Thursday, April 22, 2010

earth day

future trash

I am continually appalled at the ignorance, the selfishness of the human population. Well, not ignorance maybe but certainly our refusal to look at, to recognize, to react against our disposable culture, our refusal to care. Our landfills are overflowing, our air is polluted, our rivers and lakes are filled with trash, our wildlife is being strangled and poisoned, there is a continent sized pile of garbage floating in the pacific ocean, our forests are shrinking, 20,000 trees are flushed down the toilet world wide every single day and still more and more disposable products are being brought to market.

more future trash

When I was a kid, plastic had yet to make it on the scene. Stuff came in paper cartons, glass jars and bottles or cans. Glass milk and soda bottles were returnable. You paid a 1¢ or 2¢ deposit and got it back when you returned the bottle. Now, it's disposable everything. Use it once, throw it away...plastic bottles have replaced glass, paper towels have replaced kitchen towels, disposable diapers have replaced cloth ones. We have throw away plates, cups and forks; throw away mops, throw away wipes. Something breaks, don't fix it, just throw it away.

guess what this is?

Do we really need all this disposable stuff? Does it really make our lives easier? I mean how hard is it to grab a towel and mop up a spill? How hard is it to rinse out your mop and put it away? How hard is it to return bottles to the store? How hard is it to wash your own dishes in this day of dishwashers? And don't get me started on disposable diapers. Really, think how much money can be saved by just doing a load of laundry. We have curbside recycling now and the majority of people in my neighborhood don't do it. How hard is it to rinse out that container and throw it in the bin instead of the trash? How hard is it to get a water filter and stop buying individual bottles of water?

Yep, you guessed it, trash.

And the packaging. Snack size bites individually wrapped put in a box and wrapped with plastic. I came across a web site recently devoted to eliminating plastic from our lives. Beth Terry gives tips for replacing it with other reusable things. She also challenges everyone to collect all the plastic they are responsible for for a week whether you recycle or not. Even people who recycle still throw away an extraordinary amount of plastic every week. Her website, Fake Plastic Fish, is worth a visit. It's an eye opening experience. Certainly it's impossible not to use some plastic and she's not about making you feel guilty, just aware. And with awareness, hopefully comes reduction.

And people, if you don't recycle when it's so easy these days then why the hell not? I have always tried to live consciously because early in my life I developed a love for this planet. I have been recycling for 20 years and let me tell you, I had to go out of my way to do it. I had a compost pile. I started shopping at a grocery store because they had containers where you could bring aluminum cans and glass. They paid you for the aluminum but not the glass. I took it anyway. I would take accumulated paper to the paper company. I think they even paid for it, pennies. When schools started having paper drives, I would take it there. I have taken a motley assortment of canvas bags to the grocery store since before plastic bags were introduced, enduring the rolling eyeballs and smirks. I have refused bags for one or two items I can just as easily carry in my hands to my car. I'm not telling you this because I think I'm a saint, I'm not. But if I can do it, could do it all these years, then everyone else could too. It's not that hard.

All it takes is caring about more than your own self and moment.

Love your Mother.

Live consciously.

Refuse, reuse, recycle.


  1. Thank you for this post. I couldn't have said it better myself.

  2. Well said. I am always amazed at how flippant folks are about trash. It's beyond scarey. Check out my story about my little tree hugger, I think you will find some kindred thoughts. (((hugs))) until next time

  3. Well said indeed.

    Can you imagine just how much less plastic there would be if people drank what is most natural to be drinking? Water. It's what we really need. What the heck should my body do with the additives and bubbles, not o mention sugar?

  4. yeah it's good rant thanks Happy Earth Day Ellen

  5. It's a rousing call to wake up and smell the coffee. Thanks, Ellen.

    DC recently began charging $.05 for every bag at the grocery store. If you bring your own bag, you get a $.05 credit. The city is amazed at how many people are now remembering to bring their own bags. I believe the difference per month is over a million bags. Whew!!

