My 11 year old is tube fed and we automatically receive one feeding tube bag every single day. We use one a week and refuse the rest and even that pains me a little. As far as I know they don’t make reusable ones, so here we are. It’s not much of a choice.
But when I look at my garbage and what’s in it, it’s interesting to see all the things I really didn’t need to use in the first place.
I came across Chris Jordan’s work a few years ago. The artwork below represents one million plastic cups, the number used on airline flights in the US every six hours. The industry recycles virtually none of them (though hopefully the industry is gaining more of an ecological focus).
I had never thought about it before. I just drank my in flight Sprite and was on my way. Similarly smoothies at Panera bread and water at Bill Gray’s. According to CNN, 50 billion disposable cups end up in landfills every year.
If you don’t have time to watch his TED talk (it’s 11 minutes long, the first 2 1/2 minutes covers disposable cups), Chris Jordan makes the point that we have unconscious behaviors like throwing away cups, which when you multiply it by the number of people in our country, can have catastrophic consequences. He proposes that we’re experiencing a feeling of anesthesia in our culture because the numbers have gotten too big for us to really fathom. His work is about bringing the numbers home and helping us visualize the impact our actions have – not to finger point or blame America, but to remind us that we have a choice.
We had a back yard party a few years ago and for whatever reason I was determined not to use anything disposable (probably because I’d just watched this video). I did a quick search on Amazon and found a company called Preserve. All of their products are intended to replace disposable items – they are all reusable and made from recycled #5 plastic.
As with most eco-friendly things, the initial financial investment is not insignificant. A Preserve cup is currently 92 cents a piece and a disposable cup of the same size is about 5 cents a piece. So you would need to use your Preserve cup 19 times in order to break even (the costs for plates and utensils is similar). On the flip side, every time you use something disposable, you’re throwing away money. I didn’t include the cost of washing them since water where we live is almost free and because water is currently an easily renewable resource.
They also make large and small plates, utensils, razors, and several other great products.
(for some reason the green set is around $50).
After we had our first eco-party and picked a few mispitched plates out of the garbage, I washed everything and stored it in the hard to reach cabinet above our fridge until the next big event, but a few weeks later I pulled it all back out. We use these every single day – especially when we have a lot of kids over. And even after a lot of abuse they still look brand new.
This is an actual un-staged image from our kitchen today.
Recently I’ve been enthusiastic enough to try to share the love a little. I approached our church and asked if we could use our Preserve products if I took them home and washed them each week. It was met with a touch of pessimism by some and a lot of enthusiasm by others. A friend took the idea and went even further – she bought ceramic mugs and said she’d wash them each week so we’re not using styrofoam either! We rent our space and I was willing to tote the lightweight plastic back and forth, but I was really encouraged by someone willing to transport ceramic.
I say this just to remind myself and others that sometimes encouraging positive ecological action is easier than we think. Our habitual disposable behaviors are often simply unconscious.
There are other situations where I know there will be disposable items and we bring our own, other times where I intentionally use my water bottle rather than a disposable cup, and other times I’m caught off guard and end up using disposable anyway.
Wouldn’t it be interesting if it was normal in our culture to bring your own stuff and take it home and wash it?
Disclaimer: I do have a dishwasher. If you don’t, God bless you.