Do you ever get totally overwhelmed by all the beautiful content on the Internet these days? Scrolling through my Instagram feed is like riding a roller coaster of emotions: first, it’s inspiring, then it gets frustrating, and sometimes I have to turn off the damn phone and walk away because I have flung myself into a sea of misery and feel like I can’t even begin to compete with all the beautiful madness. I give up.
But then, I make a smoothie, pour it into a jar, and realize…it doesn’t have to be perfect. None of this has to be perfect, it just has to come to fruition (haha, fruit…smoothies…it’s funny, right?) and BE a thing. Our smoothies don’t have to have perfectly placed chia seeds and banana slices on top, and they don’t need to be in a vintage Mason jar. Nope. Today it’s a repurposed mayonnaise jar and tomorrow it’ll be an old salsa jar and whatever the type of jar, it’ll be beautiful, and more importantly…it’ll be damned tasty.
After all, the point is not to gain 100K likes on this photo. That’s never the point! The goal is to demonstrate that food can be delicious, sustainable, and easy. Make a smoothie! Grab a jar! Enjoy it!
My favorite yoga studio has a phrase on the wall at the front desk that simply says, “Begin Anywhere” and I always come back to that concept when social media gets overwhelming. By doing the thing (like making a smoothie and putting it in a mayo jar), we are taking control of the situation, and creating something amazing. That is totally satisfying (and sustainable). 👊🏼
There’s varying schools of thought on the effectiveness of “small acts.” I’m speaking specifically about small acts of conservation, and on World Ocean’s Day, I’d say that conversation is pretty relevant, wouldn’t you?
I was listening to CBC radio the other day (for my US readers, this is the equivalent of NPR and it makes me so happy that it exists!) and on the show (begin at the 25:00 mark!) was a man by the name of Dan Kraus, who is with The Nature Conservancy of Canada. The topic of conversation was small acts of conservation (say that 5x fast…) but what really got me thinking was when someone phoned in with a comment, arguing for a different perspective on small acts. His thought process went something like this: if the small-scale changes are not part of a larger, master plan, then are they really worth doing, or are we just wasting our time?
At first, I bristled. Why are people so hell-bent on writing off the little stuff?!
But then I thought some more…and came to realize that maybe this caller was kind of right. We need to frame our small actions within the context of something bigger, a larger purpose, a goal. Even if that goal is just to eliminate single-use plastics from our own house. Without a goal, it’s hard to rally people (in the case of this plastics goal, our families), hard to motivate ourselves (why bother?) and nearly impossible to effect change (back to the good ‘ole Ziploc!).
Here’s the deal: large acts take time. In our own houses, they take time. On the scale of city-wide change, national change, and global change…even longer. We need to work together to make big changes happen and we need big changes to keep the world from totally collapsing.
But what about the in-between time? Like physically, in between writing legislation, and lobbying for change, and meeting with corporate executives and politicians, and holding town-hall meetings with concerned citizens, and running our houses. We still need to eat, to fuel our bodies for all these activism and outreach activities. We still need to get to-and-from all of these meetings. On weekends when we want to take a break from all the advocating, we kick back at a bar with friends, where we may sip on a cold beverage or two (or three, depending on how the advocating went…).
All of these moments require some kind of decision. A decision about what to eat, what to wear, what mode of transportation to take…and how to do all of those things.. so yes, those small acts really DO matter because it’s not like we can just say our piece in a meeting about climate change, then walk out the door and jump into an Escalade while chomping down on a CAFO-raised steak. Well, yes, I suppose we could…but then what the heck was the point of meeting to talk about climate change in the first place?
By doing our small acts of conservation daily, we are walking out walk; speaking our truth; rebelling against the man in our own ways…and these make the bigger acts that much more robust. We need the small to get to the big.
So today, on World Ocean’s Day, I will be sipping my juice through my glass straw because #plasticsux but I will also be thinking up ways to get the “straw-free” movement to Kelowna (any Canadians want to join me?). Ultimately, if I’m the only one refusing a straw here, nothing will change. But if the whole city goes straw free (hey, a girl can dream!), now that would be quite a big change, don’t you think?
Wherever you are, regardless of if there is an ocean near you, go out and celebrate in whatever way you can. Celebrate water, celebrate abundance, celebrate your freedom to CHOOSE the best thing for you and this wonderful, blue planet we get to call home.
