Tuesday, February 21, 2012

We Vote With Our Dollars

One of the reasons why plastic packaging got out of control was because we didn't think we had a choice.   It wasn't until people started questioning our plastic consumption and educating others that we actually could live without so much plastic packaging that there has been a shift.  People like Annie Leonard, Charlie Moore, Ted Danson, and Beth Terry inspired so many of us to get curious too.  What we found out was plastic creates problems on many levels, from the limited resources that it is made from like petroleum and natural gas, to the way it ends up in the environment wreaking havoc on animals, to the mere fact that it take centuries to break down and along the way deposits harmful chemical into us and the environment.  

What can we do about it?  More and more we are starting to see plastic-free items on our shelves and that is because we are part of a base-line shift away from plastic.  We are only at the beginning, but as more and more of us vote with our dollars, purchasing items based on their limited use of plastic, we control what is on our store shelves.  We vote with our dollars.  In the process, we are supporting small businesses like Glass Darma, Chico Bags, and Green Room Greeting Cards.  If you want to learn more about just how to be plastic-free, order Beth Terry's book, "How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too."

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Speak Up!

"keep away from children"
Too bad juvenile seaturtles cannot read

 It's been a very productive couple of months.  Since my last post I've been working with Cape Fear Chapter Surfrider to not only Ban the Plastic Bag in New Hanover County, NC, but we have also been working with "It Starts With Me," "Wrightsville Beach Keep It Clean,"members of Cleaner Greener Committee, and a host of others to create Smoke-Free Wrightsville Beach!  It is fascinating to me how many individuals and businesses there are in favor of both these initiatives.  It's just a matter of speaking up, to open up dialog with the community and lawmakers.  That is not to say it is going to be easy, but if we say something loud enough and long enough people will begin to believe. . . . . And we should believe in these types of bans because both of these littered plastic products can be harmful.  Just today I received this story from Kurt Lieber - Ocean Defenders Alliance,  "How plastic bags are poisoning the planet's greatest predators: 65ft long sperm whales are being killed by human pollution." Anything that says "keep away from children" should also be kept away from animals since neither understand the danger posed by the product.
Cigarette butts are an equal threat to marine life, birds, and children.  Why? Because all of them are known to eat cigarette butts.  That's right children eat them too.   In 2007, the American Association of Poison Control Centers (AAPCC) received more than 7,735 reports of children under 6 years old getting poisoned by eating cigarettes or chewing tobacco.  According to a study by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the Rhode Island Department of Health, children in households where cigarettes are smoked were four times more likely to eat cigarettes or cigarette butts than in households where smoking does not occur around children.  Since cigarette butts are the number one littered item on Wrightsville Beach and children play at Wrightsville Beach, it's a good idea to keep the cigarette butts off the beach.

This week I took my own advice.  We had an event on campus and I was in charge of cleaning it up.  I was shocked to see the amount of disposible stuff left behind to clean up.  Aramark, the campus food service, has been making great strides in reducing their plastic use in campus dining i.e. switched out Styrofoam clam to-go boxes for cardboard, using biodegradable plastic wear, etc. 

What I found was going in wrong direction.  I videoed what I found and then sent them the video.  They contacted me shortly after and we met to talk about it over coffee.  Matt Rogers showed up with his reusable mug and shared with me many of the efforts Aramark has been making to conserve resources including composting.  He said their tactic was to save the consumer money in having someone come pick-up the reusable items which they are now charging $15.  I said something like, "During these economic times, the last place we should be cutting back on is jobs. Consider somewhere else to save money like not buying disposable products. "

Matt provided us with an option, specify if we would like reusable carafes, table clothes, and wicker baskets for our condiments.  I suggested he put this option in writing so people know they have a choice to be greener because without knowing there are options, people are less likely to ask.  He nodded in agreement.  He also agreed that plastic bags are a problem and would like to work toward a plastic bag-free campus. I went back to my desk and emailed him thanking him for meeting with me and then introduced him to Misty Wilbanks, UNCW Surfrider, so they can work together on the campus bag ban.

BTW, this week, when they delivered our coffee and cookies, Aramark delivered the reusable items and we gladly returned them to their kitchen instead of sending plastic one-time use items to the landfill where they will sit for 400 plus years.