I had an interesting conversation with a guy I met recently in our church group. Curt lived in Hawaii for a long time, after living in Amarillo, Texas. We were discussing the “green issues”, possibly prompted from my lack of paper plates and plastic utensils while entertaining a large group of people. He said when living in Amarillo, he didn’t think much about recycling, as it was never a priority since there’s so much room for landfills. In Hawaii, that’s not the case. Space is limited and people living there need to generate the smallest amount of trash possible.
As a society, it seems like we fly by the seat of our pants with things like this, then when it becomes a huge problem, only then to we create awareness and try to fix it. (Halloween costume? Check.) Another guy in our group, Marc, was asking how we can be proactive to the problem of homelessness, which was our main reason for meeting. Keyword: proactive. What does it look like to be proactive in environmental and humanitarian issues? If I answered that in one blog post, it would take me all year to write it. I’ll take a different approach.
Why am I talking about this today?
Lots of reasons. I was grocery shopping last night, and while I was in the produce aisle getting a few veggies for dinner, I realized I was trying not to use the plastic bags. Some veggies need a bag, like cilantro when it’s been sprayed by the scheduled water shower. All of the unwrapped, bulk stuff? No. The same amount of people have touched it at this point, you’re going to wash it anyway, so why does it need a plastic bag? I bought some bell peppers, cucumbers and avocados without adding the plastic shield around them. The cashier didn’t seem too surprised, so maybe I’m not the only one doing this?
I’m reading a book called No Impact Man and read that food packaging accounts for 20% of our solid waste in the United States. I’m not surprised by this statement, but it did make me think about it. I’m not saying we need to stop using everything and completely change our ways, but there are things we can do to not be wasteful, so I’m saying we can and should make some small changes. As insane as I am about recycling and reusing things, even I have moments where I could be better about these things.
Interesting food packaging info.
Here’s some interesting facts I found on some other blogs and websites:
Freakonomics. This is from freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com. This challenges what I am saying in a few ways, but it’s a great perspective on food waste.
“One study estimates that U.S. consumers throw out about half the food they buy.”
“Waste is an inevitable outcome of production. As consumers, we should certainly see food packaging as a form of waste and seek increasingly responsible packaging solutions.”
The site. Another article from thesite.org in the UK had some interesting statistics.
“Fewer than 1% of the billions of plastic bags we use each year are recycled, and the majority are used only once.”
“Food packaging today is really about marketing, in an increasingly consumer world, food producers care more about competing for shelf-space than environmental consequences, and we, the consumers aren’t much better.”
Scientist live. Statisctics from scientistlive.com.
“Half of those surveyed expressed willingness to give up “convenience packaging” — for instance boxes to help make food more easily stacked or transported, re-saleable containers or plastic packages also used during cooking.”
So what are a few small changes we can make? If I get too specific on this, it would take days to answer, and honestly, if you’ve read this far, you’ve already spent some time on this and reading 27 more pages is probably not something you want to do. So here’s the short list.
- Smart choices. When making a purchase, is there a choice you can make to buy something packaged in an environmentally friendly way? Should you buy something different?
- Ask. Ask for less packaging. When I go to fast food places, I give them a ‘green’ bag and I also ask for just one napkin. Apparently fast food places think I’m a pig, as they give me an average of 6 napkins per meal. Seriously?
- No bag. Sometimes you do need a bag to carry stuff, but many times you don’t. Ask for no bag when possible. I love stores that ask if you want a bag. That’s a good and growing trend.
- Repurpose. Anytime you buy something, think about how many times you’ll use it and is there a way to repurpose it? I’ve made cereal and beer boxes into business cards, cardboard into painting utensils, gift wrap into wallpaper and various small trash pieces into 3D art.
- Step away from the… Maybe you just don’t need it. Don’t just look at the packaging, look at the big picture. Making smart purchases will help by creating less waste.
Thanks for reading what might be my longest blog entry. 😉