Fresh-Pressed Madness

“What can we do?”

This was matter-of-factly stated to me by a conscious human, at a health-foods store (Lower Mainland, BC) in regards to the scourge of plastic plaguing the aisles of our grocery stores, the coffee cups we sip from, and the bottles we house our water, juice, and sodas in.

*face-palm*

In the moment, I was so flabbergasted that a fully aware person would adopt such a defeatist attitude, that I could find nothing to respond with except a sarcastic, “Ha! Yeah…what can we do?” ๐Ÿ™„

Of course, after mulling this over for the next 45 minutes in the car, I thought of a number of smarter, more edgy retorts and it made me realize something: I need to get better at speaking my mind, in the moment, as it happens. Regardless of what the other party will think of me, regardless of what I’ll sound like and regardless of how it comes out of my mouth. What I wanted to and should have said, to this person toting a single-use coffee cup and a plastic bottle of cold-pressed juice:

  • What can we do? Well for starters, we can bring our own coffee mugs?!
  • What can we do? Hm!! Maybe since you’re sitting here anyway, just hanging out, why not ask for your juice to stay in and make them use a reusable cup, just like I did! See?!”
  • What can we do? Ask the manager why there are no bulk food options and advocate for more of that!
  • What can we do? Well…we can stop shopping at this place and start DIYing the sh*t out of our kitchen.

But what can we do if all we really want is convenience and to sort of care but not really, because we’d rather have the thing than not? Well…then there’s really nothing we can do with that mindset.

Ask, and you shall receive: it took a few questions and maybe a minute more of my time, but by asking and questioning and generally not going with the flow, I had my juice, single-use-plastic-free…and it was delicious. We have to stop being so complacent, people!! Stir the pot!!

And PS – Nature’s Fare, will you please give your customers options for sit-in dining?! Don’t assume we all want it to-go. Ask us (your customers) questions! ๐Ÿ˜‘

</rant>

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Bottled Water Twofer

It’s been a while since I actually ranted about plastic, so how ’bout a twofer? The subject matter? Bottled water…my favorite! Companies profiting off of suckers thinking they’re getting a product that’s something other than plain, ‘ole tap water. *sigh* Let’s go in chronological order, beginning with an unexpected post-Halloween find…

On a recent walk down my street here in beautiful BC, I unearthed what I assumed was a horrible prank, then quickly realized that no, in all seriousness, a bottled water company actually found a way to profit off a holiday explicitly known for candy consumption. It would appear that Nestle has figured out how scare the hell out of us environmentalists…good one, Nestle! Ya really gave me a scare there! >.<

Somehow, I’ve found a way to accept the fact that we have turned Halloween into an individually-packaged nightmare, but this is taking it a beeeeet too far. Nestle, WTF are you thinking? Why? Seriously, why?! Cut. It. Out. You’re making our job as plastic-pollution fighters unnecessarily difficult. And to be frank, are kids actually going bananas for bottled water in their Halloween haul? Somehow, I doubt it. Cue the eye roll.

I suppose one could argue that at least I was outside, getting some fresh air, and stretching my legs when I ran into this spooky bottle…so OK, silver lining. NEXT.

Fast-forward a few days to today, and we find ourselves in Harrison Hot Springs, BC. Also a beautiful place here in oh-Canada; stunning, in fact. Google Map it!

As an aside, can someone remind me what year it is? It’s actually 2017, right? …

…so why, why, why are hotels still offering up bottled water like it ain’t no thang? Come ON?!

There are many hilarious ironies about this water, most notably:

  • The price. HA!! For real? This coupled with the fact that about 10 steps away resides a sink with perfectly clean tap water flowing freely out of it is basically a recipe for please-excuse-me-while-I go-bang-my-head-against-something.
  • The fact that to the right and to the left of this display (not totally pictured) are durable, reusable options in the form of glassware and ceramic coffee mugs. Your ability to drink water does not rest on cracking the plastic seal on a plastic bottle, people! Just lift the dang glass to the spout and turn the tap on!

Ugh. Ugh, I say! This should not be happening anymore. We know better. The companies that make this water (Nestle and Great Canadian Water Company, I am so staring daggers at you!) know better. The hotels and parents that buy this water should know better (more daggers, Harrison Hot Springs…). Can we all just stop pretending like we have no idea that plastic is ruining the planet, admit plastic is actually ruining the planet, and evolve beyond the stupid plastic water bottle? Nathaniel Wyeth, I’m sure you were a great guy and all and you probably had no idea your invention of PET plastic would bite us so hard in the ass…but well, it did. Sigh.

</rant>

It’s the Little Things…

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. ๐Ÿ˜ก


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.

Funky accommodations in Revelstoke!
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.

Authenticity is ceramic and glass. โค๏ธ
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! ๐Ÿ˜‰

The Culture of Disposable

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!!

Where’s the plastic? Oh right…its’s 2016!

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?

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.ย Any other solutions out there?

