Friday, August 1, 2008

Welcome to My World

So I had a really craptastic day this week. I took the kiddos and we went to a ribbon-cutting ceremony for one of hubby's buildings. It must have been about 100 degrees with 80% humidity and we were melting in the sun as speaker after speaker droned on and on about how wonderful the new facilities were and how they signal great things for the economy and the state and blah, blah, blah, blah.

We're hot. Cut the tape and get on with it. Daphne, all 35 sweaty pounds of her, is climbing up me like a spider monkey and Ethan keeps telling me it's too hot and he wants to go swimming.

No shit, kid. Me too.

But this wasn't actually the bad part. This was tolerable. It was nice to get to see hubby up on the speaker's platform receiving kudos for a job very well done. He even had the honor of being one of the people to cut the ceremonial ribbon. I'm very proud of all the hard work he put in on that project.

But here's why the ceremony sucked:

The whole time the speakers were talking (half an hour), they had the front doors of the building propped wide open, letting all the air conditioning out. Perhaps it was to keep the speakers, who were parked directly in front of the doors, from getting too hot. Bad idea. Maybe if they'd been as uncomfortable as the rest of us, they'd have sped things up a bit.

Once the ribbon was cut, everyone went inside for a peek at the new digs. They were gorgeous, of course, but I cringed every time someone would turn on a faucet just to see if it worked, or open a fridge door to see what the inside looked like. Um, yeah. Don't you have faucets and fridges at home, people? They're pretty much all the same. It's not like red wine's gonna flow out the tap and an elephant's hiding in the fridge.

But it gets worse.

After the tour was over we all headed over to the gymnasium for refreshments. As ribbon cuttings go, it was a pretty decent set up. White linens draped over tall tables that were adorned with fresh cut flowers. A bounty was laid out that included fresh fruits, mini-sandwiches, roast beef, pasta salads, cheese platters and the obligatory tower of Pepperidge Farms cookies.

I could handle all of this. Sure, there were some fruits that weren't in season. And the beef was most likely factory farmed. The cheese was not local and the PF cookies are chock full of corn syrup. I know these things exist. I see them every week in the grocery store, sometimes some of them even hitches a ride home in my cart.

But what made my day suck? What made my heart fall? The plastic. The crazy, insane amount of plastic. Plastic plates, plastic forks, plastic cups, plastic water bottles. Just so much f'ing plastic it made me sick. And not a recycling bin in sight.

I don't understand why someone would go to so much trouble to coordinate such beautiful table settings and then serve the food with plastic? They have a cafeteria on site, so I know they have real plates and silverware. Would it have been so hard to use them and have the tables bussed?

And those mini-water bottles? Really? Wouldn't carafes of nice cold ice water on each table have lent a classier look than disposable Aquafina bottles? And why do we need the plastic cups to pour our plastic water in? So much crazy waste.

So I'm sitting there, looking around at everyone else. And no one seemed bothered. No one even seemed to bat an eye. Everyone was having a great time and I was the only one who looked like she was trapped in a room with Freddy Kruger.

I felt very, very small and insignificant. And even a little silly.

Silly for doing so much at home. For recycling, composting, buying local and organic, for flushing less and line drying more. For worrying about every drop of water I use. For planting tomatoes on my patio. For carpooling. For choosing pencils over pens. For using a coffee carafe and shampoo bars. Silly for all of it. It all seemed futile in the face of all this waste. I am working my ass off to be a better steward and in one afternoon, this small gathering created more waste than I could avoid in a year.

Why bother? There's too many of them and too few of us. Fuck it.

And then I get home and hop online. And I have an email from Green Bean, asking me if she can send her Kill-A-Watt out to the people on the Yahoo! Group waiting list. And Beth is pestering me to log on to Twitter so I can chat with all the other eco-chicks. And Arduous is making feel better about being a dweeby Tweeter. And the green guide book Rob sent me is in my mailbox. And Organic Needle's tea bag has brewed me a perfect quart of iced tea. And IBMommy got the Kill-A-Watt I sent her. And Leslie is writing puns for me. And Just Ducky is finally back online. And Crunchy has just crushed my dream of a new food processor by once again reminding us all that buying new carries a high environmental cost.

