Common Wealth

I recently read “A Conservationist Manifesto” by Scott Russell Sanders and found it to be quite profound.   He discusses the concept of common wealth, all “natural and cultural goods” we share including “the air, waters, soils, and oceans; outer space; the electromagnetic spectrum; the human gene pool and the diversity of species; language in all its forms, including mathematics and music; knowledge in all its forms, from art to zoology; all manner of artifacts and machines, from stone scrapers to supercomputers; the practical arts such as cooking, building, herding, and farming; the practice of medicine; the body of law, the structures of democratic government, and the traditions of civil liberty; parks, community gardens, state and national forests, wildlife refuges, and protected wilderness areas; museums, libraries, schools, plazas, and other public spaces.”  He argues these are common wealth because “none of us, as individuals or even as nations, could create these goods from scratch, or replace them if they were lost.”

For years the government has favored giveaways including below-cost timber sales in national forests, patenting of organisms, oil drilling in wildlife refuges, subsidies for the nuclear industry and agribusiness, off-shore tax havens for corporations, and waivers of clean air regulations.  Our common wealth became further at risk in 2010 when the Supreme Court ruled in favor of Citizens United.  Now corporations can give anonymous unlimited funds to politicians.

These corporations need consumers so they flood the media with advertising.  According to Sanders, by age 21 the average American has been exposed to 30 million ads.  They convince us “you, the isolated consumer, are the center of the universe; your pleasure, comfort, status, looks, convenience, and distraction are all that matter; you will find happiness and fulfillment through buying this product or service; the entire Earth is a warehouse of raw materials at your service.”  So now the circle is complete – Insatiable consumers take from the common wealth oblivious to the common good.

He suggests we live more lightly.  “We need a dream worthy of grown-ups, one that values simplicity over novelty, conservation over consumption, harmony over competition, community over ego.”

To sum it up, “We are born into the legacy of the common wealth, and we pass it on, either enhanced or diminished, to future generations.”  Reduce, Reuse, Recycle, Pick up Litter, Use your Voice and Vote wisely.  Future generations will be glad you did.

Advertisements

Over-Extended Family Christmas

stack-of-christmas-presents-clipart-illustration-of-large-pile-of-qpucg2-clipart
http://www.clipartkid.com/stack-of-presents-cliparts/

Days past, kids were happy with a gift or two for Christmas and basked in the joys of creating gifts for their loved ones. In most households, those days are long gone. Now most houses are filled with Stuff; neglected toys spill into all rooms of the house. According to the American Psychological Association, children see at least 40,000 advertisements a year. Kids haven’t developed filters, leaving them highly susceptible to advertising.  Easily convinced they need the “hottest” toy on the market, they do whatever it takes to eventually wear down their parents so they buy it. And, they not only want Stuff, they are also convinced they need to gather money to buy Stuff for their loved ones as well – a well rounded Consumer.

All this shopping has taken a toll on our families. 2015 Federal Reserve reports show Americans have 918.5 billion credit card debt averaging $7529 per household. No doubt, debt causes stress. Although it may be hard to stop or circumvent the tidal wave of consumerism, there are other options – lots of them.

For starters, thinking about those less fortunate fosters the true meaning of Christmas.  In the spirit of giving back, the family might want to volunteer at a food bank or other organizations serving those in need.  As an annual tradition, the family could join forces, sort through their belongings, and make a donation. Outgrown or unused items find new life through organizations serving those in need.  Maybe enjoy a beautiful day together outside on a family pick-up litter outing. Through giving, the spirit of gratitude and compassion grow.

As for family gifts, with a simple Google search, one can find a myriad of presents kids will enjoy making for their loved ones. To add to the fun, they might need your help! As for gifts for the kids, it won’t be the “hottest” toy, but second hand stores are filled with fun, interesting and stimulating gifts. Expand their world and vision with nature related gifts. Or consider a gift of experience, perhaps a class to boost a natural ability, or a family outing.  Above all, remember Time is the most precious gift of all. Stuff inevitably loses it’s luster, while quality time with a loved one keeps on giving.

stock-photo-multi-racial-hands-69980656
https://www.shutterstock.com/search/multi-racial

International Meals on the Road

Last fall we were so excited to score fresh scallops harvested from the seashores of the Outer Banks in North Carolina.  We generally travel on the cheap preparing our own meals, so I was exhilarated when we scored my favorite fish at the local Seafood Market in Ocracoke.  Further up the road we replenished our fresh veggies at The Fresh Market, anticipating a wonderful “local” meal.

As I was cooking, I decided to see exactly where our food came from.  After all, pretty much everything is at arm’s reach in our RV.  Local meal? Not so much. First our salad – cherry tomatoes were from Peru, the romaine lettuce and baby carrots from California, and cauliflower from Canada. Our balsamic salad dressing was from Connecticut and my favorite balsamic glaze was a product of Italy. Fortunately, later in the trip we ran across several Farmers Markets so we then enjoyed local, fresher and tastier salads.

As a side dish we had my favorite – asparagus.  We were in a hurry, it was reasonably priced and not packaged in Styrofoam so I grabbed it and ran.  Turns out it was a “Fairly Traded” product also from Peru. We also snagged a locally baked wild berry pie, which was wonderful!  Although we had already eaten most of the food I brought along, we complimented our meal with nine grain bread from Uprise Bakery from close to home.

