Consumptive Vacation

Why is it that we always seem to assume the worst in people? We plan for a mess and then create more of a mess in the process. I’m speaking this time of the wastefulness of outdoor bars and restaurants. At some point (and I haven’t done a ton of research so can’t point to an exact year or decade) bar owners thought that combining outdoor establishments with alcohol in glass vessels wasn’t a good idea and with good reason, I suppose. Patrons break glass, other patrons step on broken glass, lawsuits abound. Or, people steal the glassware. Or it falls into the ocean/waterway next to the bar. The solution? Make everything plastic. That way, we can throw everything away (easy cleanup), there’s no risk of breakage (no pissed off customers) and if it blows away? It’s not our problem anymore! Right?

At an outdoor bar yesterday, I and my friends gathered for a few drinks. It was situated on a marina (outdoors + water = recipe for plastic haven), but it had a nice, classy vibe so I thought maybe we’d luck out and avoid the plastic. Not so. We were immediately presented with these #5 (polypropylene, e.g. Tupperware) cups, complete with a plastic straw. The interesting thing about these cups was that they were actually designed to be reused (on the bottom of the cup: “Top rack dishwasher safe”)! This seemed pretty cool to me; a halfway solution to the plastic-bar-cup dilemma. “Hey, if we’re going to use plastic, let’s at least wash the cups and reuse ‘em!”

Missed opportunity to class a place up and help the environment.

Missed opportunity to class a place up and help the environment.

Naturally, we became curious: did the restaurant intend to use the cups for their designated purpose? After watching a bartender chuck a #1 (PET) cup that had previously held water straight into the trash, I was having second thoughts, but we decided to proceed anyway and flagged the bartender down to ask. To our dismay, it turned out that this place didn’t reuse the cups. In fact, they didn’t even recycle them. Nope, everything got thrown away after one use. GAH!

On a purely monetary level, how is it even cheaper to buy endless sleeves of #5 cups when you could also invest in a set of pint glasses to wash and reuse again and again? In our attempts to avoid disaster, we choose a product that ends up being a disaster further on down the line and in the process, waste so many resources. Plus, we create this system where we assume humans can’t handle something breakable. I realize sometimes we all get a little crazy and thing break, but to just blindly categorize all people drinking as dangerous is unfair and stupid. Give us the benefit of the doubt. Let us make mistakes and break a glass so we know not to do it again. By giving us plastic, you’re letting us continue with our wasteful ways and there is no reprimand.

The worst part? Nobody seems to think this is a big deal. How do we change this perspective? I think the first step might be to hash it out with Skipper’s Dockside Key Largo but there are countless places like this in the world. Any other solutions out there?

Making New Connections

Hey, gang!

Remember back in, oh…MARCH (almost a full year ago now, oy!), when I talked about impermanence and presence and how I wasn’t blogging very much? After that post, I wrote a few short tidbits and since then (October 2014) it’s been radio silence for four whole months. Sigh. Staying present and experiencing life gets in the way of blogging sometimes, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. However, I started this blog for a reason, darn it, and want to keep it going! Why, oh why, would I want to do that when I can’t even  manage to post once a month? Well, it’s simple: my reasons have changed. They involve food. ;-)

Background: in addition to being the face behind 7 In the Ocean, I also “manage” a Tumblr known to a small handful of individuals as “Food, Instagrammed;” maybe you’ve heard of it? It started way back in 2012, when Instagram was still new and I was trying my hand at being vegan. Being vegan turned out to be super fun and it was even MORE fun to take pictures of all the new food I was making. After filling my Instagram feed with food porn, I started the blog. I’m not vegan anymore but still have this love and adoration for eating things and feeding my friends good stuff. So…how is this connected with my plastic-free mission?

It hasn’t been until recently that I’ve really put some thought into the food we eat and yes…the inordinate amount of plastic waste we also consume. It’s insane how much of plastic waste is somehow food-related. Bottle caps, cling film, bags, styrofoam trays, bottles, containers…ugh. Given this absurdity, it only made sense to start involving myself in the world of food: to better understand the beast we’re dealing with as a society and to answer questions like, “Is it possible to prepare food for lots of people in a totally plastic-free environment?” (hint: not really, but I’m still learning) and “How do we subtly shift people’s perceptions about plastic pollution? Can we do that through food?”

By this I mean…if we make good, simple food, with minimal ingredients, minimal processing, and (surprise!) minimal packaging, we’ve accomplished two things simultaneously! We automatically eat healthier AND we  create a cleaner planet with less food and packaging waste. Win, win, WIN.

I decided last fall to go back to school and learn more about food: butchery, food production on a commercial scale, nutrition, and the business of making food. Expect to see more food-oriented posts on this space, as well as the usual rantings against the world’s favorite packaging substance. Cheers!

DSC_1751

Watch Out for Those Microbeads!

microbeads infographic

5 Gyres Infographic

If you’re a Crest toothpaste fan, and especially if your paste of choice comes in that blue-gel form with itty bitty dots of who-knows-what in it, listen up! Those dots? They’re microbeads. Guess what they’re made of? Yep…plastic! Argh! Not only have microbeads infiltrated facial cleansing products, they’re being swished around our mouths every time we think we’re doing our teeth a favor. “They’re so tiny, though! How much harm could they really do?” Good question…what’s a dental enthusiast to do?

