27 January 2008

Eco-Geeking part 1

This will begin an occasional series of tips, rants and things that run through my addled brain regarding the environment.


I can't think too much about the state of the world before my stomach starts to knot up and I begin feeling a little woogy.

Despite my general good cheer, when I think about the fisheries collapse,the ice caps melting, the loss of topsoil - it's all pretty hellish and alarming and it is easier to just go along singing "Tra la, tra la, I can't hear you! Everything is fine in my little brain." But I can only escape for so long, then reality creeps back in. Awareness stinks sometimes, doesn't it? If I only didn't have a brain I could be like Pres. Bush and live in ignorant bliss.

As one of my favorite all-time movie characters, Billy Kwan in "The Year of Living Dangerously," "What then must we do?" Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness, right?

So along those lines, when Goldie and I go to the beach, I collect plastic trash. I just take a plastic shopping bag and fill it up while she searches for small furry animals to kill (please note: she is not a very efficient hunter. I estimate her walk to kill ratio to be about 450:1).

Filling one bag takes about 5 minutes, usually, and I always find weird stuff, not just items you would expect to wash up with the driftwood. My oddest all-time find was a printer paper tray, almost intact. On our last outing it was an almost-full bottle of Mr. Clean. It didn't seem like it would float. Do people BRING bathroom cleanser to the beach for some nefarious purpose that I am too naive to think of?

The Category of CrapTM I find most, though, is styrofoam bits. I can lean down and there will be 20 bits within the reach of my hand.

It is a plague. It feels more soul-satisfying to pick up something fairly large like an empty water bottle, but I know that animals feed on styrofoam because I have seen them do it. The nasty stuff clogs their digestive systems and they die a slow, painful death. So I figure that every styrofoam bit I pick up is one less for a bird or turtle to eat.

It is a bad, bad problem because the bits don't ever go away. They just get smaller and smaller and finally break into little styro-balls that look like tiny fish eggs to sea creatures, many of which, incidentally, LOVE to eat fish eggs.

Have you heard of The Northern Pacific Gyre? It is a mass of plastic trash estimated to be twice the size of Texas (and as someone who has driven across northern Texas - which is the small part - I can safely say that is HUGE) swirling around the ocean, caught where 4 currents meet.


Here's my plea - please consider banning styrofoam products from your life. If you go to restaurants or delis that use styrofoam packaging, ask them to make a change or go somewhere else.

Think of an alternative. I carry my groovy insulated stainless steel coffee cup with me everywhere I go, so I figure I save a couple hundred to-go cups a year (considering the amount of java I consume). It has the added benefit of keeping iced coffee cold overnight and hot coffee warm for hours.

And while I am nagging you, fergoodnesssake, get a refillable water bottle . Is there some good reason every family should produce its weight in plastic disposable water bottles every year?

If you're truly afraid of bad-quality water (and if you live in the US or developed world you probably shouldn't be), get a filtration system. You can save hundreds of dollars a year and all of the packaging, labeling, labor, energy and fuel costs that go into manufacturing little disposables.

I kind of lust after these sexxay (ok, I'm weird about what is sexxay)Sigg Aluminum Bottles but I just can't justify buying one, considering the number of Nalgenes I have kicking around. My thrifty gene outweighs my need to be cool.


Ok, enough assvice for one week. Go. Do. Baby steps. Make Suebob proud.


Ev said...

Apropos of nothing except that you mentioned Billy Kwan, who was played by Linda Hunt, and I live in a place that doesn't have too many famous people...okay, we don't have any...

I used to work for Linda Hunt's sister, Marcia, who looks just like Linda except maybe a hair taller.

Ha! Don't you think that makes us sort of Hollywood-ish?

Oh...and i appreciate your eco-rant, even though I'm screwing with the message by getting distracted by the peripheral stuff.

Laura said...

Good topic! I try to be a big recycler, reducer, and reuser.

I just bought a new red toothbrush @Trader Joe's from www.recycline.com that was made out of old yogurt cups!

They give you a mailing envelope to send it back to the company when you are done with it... to be recycled into plastic picnic tables or something.

mar said...

my mother & father will testify that i hate to eat off styrofoam. family picnics were a hassle unless we were the ones bringing the plates, etc.
and yet, now at work, if i go to any of the (hospital) cafeterias, the only to-go boxes are styrofoam. i guess that's even more of a reason to bring my lunch to work...

Mamma said...

Oh the bliss of ignorance. Why do they only bestow on people him???

super des said...

When I was in 6th grade, I cut a bird out of a soda-6-pack. That changed me.

As for styrofoam, done.
And refillable water bottles; I used to have many. Then I made the break and moved away. Now I have none. But I will have some again soon, I promise.


Count Mockula said...

Preachin' to the choir, babe!

Chase said...

I haven't used styrofoam in years. I even stopped going to a particular store because all they had was styrofoam for drinks. :)

We switched all our bulbs to energy efficient ones.

I just a couple weeks ago bought canvas bags for the grocery store...no more paper or plastic for me! Woot!

I asked for and received for xmas rechargable batteries & a charger.

My next big step is to implement a recycling program at work...they waste & trash SOOOO much paper there!

I'm on it, girl. I'm on it! :)

SUEB0B said...

