Gratitude makes the journey better and so does kindness

Tag: environmental

Why The Big Picture Stinks

I’m reaching the end of this particular rope here. It’s the garbage, you see. I am not a big consumer but somehow I am sucked into producing garbage. I am trying to buy food that does not come in a package, I am trying to buy only what I need and I aim for items that do not come with overwhelming packaging yet somehow the future garbage material finds its way into my home and my life. And ultimately the landfill via my raccoon-loved garbage container outside. Enough then.

Why do we need our stuff packaged like it’s some explosive device? Toys come all tied up to hard to open boxes made of non-recyclable plastic. Most of the food comes packaged and overpackaged. Styrofoam trays and takeout containers are still grinning at us as we stand perplexed trying to figure out whether to put the white foamy material in the recycling box or the garbage bin. Try to imagine this: What if for a month or so everyone in your neighborhood will throw their garbage out in the street instead of of the garbage bin in the backyard? How much would that be? An itty bitty mound of nothing or a considerable sized pile of things that should not be there in the first place. Because you see, garbage trucks come and take it away every week but it only makes it to the landfill. Out of sight is out of mind but it’s not out of our world.

I remember a birthday party that Tony was invited to when he was four. At least 15 kids were invited. The gifts were all wrapped, bows and all, piled on the grass at Jericho beach, waiting to be attended to. And the time came. The wrapping came undone, ripped by impatient tiny hands. Lots of wrapping. The owner of the little hands did not care at all about the fancy wrapping. Why should he? By the time the party ended a couple of garbage bags took the place of the gifts. Everything from gift wrapping to paper plates, plastic cups, forks and dead balloons went into the black bags. The child, merely four, had a gargantuan environmental footprint after just two hours of fun. If you’re trailing back a child’s footprint from the time he/she makes it into the world… Yeah, it’s a tough one.

Not to be a party pooper (though I can hear you say just that), but all I could think was that the kid got robbed after all. And mine with him. How many birthday parties went on that day in Vancouver? See? All of a sudden you wish you did not know how to do math. The big picture stinks all of a sudden, no pun intended. The black garbage bags looked more menacing than an army of hungry crows. Should we not rethink our strategy then? Keep an eye on your garbage output for a week if you don’t believe me. Very few things should go in the garbage bin, yet you might be surprised. Not that you’re lacking good intentions. If there’s no the accommodating triangle of chasing arrows with a number in it then it’s the landfill. Think coffee lids, your kid’s latest toy and its packaging, the good old VHS and audiotapes that you have finally decided to let go off, expired carseats – yes, they have an expiration date and most municipalities do not recycle them, rubber boots and umbrellas, the broken blow dryer and toaster oven, old phone, burnt old Christmas lights, damaged decorations and all the good-for-a-bit-but-useless-overall stuff that came in the kids’ goodie bags along the years… the list goes on and on with no end in sight. Awareness is a relentless beast, isn’t it?

This story has no ending. We’re very far in the game of convenience but I’m willing to give my throwaway habits a makeover. There’s a triangle of chasing arrows here too, I’d say. Stuff we buy –> stuff we use/not use + packaging  –> stuff we throw away. If I’d connect the first and last you’d say I’m being sarcastic. But for the majority of time I’d be just pointing at the obvious. I’m ready then. Care to join?


The Problem With Pink

The advertisement flyers did it. The pink cupcakes, the pink cookies, all highly processed made from refined flour and sugar, plus artificial colors, they had the well-known pink ribbon right next to them. Eat that to support breast cancer research? Really? And then the other flyers with cosmetics, pink seat covers and the rubber mats for cars. And plastic stuff, lots of products adorned with the pink ribbon. Well, I am slightly irked. OK, not slightly, but very much so. Some of the very things that have the pink appeal – no pun intended at all – should be avoided in the first place. Cosmetics companies that still use carcinogenic compounds, whether willingly disclosed or not, throw the pink ribbon on their forehead and walk proudly down the street. Plastics, research tells us, we should stay away from if we can help it, because some plastic compounds can affect the endocrine system and increase the risk of cancer. Remember bisphenol A (BPA), we’re still fighting to kick it out and it’s not easy. Buying plastic products to seemingly help fund cancer research is a bit of a cruel joke, I’d say. Test-driving cars and having money donated to breast cancer research for each ride when the very chemicals found in new cars have been shown to increase the risk of cancer, plus the exhaust gases adding insult to the injury, well, you do that math and please let me know if it looks better from your perspective. Because it sure looks gloomy from where I stand. If you think I’m a naysayer just look into how much of what you’re paying for a certain product that comes with a pink ribbon actually goes towards breast cancer research. After all, a good deed should be a good deed through and through not just on the surface. Because you see, if the seat covers are made using plasticizers or flame retardant chemicals which have been linked to cancer, then no pink ribbon in the world should be part of the selling advertisement. Yes, I agree that flame retardants in cars are a must, but removing the pink ribbon would only seem fair. The same goes for those $10 winter mittens, $1 of which will go towards breast cancer research. If cotton that was conventionally grown using pesticides that increase the risk of cancer was used to make the mittens, then part of the purpose is somewhat defeated I’d say. It’s time we care about all that we put out there and many companies do. It’s the air we breathe, the water we drink, the food we eat and all that long list of things that we use on a day to day basis. We can’t have it perfect, but we should strive for clean.