The act of returning metal and glass for money is amazing (almost like magic), but it’s made all the more powerful when that handful of change is put right back into the local economy. In doing this, I’ve supported area farmers, while also feeding myself and my family. And, as a bonus, I’ve also invested in our future health by purchasing a few seedlings for the garden. All with money collected from metal and glass. 👊🏼
I spend a lot of time mulling over blog posts, that eventually get forgotten, stuck in the “draft posts” folder, accumulating dust and never seeing the light of day. But the beauty of a blog is that it can be anything: off-the-cuff musings and/or fully researched articles. I like a healthy combination of both and so, I have a new tactic: just write and publish the darned post, as it happens, even if the finished product isn’t perfect and beautiful.
That brings us to the point of this post. I find inspiration for this blog in the things others may find mundane or may typically overlook as something of a non-issue. Examples include:
Food retail outlets using way too much plastic packaging (drives me absolutely mental while some may not even see the plastic as a problematic);
Coffee shops serving beverages in takeaway cups despite customers then sitting in the shop (what an absolute waste of resources!); and
Recently, hotels and the way they accessorize their rooms.
It’s this last bullet I’d like to highlight. This past week, I’ve been traveling around BC with my better half, and we’ve stayed in a myriad of hotels, motels, and something called a “boutique hotel” (is “boutique” the new “in” word?). Given that we are both into the whole #plasticsux thing, we usually base our opinion of a place in part on what products the hotel leaves for guests. “What are they equipping the in-room coffee tray with?” and “What toiletries are provided in the bathroom?” are usually the first things we’re wondering as we step into the room.
Context: lately, I’ve become totally jaded by hotels that appear lovely on the surface, but then litter their rooms with plastic crap. I imagine a place that has nice beds, towels, and an excellent shower to also follow through on the little things but as it turns out, this is not always the case! Last summer, we checked in at The Best Western in Fernie, and were impressed with its outward appearance, but totally let down by the sheer amount of packaged stuff in the rooms. It made me want to vomit. 😡
So when you land in a space, do a walk around the room and find no plastic, it’s like the stars have aligned. This week, that happened at every single hotel (and so far, we’re up to 5, so that’s saying something!). The coolest part about this is that 4 out of the 5 places have been little motels, no chain affiliation, in the middle of nowhere.
Which begs the question: if a small, one-off place is able to provide ceramic coffee mugs and actual glass water glasses, and paper-wrapped soap without any of the other unnecessary plastic tubes of bad shampoo, why is it that a mammoth corporation like Best Western, is offering lame styrofoam cups and plastic-wrapped plastic cups (I still haven’t figured out what the f*ck is up with that) and passing it off as cost-saving measures?! Surely they don’t need to cut costs, what with the amount of traffic they see and their clientele.
So to the small-town motels, still offering these little reminders that we are capable of drinking coffee out of a real mug without breaking it, I thank you. It is these little things that give me hope, and that make me want to come back, if only for the chance at holding on to a piece of something authentic.
And, if you find yourself in BC looking for a quiet, authentic place to rest your weary, adventure-filled body, here are some recommendations! 😉
Happy 2017 blogosphere! I’m back, I have a lot of thoughts about a lot of things, but in the interest of staying more committed to regularly updating this blog, I’ll keep this post sweet and simple.
I am not going to talk about the politics currently engulfing everyone’s news feeds and social media channels right now. We don’t need more of that and in fact I’d argue that we probably need less. Which is why, immediately following the posting of this little shpeal, I am putting on my hiking boots and going outside. It may be winter here in BC (oh right, small update readers: I moved to Canada and funnily enough, it had nothing to do with politics!) but the sun is shining and the bad news takes a backseat to Vitamin D absorption. 🙂
The politics I will discuss here are the kind I can’t get enough of: plastic pollution legislation. It makes me so happy to witness communities transform to protect their surroundings, to become more innovative, and to make positive changes even if the logistical challenges are very real and seemingly insurmountable. A few years ago while still living in Maine, I was involved with a local effort to place a fee on plastic bags and ban expanded polystyrene foam food packaging (read: dreaded styrofoam) and after a lot of hard work and testimonial, we won. Portland, Maine now charges 5-cents for each plastic bag used at retail locations and the first time I saw a sign alerting customers to that change, I almost started cheering in the supermarket.
So to read this morning that there is legislation being brought forward to BAN OUTRIGHT all polystyrene food packaging for the entire state of Maine gave me hope. It was a nice realization that while there is a lot of crazy sh*t going on in the world right now, there’s also a lot of really awesome sh*t and now more than ever, we need to be talking about all that awesomeness. Kudos to Maine for taking this on, I am so excited to see it progress!!
The problem with creating a culture around disposable products is that it creates a habit that is really freaking hard to break. We aren’t addicted to the packaging per se, but we also can’t shake it either. In this day and age, it takes work to eliminate plastic crap from our daily lives…like, physical and mental work that makes dieting and exercise look like a cake walk. (Is that a pun or just a bad joke? Neither? Hm…)
So when an entire country votes to ban a major source of this disposable lifestyle; of COURSE we get psyched! More awareness about the problem, less use of stupid, single-use plastic crap, and less stress over eating out and grocery shopping (plus win win for the planet!) Victory at last?
