I have this simple blade coffee grinder that I use for grinding flax seeds. It lost a knob during one of our many moves, but it still works. No points for looking pretty though. We also have another basic blade coffee grinder, which has all parts and has been fully functional for the last 20 years (OK, we had to sharpen the blade a couple of times). Donating either in favour of new ones might just mean the end of the road for both, since they look past their prime. And then again, why would we? They work just fine.
“In every deliberation, we must consider the impact on the seventh generation… even if it requires having skin as thick as the bark of a pine.” The Constitution of the Iroquois Nations
It’s venting day. Part of life. Before I go on, I’ll offer a disclaimer: If you expect me to be happy or calmly pensive or simply relate about things that make my heart jump and dance, well, there’s a lot of that in here, but occasionally I will rant and stomp my feet and I think my words, even though I might not put any in caps today, will be loud enough. OK, that’s done.
Today found me and the boys at the beach on a “Keep Vancouver spectacular” clean-up-the-beach mission. A mouthful, I know. Bear with me though. Rain pouring down like someone punched holes in the sky, we make our way to the beach and meet the others – kids and parents. We each get rubber gloves, tongs, giant tongs, lots of plastic bags that come individually wrapped plastic pouches and with a piece of cardboard inside to keep the good form of each of the plastic bag that have Glad written all over them. Bad form, in fact, as Captain Hook would say, and accurately so. Bad form.
After we get equipped we start our mission. The beach was clean, having been cleaned up just a couple of days ago as a lifeguard explained later on. No worries, the kids can still get a good lesson in how to care for the place they live in. Their city. A pouch in what we collectively call “the environment”. We find cigarette butts, a few pieces of old wet paper, some beer caps, two short pieces of string and a soaked and sandy tennis ball which we leave on a log for the next dog who forgets his toys at home. Barely a handful of garbage. Kids switch to a hunting mode and fight for every piece of garbage they could find. It’s a competition, you see, who collects the most.
We return to the parking lot bedraggled and rather empty-handed. At least ten bags lie on the grass. almost empty, except for two of them. One kid found a seagull skull, another a pineapple crown. It’s cold. Where will all the bags go, I ask. In the garbage bin. No, how about we dump the garbage from all in one bag and save the rest? Overruled. Too complicated or too dirty. Well, it’s garbage. The dump hates plastic, we know that by now yet we still send it that way. Come on. I’m behind a glass wall or something, no words make it through.
The kids are comparing the collected treasures, who got more – it was a competition after all – and they are given hats to remember the event. And the idea. The gratification factor? The “what’s in it for me” worm has to be satisfied or else. Now I’m bitter. They are given hot chocolate – a most welcome treat, but – GASP! in Styrofoam cups. Cruel joke (at the expense of what we collectively and absent-mindedly call “the environment”), irony, lack of proper planning, call it whatever we want but the message is the same: It’s wrong! It dirties the day, the mission and everything about it. Styrofoam is evil, one of the least biodegradable man-made materials out there, it leaks chemicals into hot drinks that happen to have a certain content of fat and the idea of drinking from them on the day when the kids fight over a small piece of biodegradable piece of wet paper like their lives depend on it, well, it’s wrong. WRONG on all levels and if you don’t think so please feel free to share your reasons. So my big fat screaming question is this: Why do we do it half-assed instead of going all the way. Why not use every opportunity to teach our kids about how to really do it the right way? Why not go for the least amount of stuff left behind, especially when you’re out to collect garbage left behind by others?
- There’s biodegradable plastic bags made by companies with a stellar environmental stewardship like Seventh Generation (no, no money for me here, I simply like the ideas they play with and the stuff they sell). Let’s buy those. A few only, making sure they’re fat and plump before heading to the dump.
- There’s bring-your-own-mug-if-you-want-hot-chocolate kind of policy to enforce (an effort, I know, but are we not supposed to teach our kids that all things that are worthy come at a price. Are we not yet ready to teach them that the “have your cake and eat it too” is a lousy fallacy)
- There’s opportunities like the one today to teach kids that it all starts with buying less, relying on less, and definitely not going for the one-use-only articles anymore. That’s so last century. A nasty joke.
- Today was a good opportunity to teach them about plastic bags, the plague of today. We used so much plastic today it makes me gag. Why not? Why stop mid-sentence?
Rant over. Do as you please, but I invite you to leave a comment. If you feel like it of course.
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?