks why, what difference could it possibly make. And as another starfish is returned to the sea, the person says simply, 'it made a difference to that one'. Alone we can not change world. But we share this earth with 7 billion other people. If each one of us took personal responsibility for our actions and the impact we have on the earth and each other, we could alter the course of the future. If we each examine our lives, and find one thing a month, week, even day to change that will reduce consumption, reuse what we have, or recycle what we no longer need, we will make a difference. We must make a difference. The time is now.