And I realize I am not alone. Not by a long shot.

There's a FANTASTIC eco-minded community here in the blogosphere and there are so many ways to feel part of it. Join the APLS Carnival. Sign the Take Back the Filter Petition. Donate to Goods 4 Girls. Sign up for a Challenge. Read some different blogs. Leave comments. Join a Group.

Get. In. Volved.

Because sitting in our small towns or even big cities, our voices seem small - even to ourselves. But together, we have amazing power. The power to build, to change, to help. And most of all, the power to keep each other buoyed when the waters are rough.

Thanks to everyone who makes this community a great place to be.

Oh yeah. The daily change? Help build this community.


organicneedle said...

We've all had those days. I'm about to go on a big family vacation, husband's family, and have been informed that everyone just plans on using disposable the whole time...even though we are renting a house that has a dishwasher and a washer/dryer set. I'm still going to pack our little travel dishes and use them, but won't say a word about what anyone else does. Yes...I'm a weeny...but a weeny who just wants to survive the week.

gregraetgar said...

Being in the majority is never an indication of or requirement for doing the right thing — look at pop culture. It may be nice to be a part of a group, but the individual is the source of the integrity. Just look at your wonderful, feisty self.

Bobbi said...

This weekend starts what I call "Yard Sale City" - the annual HWY 127 Yard Sales that run along US HWY 127 thru several states. Not only will there be people driving in my yard (I live near a prime yard sale spot), running over container pots near my mailbox, and blocking my driveway - but there will be hundreds of people selling nice cold bottles of water and soda. For weeks and weeks after the event, these useless plastic bottles will be littering the road and countryside.

Some people never get a clue!

Nadine said...

It certainly helps to have others in it with you. Another woman at work has been going green, so it's nice to have a partner in crime when we show up for office parties with our own plates and silverware. I love new ideas no matter where they come from!

leslie said...

I sooo understand what you are saying! I cringe when I see the plastic water bottles at events. I am on a committee for a Mom's conference coming up and one of the things they are having is a huge tub of plastic water bottles out for people to take during the day! I can't stand the waste!!!!!!!! They all get thrown in the trash. No recycling. happens every year. I am trying to muster up the courage to say something. It is hard when you feel like the only one who cares.

Thrift Store Mama said...

I'm new to going green. I mean, we've always dutifuly recycled our trash, but I'm new to the bigger stuff - trying to avoid buying new, reusing my paper towels from hand washing for cleaning(I said I was new, so I'm still using paper towels - we get a lot of colds around here.) I find it incredibly helpful to surround myself with people who feel similarly, and your blog is certainly part of that.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the great post. I get odd looks from my family every time I mention using my clothesline. They can understand using less and not being wasteful, but some of my changes have met with "just-humor-the-crazy-one" looks.
I told my sister how many vegetarian meals I ate one week, and she said, "on purpose?"
Thank you for being an inspiration. You are not alone, and thanks to you, I know I'm not either.

Chile said...

I hear your pain! That sort of waste at organized events drives me nuts. Luckily, the local Beautiful & Green branch has been trying to make a difference, especially in race events. They organize recycling and compost collection bins, as well as volunteers for the HUGE Race for the Cure (13,000 participants). And I pestered them to do the same for the annual big bike race (8,000 riders) last year.

One little tiny voice can make a difference, Burbanmom. You just have to shout (scream?) loud enough. ;-)

Stephanie said...

Thank you so much for this post! I am currently at my in-laws on vacation and getting sick to my stomach with how the rest of America lives. It is good to be reminded that you are not the only one trying to make a difference.

scifichick said...

This is so true! I usually feel pretty alone trying to live sustainably. I don't know anyone else who line dries their laundry in their apartment. Or does a bunch of other little things in order to use less plastic, and buy less crap. But then, I get online, and I read all these wonderful blogs, and I realize that I'm not alone. And it makes me feel better to feel a part of a little community.

Green Bean said...

Fantastic post.

