I cannot tell you how many times I wished that Styrofoam food containers would disappear. Call it a pet peeve but it goes beyond that. They leach harmful (albeit slow-acting and invisible) endocrine disruptors in the food stored in them, they are non-recyclable and indestructible, and one too many can be seen lying around parks or washing on river shores once the humans that emptied them have long left the scene.
I vent. I stop. And then I vent again. It’s the season of shopping that ruffles my feathers the wrong way. So the witch in me has some more food for thought to offer. Old news you’ll say. Perhaps. Yet we’re still about to learn how to be more human than we were a few days ago. Steep learning curves deserve repeated attention. Like I said, the witch is in, read away and do as you please with it.
There is a subject I cannot chew on for too long without feeling appropriately nauseated: necessary evils. We each have our subjectively developed lists and while it is hard to place the many necessary evils in a particular order, the two that top my list are plastic and slavery/forced labor involved in making goods.
I know plastic has its uses in various objects I need or depend on, yet I am far from being at peace with it. Plastic is a classic example of a double-edged sword. With one edge sharper than the other.
Plastic has been around long enough for us to know that it is harmful to people and animals, harmful to the environment and so wickedly pervasive that it gets into places we had no idea existed. Recycle it, dump it, off it goes? Hardly. We are its ultimate destination. You, me, our children and their children to come. Plastic affects our health and it soils the planet. And maybe it’s just me, but the thought of it being around hundreds of years after I’m gone is infuriating. The irony.
As for slavery, it’s true. Many of the products we buy, and we buy a lot more during this time of the year, come with that invisible burden that we may choose to overlook but it ultimately leaves a nasty stain on who we are. Who are the slaves? Men, women and especially children, performing various low-paid or unpaid jobs, some of which are dangerous and plain hard. Think of a worker who has barely left his milk teeth behind. Modern day slaves.
I’ve heard people say “at least they make an income to feed their families.” Double-edged sword again. I am torn yet I maintain that slavery-imbued items carry a shameful imprint. ‘Tis the season to be jolly for some, unjolly for others. That kind of imprint. I choose to steer clear of it. I encourage you to do the same.
Slavery notwithstanding, there are lots of people in our own backyard who cannot think of Christmas as joyful. So it would only make sense to maybe take some of the money that we would pour into gifts that are bought just because, and put it towards making someone’s world a bit better.
Whether buying some hot meals for those hungry and cold, or hitting the thrift stores for mittens and hats and some warmer boots (it’s the lack of basic stuff that makes one’s life miserable), you’ll fill a need. That’s what the Christmas spirit is about.
Think about putting the money you would spend on a gift you’re not sure is needed into one that is: a microloan with companies such as Kiva or GlobalGiving. Your money will reach further than many of your gifts ever could. There are many options worth exploring. Stepping out the (Christmas) boxed gift.
It’s easy to forget accountability in the midst of Christmas shopping. Hurried as we are, it is understandable that we may overlook stopping to smell the rose. Understandable but hardly acceptable anymore, I’d say.
Everything we buy, whether edible or not, will shape the world around us, the environment and the community. By this I mean the immediate community and the global one. The offer reflects our habits. An image we may not feel honored about after all.
Living in a country that offers so much, and that includes unmatchable natural resources, I believe it is our responsibility to say no to things that come with an unfair environmental or denial of basic human rights. May we choose wisely and deck our halls with bows of goodness. It’s the gift that keeps on giving.
“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.