But then I read this and sort of lose it:
The Associated Press reports that France has enacted a ban on all plastic dishes, cups, and utensils. The ban goes into effect in 2020, after which all disposable utensils and dishes must be made of biological, rather than petroleum-based, material.
Let me preface this rant by saying that I think it’s amazing, truly, that France has declared this kind of ban (even if it doesn’t go into effect for 4 more years. Sigh.) The fact that an issue like this is gaining political traction is amazing and only speaks to how much more aware we are as humans that we are finally realizing our impact on this planet and want to take action to fix our mistakes.
So why create bandaid legislation? Why not attack the issue of waste and our culture of disposables head-on, instead of saying “no” to plastics but “yes” to something that walks, talks, and perpetuate the idea of plastic? Have we really ventured too far down the rabbit hole of single-use that this is the best solution?
Having no idea what went into this decision or how many plastic industry reps are fighting this, I can’t speculate on the whys or how’s and I realize that in me crying out for stronger legislation, I’m labeling myself some kind of idealist. Fine, I’ll take that on but man-oh-man, am I ever tired of this consumer culture. We need to evolve beyond using something for 5 minutes just to throw it away and never see it again. Plastic forks are seriously getting old. This is 2016, people!!
So we switch to compostable forks and cups. Great! At this point are there actually viable products on the market that can be mass-produced at low costs that will actually break down in a compost heap? Like a regular Joe-shmo pile? If not, then are we creating more problems for ourselves?
This ban leaves me with some hope and optimism but in the end, more questions (clearly). I want to live in a world that relies less on the concept of single-use…France, can ya help me out?
It’s a bit funny that as I try to eliminate single-use plastics from my life, I hoard 2 bins full of bottle caps, cigarette lighters, and toothbrushes. Why do I do that?
Easy: it’s a constant reminder to myself that not only did I actually go to Midway Atoll (sometimes I think it was a dream) but that our trash DOES have an impact on living things, somewhere in the world.
This year marks 4 years since my Midway journey began and in a way, it hasn’t ever ended. The physical presence of the albatross is long gone and I’m no longer within walking distance of the nearest tern chick, but the memories linger and the plastic is obviously not going away any time soon. Every time I look at that bin, I am instantly transported back to that atoll and then start thinking about how in the hell all that crap ended up here. Then, Take those bottle caps in the bin, for instance…
Sometimes I forget that the whole concept of recycling is a bit of a leap of faith. We trust that what we throw into the bin will be processed in some way, turned into some new plastic item but it’s made out of recycled plastic and we did our due diligence so check, check. Out of sight, out of mind. BUT! (There’s so many buts [har har har])!
The bottle you recycle MAY be melted down and turned into something and the bottle cap that was attached MAY get caught by the recycling center and sorted with the other #5 plastics, but it’s not necessarily a guarantee. See exhibit A and B, above. That stuff is sneaky and it gets out. So it’s not too much of a stretch to conclude that the only way to be sure that your consumption is really having minimal impact on the planet is to tread lightly in the first place. Skip the plastic bottle, people.
Tomorrow is World Oceans Day, a day to celebrate the salty seas that provide us with so many benefits. For me, that benefit is being able to witness abundant life thriving in, on, and around a water world. I want to protect and sustain it that so others can witness the same thing.
On World Oceans Day,and tomorrow and the next day, I’ll be thinking about Midway and the albatross (who doesn’t get a vote in any of this) and the easy things I can do to help make their lives easier: drinking my morning smoothie out of a jar with a reusable lid, not a plastic bottle with a colorful cap; sipping water through a badass glass straw, not a flimsy plastic one.
But beyond that, the biggest act we can take to do something, beyond the products and the refusing? We can talk, discuss, and argue with each other about this issue. Look how much attention the world of politics is getting right now, all because people are yapping. The more we bring this plastic crap up, the more we look into that bin of plastic, and the more momentum we build.
At the end of the day (regardless of what celebratory “day” it is), it’s our combined efforts and chatter that will magnify this dilemma and make the biggest difference in helping eradicate it. So I’ll keep the bins of plastic and they will keep reminding me to keep building that momentum toward cleaner seas. Here’s to getting inspired by plastic!
For more about my Midway journey including photos that may inspire you to purge the plastic out of your life, check out my guest post over at Plastic-Free Tuesday! And stay tuned as I continue to wax poetic about the Midway Months on here over the course of this summer. 😊