It seems that every time I peek out into the real world, see the SUVs on the road, the moms who highlight their preschoolers hair, attend an event like that, I get discouraged.

Then I hop on to the Internet, meet up with someone from my green book club, exchange messages with another member of my green task force, get to know another family at my son's charter school.

It is community that will get us through this. I believe that with all my heart.

Anonymous said...

Something that makes me feel better about my little contribution (in a very conservative area where few seem to care as much about this sort of thing as I do) is when I read those stats about "If you use a reusable water bottle instead of buying bottled water, you will save X pounds of carbon" blah blah blah. It definitely adds up, even just the little contributions of one family. And you've done much more, because you're inspiring other people to get involved and make changes that they might not have thought about. :)

It's all going to take a while, the gradual chipping away at the "disposable world" mindset. I bet the person who planned that party didn't even think twice about all that plastic-- but if someone starts using reusable plates at work parties, maybe he or she will think about it next time. It adds up.

Small Change said...

Great post...I've felt that same way so many times before. It's actually part of the reason I started blogging...I was so frustrated. I love finding and reading so many other people out there making their own difference!

leslie from Leslie's Blog said...

This really hits home for me.
I am an aging (almost 60) hippie who knows that the impetus behind the hippie movement was to save the planet. Despite important changes in mindset that we accomplished, mainstream culture overtook and overran the majority of changes we had made.
I am hearing all over again the frustration and disillusionment this next wave of young earth concious people are experiencing.

Being earth concious is a difficult, saddening, angering, position to take. You will be ridiculed, dismissed, made to feel very darned singular.
But what would be your alternative? Joining the people who are destroying the earth?
Knowing and feeling as you do, how do you not do what you feel is good and helpful?
I am delighted to see the renewal of interest in not meesing up our world.
Little bit by little bit can't hurt.

Anonymous said...

I feel your pain! I'm writing this from work, where the garbage cans are overflowing with disposable containers and dishes and a ton of food waste. I'm constantly asking myself, "How can they do it? How can they not see how wrong this is?" And I constantly ask myself if I should stay at this job and try to set an example or if I should just get the hell out. You all keep me going!

LHT Rider said...

In my personal greening, I have a number of individuals to thank for calmly and quietly, but not silently setting examples. This includes the co-worker who rides his bicycle to work every day, rain, snow or shine and never, ever, complains or brags, or the friend who early in our acquaintance said "I'm interested in sustainable living" when I had no clue what that even meant, and the person who said "lets ask the department for a recycling bin for our work area so that people don't have to trek across the building in order to recycle". Sometimes if you're willing to say the littlest thing, you might find support that was just waiting to be tapped. Of course I want to add - Thank you 'Burban Mom! I've been recommending your blog to all my friends. :)

Anonymous said...

I just found your blog thanks to my sister, but funny timing-- yesterday I was at the last day of a half-day day-camp thingy for my kids, in which they provided lunch for probably about 100 kids and 50 adults. Bottled water for everyone, naturally, and no recycling can. Needless to say, I wasn't in charge of this, and it wasn't even their school so it's not like I was on my home turf. Anyway, I found an unused recycling can in the kitchen, wrote two signs that said "Recycling- cans and bottles only" in crayon on some leftover paper, taped them to the recycling can, and dragged it out next to the other cans. Yes, a few idiots threw their fried chicken in there, but other than that, it was filling up with bottles that would otherwise have gone in the trash. I was going to just take the stuff home with me for my son's cub scout troop, which recycles and uses the profits to give to a soup kitchen, but there was a very polite and enterprising middle-schooler going around collecting bottles which he then turns in for profit "so that he can go places," so I turned them all over to him for simplicity's sake.

Anyway, I think the most telling thing in all this was that after I had written the signs and attached them and dragged the bin out, I figured out who the leader was and said, "Hey, just designated a recycling bin, and I can take home all those bottles if the school can't manage them," and she grabbed my arm and said, 'THANK YOU" really emphatically like it was something that mattered to her but just not on the radar with all the other things going on. I think there will probably be push-back if we do this kind of thing in some settings, but sometimes, it's just something that's not as much of a priority to other people, but still something that matters to them, and genuinely a way that we can help.