Ban the Foam, Maine Edition

What happens when you eat ice cream too late in the evening? Well…blogging happens. This post is just shy of a month overdue, so I guess it was high-time for a sugar-fueled session. Here we go…

Recently, I joined up with the Surfrider Foundation, but more specifically, the Maine Chapter. Surfrider has many campaigns aimed at protecting one of nature’s best playgrounds (the ocean) but the one I most closely identify with is their Rise Above Plasticsย (RAP) campaign. It’s through this that a lot of bag bans and ordinances surrounding legislation targeted at reducing single-use plastics happen. For anyone who follows these bans across the country, you might recall seeing blips from the state of Maine, as we attempt to ban EPS. What’s EPS? In simple terms: Expanded Polystyrene. The ban that the city of Portland, Maine is considering taking up aims to ban only EPS foam food packaging. Remember that time you got Thai takeout and it came swaddled in squeaky white clam shells? Yeah, that stuff. It’s an ugly pice of litter, it gets into our oceans and wrecks havoc on the marine environment. For those that read my “Photo Seen Round the World” post, you might have noticed a small piece of styrofoam amongst all the contents on that tray…even on Midway Atoll, we find EPS. Problem? You betcha.

And so it was that on September 16, the City Council of Portland, Maine heard public comment on this proposed ordinance. I, along with fellow Surfrider members, attended the meeting to lend our voice in favor of the ban. This was my first foray into the world of politics and public hearings and what I found that evening sort of surprised me. I was told two things before the meeting: 1) there would be lots of lobbyists there, doing a lot of pandering and 2) despite that, most of the council seemed to be in favor of the ban and it was probably going to pass.

Thinking that this was going to be a cake walk, I crafted my 3-minute public statement to the council with Midway on my mind. I talked about how EPS is an outdated packaging material and that recycling it is a futile effort. I shared my Midway story and told the Council members about the albatross being affected by our trash in the middle of nowhere. It was a very nice bit of writing…but it didn’t really resonate with any of the council members. Maybe I spoke too soon, allowing too many lobbyists to speak after me, but mostly, I think what spoke very loudly that night were two things: money and economics.

Herein lies the lesson, and the rub. First, the rub: I am, first and foremost, all about the environment. This is the reason I joined up with Surfrider in the first place and what I focus on in my anti-plastic pollution advocacy. However, there is a large percentage of the population that does not think this way, and this is what I learned that night at the hearing. People want to know how things will affect them, their business, and the economy…back to money and economics. The message driven home, loud and clear, was that if you really want to get a council-member’s attention, you have to mention those things. Of course, we don’t need to all turn into smooth-talking lobbyists, no, no, no…but we have to get on the level.

Something I heard repeatedly that night from the lobbyists and small business representatives in the room was that switching from EPS to alternative packaging would be too expensive. And yet, only one person who testified in favor of the ban gave any evidence that alternative, cost-effective packaging even existed. This is the problem! The small businesses who oppose this ban don’t want it to happen because they maybe aren’t aware of the alternatives, and have been told by industry lobbyists that switching would be disastrous for business. We can talk about the impacts of EPS on the environment until we’re blue in the face, but until we give this group actual alternatives and hard numbers as evidence, we might as well be shouting into the breeze.

Lobbyists are really good at convincing pretty much anyone that their product is just fine and all we need are more recycling programs. They are smooth talkers and when they outnumber those in favor of any legislation that would ban their product, their voice is suddenly the loudest and most heard. What happens then is that a group of council members who are no longer sure an EPS ban is what the City of Portland needs sends the legislation back to committee for further review…at least, this was the case in Portland, that night.

So as advocates of a plastic-free lifestyle, what do we do? We all care about the environment and the well-being of ourselves and future generations and we shouldn’t have to sacrifice that message. What if we crafted our messages in a way that addressed all of these things? After the hearing last month, it became clear to me that as advocates, we can do a better job. It’s not enough to give a statement to the city council on why we think a ban is necessary. We need to be talking to those opposed and figure out how to solve these issues. Only when we take that next step can change really happen.

Surfrider Foundation Maine Chapter

Sick. Twisted.

Sometime in the not-too-distant past, I watched a clip from the documentary “Earthlings”. I never got to the whole movie, mostly because after watching the trailer, I had seen enough. I felt sick, disgusted, sad, angry, light-headed… it was pretty bad. I’m by no means a fanatic, but it’s hard not to get upset when you see animals being abused. Maybe it’s because we as a society shelter ourselves from seeing that stuff, so when we actually come face to face with the content in Earthlings and Food, Inc and all those other exposรฉย documentaries, we squirm. It’s uncomfortable, seeing the truth.

Well, I hadn’t felt like that in a while. Then, Midway happened. And then…I saw this:

This video was uploaded to YouTube almost 3 years ago and you’ve probably already seen it. But in case you haven’t, feel free to take a gander. I won’t spoil it for you.

Done? Ok, cool. Now…what the f***? First of all, I’m just going to throw this out there…why didn’t the person filming stop the gull? All it takes is a good shout and running around like a crazy person to get a gull moving. But no…thanks to him, we get to witness 5 minutes of a Lesser Black-Backed Gull choke down our trash. This is seriously, seriously twisted stuff. I’m grossed out. Are you?

Deep breath. Stay positive. We’ve just watched something really terrible, made all the worse with the knowledge that this isn’t an uncommonย occurrence. This happens a lot, all over the place. It’s not just albatross, or sea turtles, or whales.ย Plastic is everywhere.ย Time to do something about that. Why don’t we be proactive? Let’s not let the gull get that far in his munching. Instead of watching, take part. Pick up. Throw out. Refuse in the first place. Simple, simple little things. It’s so easy. Come on, people. This is getting a bit ridiculous.