Friday, October 22, 2010
Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, REFUSE
Dianna Cohen of the Plastic Pollution Coalition gives a 5 minute TED talk about plastics if you play the video above. Most info is already mainstream news, but the thing that stuck out to me was her suggestion of adding the fourth R to "Reduce, Reuse, Recycle"... it is REFUSE. I've refused hundreds of plastic bags (probably more like thousands with the way I shop) - not just at the grocery store, but at retail stores as well. I literally cringe when I see cashiers put one item in a bag, or even worse - double bag something! AGGHH!! I carry a Chicos Bag in my purse for those times when I forget to grab my canvas bags from under the front seat of the Jeep.
Do you think Swedish engineer, Sten Gustaf Thulin, knew what kind of evil he was creating when he came up with the white harbingers of oceanic death? (Seriously, as if Ikea isn't enough of a waste of resources. Isn't Sweden supposed to be known for its environmental consciousness and stuff? WTH?) Mobil, the most evil gas company I've ever read about, is responsible for making plastic bags a viable commodity in 1977 by overturning a patent, then the Dixie Bag Company from Georgia, along with Safeway and Kroger (et tu Vons?!) helped make "Paper or Plastic?" the most widely used phrase in America by the mid-80s. Oh yes, all this polyethylene destruction of our planet has only been since 1982. That's only TWENTY-EIGHT YEARS people. Do the math.
Anyway... I also rarely buy anything in a single use plastic bottle. I've eliminated almost all plastic from my kitchen (I LOVE those Pyrex glass storage containers with the rubber lids!), and often choose grocery items in glass containers over plastic. (Then I save the glass container for something else too!)
Some of my friends think I'm silly for making all these tiny, detail-oriented efforts to reduce my carbon footprint, but what is the price of self-respect? One person recycling may be like a drop in the ocean, but if we spread the word, pretty soon drops turn into a bucket, then a pond, then a lake... you get the idea.
Make a concept "cool" enough and it will become commonplace across the globe. How else has Starbucks built a billion-dollar business selling a ten-cent cup of coffee? Speaking of Starbucks... their current marketing campaign goes, "Take comfort in rituals." I agree! Recycling and thinking about what you're consuming is a ritual. It gives me comfort to know that even if my efforts alone don't make a big difference, I can lead by example. There's no reason I should NOT do it. Same for you.
Lots of people whine about canvas bags at the stores being inconvenient. Nothing is inconvenient if you have the right tools. Buy some reusable shopping bags and keep them in the car. (Check out street fairs and craft shows in your area to get unique cool ones AND support your local artists!) As I said, the Chico Bags are my favorite because they squish down into a very small bag of their own and are easy to carry in very little space. (All the natural foods markets seem to sell them too.) Buy a reusable water bottle (I mean c'mon - they sell them everywhere! I've even seen them at the dollar stores!) and keep it filled in your cup holder. It's better for your body to drink more water anyway! Think about the products you buy at the grocery store - is the same thing available from a company that uses glass or other materials for their packaging?
Be a muse. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, REFUSE.