Rjs said...

I totally understand! I've been there on the event siide too - so frustrating. And just at work yesterday we were told we were not going to recycled papers because it cost too much for our publications. Ugh.

Jennifer Taggart said...

I think we all feel your pain. I really have those big events with disposable plastic that isn't recycled and unnecessary water bottles.

But you're not alone! There are a lot of us, and more of us every day, taking steps to lead a greener life. And we'll just keep pestering the rest. Today at the mall I asked the Japanese fast food place if it could fill up my Klean Kanteen instead of using a cup - I got a skeptical look but it was done. And the woman at the table next to me said - "Oh! what a good idea. I hate just throwing out these styrofoam cups - I'll bring mine next time too." And my 3 year old daughter calmly said - "We have to save Mama Earth." So, we'll just keep leading by example and speaking out!


equa yona(Big Bear) said...

Sometimes all you do is scream AAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHH!!!!!! and then do the right stuff later. We have to figure out how much recycling it will take to make up for a 60 mile trip to the nearest recycling center. I don't think we could carry that much, alas.

Robj98168 said...

You know, I recently went to my cousin's daughters wedding. And it was very interesting, cause the bride's mom and dad, are both very enviorment friendly. The bride and groom instead of the usual registry at Fluff fluff stores, requested gift certificates from amazon, macy's and costco as they currently live in Ireland and won't be moving back statside until Chelan gets her doctrate. The wedding was outside at Mt. Hood Organic Farms, and the catering was all real plates and silverware, Real stuff. and organic. I was very impressed!

Woman with a Hatchet said...

I know EXACTLY what you mean. However, I tell myself that at the very least, I can keep my impact to a minimum and where I can, I will attempt to influence others.

At my daughter's end of year Brownie Party, I suggested we aim for zero waste and brought my reusable party utensils, cups and plates, and cloth napkins. It was a tiny change, but it got the other moms and the troop leader thinking.

Every little bit helps all of us. Even the clueless folks throwing a party filled with plastic. However, were I you, I'd talk to the party manager and suggest a change for the NEXT party. : )

Anonymous said...

With events like that it all comes down to money. It's cheaper to buy bottled water rather than hiring a catering service for the event, its cheaper to buy factory meat rather than farmed (?) meat that is specialty cut and sliced.

What I don't understand is, why companies are pricing environmental friendly products so high? While they can easily make a decent amount of profit if they priced it lower. People are interested in buying environmental friendly products and will buy them rather than the others.

But then...they had money to build the facility., I guess we just need people to get involved.

- Kristi

Melissa said...

I was at a similar event this weekend. It wasn't even the waste so much, but the fact that people really didn't seem to even register all the trash they were creating. the obliviousness is what gets me.

Fashion Ethic said...

Great post! You're definitely not alone...I have those days too...anytime I go past a Forever 21 or Old Navy and watch bags and bags of disposable clothing go out the door...or when people say $30 is too much for a tee shirt - even though it's organic cotton, with low-impact dyes, made in the US, sweatshop-free and will last *at least* 3 times longer than a $10 tee shirt!

But then I hear from customers who love love love their clothes and are learning more about pesticides on cottons and the value of durable clothing and I am renewed!
Keep doing what you're doing and things will definitely change for the better! :)
Candice at Fashion Ethic

Allison said...

This post was awesome. In those few paragraphs you summed up everything we all go through when we are out of our green bubbles. We all feel like saying f**k it at times and actually do but our green friends pick us back up. Thanks. Very inspirational.

Abbie said...

I read this post and then headed off to my town's Potato and Corn Festival, expecting to see plastic everywhere. The surprise? I didn't! The food was served on cardboard trays, with paper plates. The drinks were served in paper cups. Yes, there were bottles of water, but there were recycling bins right there! The only plastic I saw (besides the bottles) was plastic cutlery. And I was surprisingly pleased that it was mostly paper, not plastic. Not that paper's the best in the world, but it's better than plastic!