    Aww, don't blame the humans! We are sleep deprived, jacked up on coffee, stressed out of our minds, numbed by spending so much time in taupe cubicles. Our attention spans are fractured and advertising is SO SO SO SO sophisticated. We just do as we're told, mostly.

    I blame advertising for almost all ills. Cut out marketing and everything would change.

    Happy earth day!

  6. p.s. Grocery stores freak me out. I have to steady myself anytime I have to go inside them. Except Whole Foods, of course.

  7. I live in a fairly conscious little "hippie" town, there is a lot of awareness, even in the grocery stores - what kills me is the inconsistency- like "I do crack but i eat organic" ...stuff like that- I think the whole picture is shredded.

  8. Man - those pictures make an impact. I'm doing much of what you describe, though not as thoroughly. My current beef is that our city won't take for recycling the plastic that yogurt and cottage cheese comes in - we've been collecting them anyway. (Whole Foods has a small bin we can take them to.) You're a great role model for living consciously and appropriately!

  9. Those photos of the store shelves stocked (overflowing almost) with paper products is very powerful. Thanks! I needed that.

  10. Great post, Ellen. I remember the milkman picking up our glass bottles from the front porch and exchanging them for fresh milk in bottles. And I believe the cokes in the glass bottles tasted better than the ones in plastic today. I don't know if it's the container or the substitution of high fructose corn syrup for sugar, maybe both.

  11. Best Earth Day post I've read, Ellen, Kudos for your inspiring actions. We have a vigilant crew around thee parts and gave up paper towels years ago. Never did have a dishwasher. The snapping of dishtowels on siblings behinds and the tossing of dishes from one side of the kitchen grew our of this little effort to save paper. I tried to keep my distance during the post-dinner mayhem, keeping myself busy putting leftovers in glass bowls, covered with glass plates.

    Always drove my out-of-town family a little wacko that we didn't keep paper towels or kleenix on hand, but they eventually got in the groove!

    We even had worms (in a special handcrafted container) that turned our food scraps into compost--but I made my son swear on his life those worms would never escape! And as far as I know, they never did!

  12. Your photos serve as an emphasis of our waste. I just read that toilet paper contributes a huge toll on our forests. That's one area where more recycled paper could be used.

  13. Yes, we're a highly wasteful society. Your post has me thinking about those pop cans and bottles. I do recycle, but could be a bit more forceful in the refusal (to buy it) department. Thanks for the nudge.

  14. After the lay-off, I thought I might redirect my career to waste management and recycling. I naturally chose glass since I love it so much. I remember recycling glass when I lived in Woodstock, GA. Glass is so easy to recylce - right? My research in recycled glass surprised me. Maybe things have changed, but the economics weren't there to support glass recylcing like other products. Sure, the largest glass recycler in the country is based in Houston but it seems that it's nearly as cheap to just make new bottles than recycle the old ones. My wife wants me to stop cleaning and storing the old olive oil bottles, salad dressing jars, etc. I think I may have to slump them and make wind chimes - at least they don't get swallowed by sea turtles.

    I was also thinking this morning about sustainability. Seems lots of corporations are talking about it. WalMart has a program for it that its vendors have to respond to. The key issue - no goal is to make sustainability at least a break even economically and compete with the non sustainability of production overseas? What a challenge!

  15. We definitely recycle - but we're not good about buying things that come with less packaging. Just yesterday I was cooking my lunch from a Healthy Choice kit - and it had a bowl for the pasta with a strainer lid & a separate bowl for the sauce. It was all recyclable - but what a waste! I was really excited that our local recycler started accepting ALL plastics - but again, there's no need to buy plastic just because it can be recycled!

  16. If you over 50, you can probably remember driving down the highways and tossing your hamburger bags and candy wrappers out the window just as natural as breathing air. Wow - I cannot believe we used to do that.

    What irks me is to see a young kid at stop light drop his empty water bottle right in the middle of the road. Heck - I guess it's too much trouble to drop it in a garbage can - may not be recycling but certainly better than just letting the winds carry the trash off.