So, the ribbon. A good reminder by all means. Breast cancer is real. Globally, it affects more women than any other type of cancer and is the leading cause of cancer-related deaths among women. Hearing that is scary. Knowing what to do to decrease your risk and lending is a hand to finding a cure, well, that’s empowering. Awareness is crucial and so is the money to support research and spread the word. Should we kick the pink ribbon to the curb? No, not at all. There are walks and runs for breast cancer and there’s pink ribbons all over, there’s great ad campaigns about eating healthy and avoiding things that could increase the risk of cancer, including chemicals in the first place, and then there’s attaching the ribbon to something that makes a positive difference in the life of women. There’s so much you can do. Donate money, give a friend or family member who is dealing with cancer your time and energy, raise awareness in your own way, buy ribbon-adorned products if they are the true thing, but let pink be pink and not just a hue.  After all, October is Breast Cancer Awareness month! So make it real, make it count!

It’s Imitation Shark Fin But Still Not OK

We went to a birthday party yesterday and stopped for sushi on our way home. As much as I like novelty, for sushi I tend to stick to places I know and trust. Hungry kids can make one forget such rules though. A risky move. We’re on West Broadway and between pizza and sushi, the latter wins. In we go. The host asks “Do you want brown rice?”. Yes, we do. “That’s extra.” Healthy food choice vs. money. The taste leaves much to be desired but you never know until you try, right? Waiting for the boys to finish I peruse through the menu book. Farmed salmon on the menu is bad enough. But I almost fall off my chair as I read “Shark fin nigiri.” Oh, the horror. Shark fin? For those who feel like calling it a small issue, well, it’s not and here’s why.  Shark finning is cruel and all but the thing is, the fin belongs to a shark that’s no use to people here because shark meat is just not that tasty. Yes, some people in developing countries eat the whole shark and as long as that’s their source of protein I have no right to say anything against it. But here…A whole different matter. It’s wrong on all levels. And the real kicker is that life as we know it – human life included – really depends on sharks to stay put. You see, sharks are on top of the ocean food chain, as long as we stick to the shores that is. So when we don’t meddle with sharks, they maintain the health of our marine ecosystems and ultimately of our atmosphere by eating species that eat smaller species that feed on plankton. Because plankton absorb up to half of the carbon dioxide we produce by burning fossil fuel. So decimating sharks translates into hurting ourselves. And the future generations. Calling it selfish does barely address the issue. Irresponsible and immature would still not be enough.
“Are you really selling shark fin products?” I ask the hostess on our way out. She paused for a second. “It’s imitation shark fin.” Imitation gets people out of trouble I guess. But why bother? If it’s gelatin and/or starch, just try and make something yummy out of that and sell it as what it is. The imitation version of meat and shark fins is not going to improve anyone’s life. And that’s an entirely different issue but it all comes down to thinking that imitation means processed. The last thing we need. Come to think of it, that imitation shark fin adds to the spiky  issue of disappearing sharks – pun intended – and we got ourselves in a bind.
“Are we going to go there again, Mom?” No, of course not. Tony approves. Later in the evening over pumpkin pie and tea we chat about marine creatures and the wrongness of thinking we have the right to drive them into extinction. Yes, kids can have strong opinions about that and it’s good when they do. To paraphrase the Lorax, unless someone like our kids cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better, it’s not…

Powered by WordPress & Theme by Anders Norén