My friends! You are all so good. I will keep reminding anyway, if you don't mind too much.

Des - Nalgene.com has free shipping.

Stephanie said...

I just posted with despair about how it seems like the babysteps are futile when you look around at the big picture, but you've renewed my spirit!

I have a water bottle and a travel mug that I use constantly. I pick up trash when I'm out running. I'm often on trails where there are trash cans every few yards, yet somehow people still manage to avoid them.

The worst thing I saw was a box of styrofoam packing peanuts left open by the side of the trail. First, who does such a stupid thing? It's like outright vandalism. Second, what can I do about them? Emptying them into the garbage can seemed useless since they would all blow out. I felt so helpless. I ended up closing the box and placing it next to a garbage can. But there were too many peanuts floating around the trail for me to pick them all up.

Blog Goddess Brethern said...

Steph - you can't recycle the peanuts but you can reuse them. Most shipping/packaging stores will take them happily. I don't know what else to do...

Nancy said...

I love my Sigg. It's the bomb.

I'm reading the book "What to Eat" by Marion Nestle. I'm definitely alarmed about the state of the seafood industry.

Sorry for the non-sequiturish comments. I'm tired.

Nancy said...

p.s., and the bad spelling.

rookiemom said...

Well, I always cut those six pack rings before I throw them away...that's a start, right?

Seriously though, that thing about the giant plastic landfill floating around...that's horrifying. I never knew that.

stephanie said...

I finally bought Siggs for our family, and we definitely feel quite Sexxxay :) Or at least, we're finding them well worth the expenditure.

Great post. I will be sure to bring bags for trash pick-up next time we get to the beach.

the greenbicyclist said...

I think it is great to take the steps necessary to protect our planet and species other than our own but please, please remember that you can't buy/consume your way into protecting the environment -- like buying your way to a safer country after a terroist attack or the pending economic collapse. Quite the opposite. One of the best things we can do is simply rethink what it is we really need before we lay out cash (or credit as the case appears to be for many of us) for it. Can't you reuse a mason jar or a juice container as a water container? If you really need the specific container that screams water container go to Goodwill and breathe new life into an already used product. I don't want to be preachy but we Americans consume to the obscene and the best gift we can give to those other people (including our offspring and future generations) and creatures (including their offspring) that co-exist in this world is to get our consumption in check. Thanks for the forum.

meno said...

Nag on Suebob, nag on.

lizgwiz said...

I try to do every little thing I can, hoping it all adds up somehow.

I'm currently reading "The Worst Hard Time" by Timothy Egan, a fascinating and heartbreaking account of some of the people who lived through the Dust Bowl, by all accounts the worst man-made "natural" disaster in history (so far), and I just keep thinking "Have we learned NOTHING about our actions concerning the planet?" God, it's depressing.

Blog Antagonist said...

It's not assvice. It's great advice. If we would all take a few small steps we would make a big impact.

I had heard about the gigantic mass of plastic in the ocean, but hadn't gone out of my way to learn much about it because that kind of stuff makes me sick to my stomache if I contemplate it too much. I have to choose one thing at a time to worry about and right now, I'm focused on worrying about resistant staph. (remember?)

My kids and I pick up trash at the ball park all the time. It's sickening really, the way people treat their environment.

Jhianna said...

it's all pretty hellish and alarming and it is easier to just go along singing "Tra la, tra la, I can't hear you! Everything is fine in my little brain."

That is a perfect description of me. *sigh* So I guess now I have to actually do something, huh? I use cloth/canvas bags for groceries now! And come to think of it, I couldn't tell you the last time I used styrofoam. I must ponder...

Whimspiration said...

We buy very little in my family, and tend to buy local when we do. prepackaged food is a no-no for us, and we cook nearly everything from scratch, even being homeless like we are right now. All of our bulbs are CF (in both the places we stay, we provided new bulbs), and we plan to replace those with LEDs in the future, for even more energy savings.

Go check out the Geopickle (http://www.dream-share.com/dreamScape.php?dreamId=48) we're building for more info on our current project.

We raise red worms, and we used to think that we had to use Styrofoam for their travel cups (they need insulation during shipping), but we were really lucky to find paper cups that have the same properties. Our product packaging for artfoodfun.com are some of the only things we have to buy new, and we even have a special customer recycling program for all of that in order to reduce waste.

Whimspiration said...

Oh, and keep cheering and reminding!

I am always amazed at how little things I take for granted are completely new bits of info for others.

Many small people, doing many small things, can and do change the world!

smalltownmom said...

Baby steps...today I DIDN'T USE 8-10 plastic bags at the market because I remembered to bring my 2 big re-usuable bags.

Baby steps do add up.

Staci Schoff said...

God bless you for picking up trash at the beach. I'm good enough to pick up my own and be annoyed with people who don't, but I never thought to pick up others' trash. I think I just thought of a good family project next time we go.

And I am totally with Greenbicyclist -- why does everybody need so much crap anyway?!

QT said...

I definitely shun the foam. It is evil. And I most definitely use a travel mug for my coffee!

Chris said...

dpyrgWe are guilty of using plastic water bottles. I do think about using an alternative. We do recylce them. We also use our own reusable bags for the grocery store and I never use paper plates or cups. We are working on things.

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