    I have lived in several cities across the country. Dallas roads seems to stay cleaner, not as good here in Houston, and Atlanta seemed to have the most roadside trash. Maybe living in windy Dallas has its advantages?

    I was in Portland at a candy shop and the clerk asked if I wanted my receipt in the bag or would I like it recycled. I made a suggestion - why don't you just not print it for me to begin with? Ha!

  17. Reya - I wish they would do that here. I don't always remember to take a bag especially when I am out and stop in for a few items. the other day, I had about 5 things and the checker was putting them in two bags. One bag please, I asked her so she took one of the bags with the stuff and put it into the other bag. ?????

    Mary Ellen - Houston will take everything but #5 and styrofoam. Finally. for so long it was only #1 and #2.

    San - I totally agree about the taste. I hate drinking stuff out of plastic bottles or glasses.

    Kathleen - thanks. I'm not perfect. I do buy an occasional roll of paper towels but they are used for one thing only, to absorb grease before I wash the pan so it doesn't go down my old old plumbing systems. I never buy plastic bags or plastic storage containers, well until last year when I bought some to freeze local produce in that I bought in season. I'm on the lookout for glass storage containers with glass tops now and will recycle all the plastic ones that accumulate from products that I have been using.

    Paul - I will never understand why bidets never caught on in this country. Not that I have one or have ever used one being an American and all, but if that's what you grew up with it wouldn't be weird.

    Bob - That's definitely part of the problem. New stuff should not be cheaper than recycled stuff. I buy recycled paper for my printer even tho it costs me more. And recycled aluminum foil tho it costs more too. And I will not hesitate to chastise people for littering when I catch them doing it. I've noticed some of the stores I shop at have started asking if you want a bag before they automatically put your stuff in one. especially if it is just one or two items. I'm glad to see there's a little more awareness out there but still not nearly enough.

    Bug - Ha! When my kids were in school, I would not buy the single serving size bags of chips. I would make little bags out of tape and wax paper for the chips. And their other food was in containers that they had to bring back home instead of throw away. Their friends kept asking them if their parents were hippies.

  18. Excellent post, Ellen! We do indeed, live in a plastic society. And what most people don't realize is that these plastic products are leeching carcinogens into our food and water, causing the cancer rate to skyrocket. I, also have been recycling for over 20 years, and don't understand why everyone doesn't. Thanks for the link, I'll check it out.

  19. Good post. Even if Earth Day did pass me by, what with the election and everything. I must pay more attention.

  20. I just did major grocery shopping this afternoon and now I feel good about asking for paper bags rather than plastic. I bought soda pop in glass until they stopped having it. And even now, I cut up the little ring holders so birds don't get caught in them.

    But I am SO not giving up my facial tissues. I am not carrying some revolting hankie around during alergy season. Give me my Puffs dammit woman! ;-)

  21. I am with you on this one! Oh yeah! I was so sad to see all the plastic bags hanging on trees and bushes in Maui - just waiting to be blown into the sea to choke a turtle or dolphin. People need to quite being so darn lazy and think! Turn down the plastic bags and carry an envirosak in your purse for purchases. Say no to plastic bags every single chance you get. Take bags to the grocery store. How easy is that?

  22. This is a great post. Good photos and excellent writing. I can't add anything to it. I feel the same way. And just as strongly.

  23. We do live in a disposable world. We try to encourage our campers to recycle. We have bins available..... Every Monday finds us with gloves on going through the trashcans and sorting. We have to get the disposable diapers out of the aluminum bin and then dive into the dumpster to retrieve the cans. We haul the cans into a recycle center and it gives us money for a lunch and a tank of gas. The plastic brings nothing, but keeps it out of the landfill. Paper? Shred it and put it in the compost bin. Seems so simple, if only more people would try......

  24. Good post. My city recently started taking food scraps with the yard waste which has been fantastic. It gets composed now and our actual garbage has been cut in half.

  25. I live in a country where there is still almost NOWHERE to recycle... it is unbelievable... we are all trying our best to change it here but it is definitely in its infancy :(


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