Read up on the issue, of course! 5 Gyres put together a great, simple infographic detailing exactly what this whole microbeads debacle is all about and why we might choose to care about it. The good news is that as of last month, Crest has agreed to slowly phase out the use of microbeads in its pastes. Better still, Proctor and Gamble, the parent company to Crest, has already declared that it will rid its product line of microbeads by 2017 at the latest which is pretty amazing considering it’s one of those mega-corporations. Just goes to show you what some sound science and solid citizen action can do!

But don’t wait for P&G to drop the beads! In the meantime, do some homework and find a brand that will clean your pearly whites, without the addition of plastic particles. Blech!

Science is awesome. If you need some proof, or just want something to break up your morning, check out the video footage below of a Colossal Squid dissection. Why is this so cool?! Let’s count the ways…

  1. Generally speaking, dissections of marine organisms are pretty neat: they allow scientists to observe an organism close-up and get to know its inner workings. How does the organism take in food and digest it? What does it use to propel itself? How does it respire, what’s going on with the brain, where are its teeth? So many questions!
  2. This particular squid was accidentally caught on a fishing line meantforPatagonianToothfish (aka Chilean Sea Bass!), and was brought to the surface fully intact. Yes, it’s unfortunate that such a behemoth of a creature was snagged on a fishing line, but one of the beautiful things about science is that this event was turned into an amazing research opportunity.

    Patagonian Toothfish

    Patagonian Toothfish

  3. It’s a COLOSSAL SQUID. Only two specimens have ever been collected in one piece. Scientists know next to nothing about it, except that it’s huge (39 – 46ft long, wicked heavy) and lives in the cold, polar waters of the Southern Ocean.

But don’t take my word for it…see for yourself!

Notable moments:

  • 02:10:22 – Dr. Kat Bolstad, after much trial and tribulation, pulls out the squid beak. The thing is just a little smaller than a soccer ball. YOWZAH.|
  • 02:25:40 – Jesse Kelly talking about a smaller relative to the Colossal Squid (the New Zealand Arrow Squid) – these are eaten by diving birds, marine mammals and yes…humans!
  • 02:47:30 – The dissection team moves the squid around in the tub. It took 5 people to do this. O.o
  • 03:16:15 – With the entire team in the tank, Dr. Kat Bolstad explains how massive this squid actually is.

A Colossal Dissection

Get Involved: The Science of Marine Debris

Readers! I have exciting news. The organization I work for, COSEE-OS (or, Center for Ocean Sciences Education Excellence – Ocean Systems) is hosting a webinar series at the end of this month. Guess what we’re talking about?

Yes, that’s right: marine debris!! Here are two reasons why you might consider signing up:

  • This webinar will feature three prominent research scientists doing work in this field right now – they’re looking at the microscopic life making a home on marine microplastics. They’re using computer models to predict trajectories of debris in the ocean and they’re telling stories about debris jettisoned out to see after the 2011 Tohoku earthquake (and subsequent tsunami) in Japan.
  • Marine debris vs. plastic pollution: this is the constant debate. Which term is “right”? As it turns out, both are…but don’t let me try to convince you. Join in the webinar fun and find out for yourselves.

In short, this is your chance to hear from the scientists themselves about this issue and what marine debris is doing to our oceans.

Click here to read all about it and sign up! Hope to “see” you there. :)

Marine Debris Webinar Announcement

The Universe Is a Funny Thing

I started this blog after realizing that what I was really interested in was learning more about plastic pollution, and sharing that knowledge with whoever wanted to read it.

The reason I got interested in plastic pollution was because I decided to give up a summer in between sophomore and junior year to take part in an 8-week program devoted to studies in oceanography, nautical science, and maritime history. We were 27 students from across the country coming together to learn more about the ocean. We all became friends in those 8 weeks, which I guess happens when you’re all packed into a 130′ ship for a month!

So it wasn’t just the plastic at sea that got me thinking more about our waste. It was that my other 26 classmates also got upset and annoyed by the floating debris. We were all disgusted after finding plastic lodged in the throat of a mahi mahi. These friendships and this shared experience was all part of the catalyst.

These days, I don’t blog as much, for one reason or another. I have posts queued up, then forget. Sometimes, I lose track of why I’m even bothering. Usually though, there’s this moment of “OH, RIGHT!” when I remember why I started it in the first place. That trip, those people, that experience.

That moment happened again today, but under surreal and tragic circumstances. One of my fellow S-218ers was killed last night as she crossed a street in Southern California. A drunk driver was the reason. Random, so all-of-a-sudden, so confusing. As I’ve been trying to work this out, one idea has remained constant: impermanence. Despite our every intention, we are only here for so long and sometimes, something awful happens and we’re here for even less time. So for all those times we say, “I’ll blog later” or “Eh, I’ll call that friend this weekend when I have more time”…why not do it now? What’s stopping us from doing the things we want to do, right now?

In yoga (and as it turns out, in life too) we talk about the “now” a lot. Be here, be present, now. This incident, while tragic and totally not fair, was a reminder to stay in this moment and to not look too far into the future. If I want to post something on here, I do it now. No more waiting. Why wait?