Looking closer, for lunch we had wonderful red pepper humus from Asheville, NC, from earlier in our travels, organic blue tortilla chips from Texas, Planter’s Mixed Nuts from Illinois, and Trader Joe’s dark chocolate covered espresso beans (our traveling companion) from California.

For breakfast we had Chiquita bananas from Guatamala, along with Kashi 7 Whole Grain Nuggets and Trader Joes Multigrain O’s Cereal from California, covered with yummy honey from Walther’s Farm south of my home town and organic milk from Wisconsin.  To wake us up, we drank Altura Organic Fair Trade Columbian coffee with organic half & half from Oregon.

Although we strive to eat healthy foods, in one day we managed to eat food from six countries – Canada, Columbia, Guatemala, Italy, Peru, and the United States from California, Connecticut, Illinois, Missouri, Oregon, Texas, Wisconsin and just a couple local foods from North Carolina.  Now that was a carbon intensive day! I’ve read food typically travels an average of 1500 miles before reaching one’s plate.  Seems mine could have been even further! Seems we need to be more diligent both on and off the road!

 

 

 

Conscious Shopping

It’s complicated.  Shopping by one’s conscience takes more time, thought, research and label scrutinizing – pain staking yes, but a worthy challenge.  These are factors I consider –

*Second-Hand – Hand’s down, this is the most eco-friendly shopping practice of all.  Producing fewer products reduces environmental damage, and reuse minimizes waste, averting valuable resources away from our landfill.  While shopping second-hand, sometimes I flex my other criteria. Swap meets are becoming a thing!  My daughter recently helped with a community  Stop ‘N’ Swap event in New York City.  I always enjoy all the laughter, and stories as we model and promote our wares seeking a new owner during smaller swap parties among friends.

*Buy what I need – By avoiding impulsive shopping, I minimize my carbon foot-print.  I’m rewarded by saving both time and money.  Focusing on “need” helps one avoid the emotional therapy shopping trap.

*Made in the USA/Shop Local when purchasing “new” items – Certainly challenging, buying as locally as possible minimizes transporting carbon spewing cargo ships and trucks, keep jobs in the USA, and stops supporting companies that gravitate to countries with lax environmental and labor laws.

*Produce – Grow yourself, or buy at Farmer’s Markets.  When purchasing organics, I consult the Environmental Work Group’s Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen groups to get more bang for my buck.  Buying in season reduces transportation emissions when produce isn’t transported from countries all over the world.  Frequently cited, food travels an average of 1500 miles from farmer to consumer in the United States.

*Fair trade/Eco-conscious companies – I always start my day with a strong cup of fair trade coffee.  Knowing those working in the fields aren’t over-worked and underpaid enhances my enjoyment.  While considering products, I frequently consult the Good Guide , as their scientists have rated over 250,000 products on a zero to ten scale rating their health, environment and social impact.

*Quality – I will pay extra for products I that will last longer and always purchase energy efficient appliances.

*Buy Healthy Food – Again challenging, I try to avoid processed foods, unhealthy chemicals (additives, preservatives, food coloring), and hormone fed animals and their byproducts.  I also avoid products made with genetically modified (GMO) ingredients which are unfortunately very prevalent and unlabeled.  If you want to see more healthy options available on our local grocery shelves, speak up.

*Avoid Environmentally Damaging Products – Styrofoam, plastic water bottles, cleaning products with toxic chemicals, heavily packaged products, disposables, single-serve products and healthcare products with micro-beads.  With Good Guide’s assistance and lots of research, I am replacing old standbys with healthier products – shaving cream, toothpaste, sunscreen, lotion, shampoo, and conditioner.

Embrace Consumer Power – When we consciously choose where we spend money, we have the opportunity to support businesses and companies that reflect our values.  Many times those “bargains” come at too high of a price to the environment and workers.

Grumblings

rothman-grumbling-1200
http://www.newyorker.com/culture/cultural-comment/notes-grumbling

Some days I’m more easy-going than others.  I realize we all have different priorities, which is good.  Diversity adds color to the palette.  I also realize we are all busy.  But if we are lucky, we do more than just put out fires.  Instead of always reacting, we are proactive.  I try my best not to judge, but some days, actually most days, it seems our environmental life-line would naturally be somewhere in the top five.

Grocery stores are a struggle for me.  For starters, I usually see litter in the parking lot.  Once inside, likely now with soiled hands, I see expensive colorful products displayed on the end-caps, poised for impulsive shoppers.  I see produce and meat products packaged in Styrofoam along with huge displays of Styrofoam products – every size and use imaginable; and single-use disposable water bottles prominently displayed throughout the store.  Then I’m surrounded by all the unhealthy, highly processed foods that claim to be “Natural” simply because this misleading term increases sales.  The FDA has no rules for “Natural” labeling.

Then there is the daunting check-out lane.  As I’m waiting, my eyes gravitate to carts filled with over-packaged single-serve products, Styrofoam products, bottled water, chemical “cleaning” supplies, and unhealthy processed food.  Then the cashier bags and double bags purchases into maybe 20 plastic bags!  Seriously, does a package of toilet paper need to be bagged?  Shaken, I clutch my cloth grocery bags.

Finally I’m out of the store and driving back home.  I see a guy flick out his cigarette butt, or perhaps fast food packaging.  I’ve promised my friends I will no longer stalk and follow these folks home, so I just honk.

Once home, I grab my mail.  I sort through all the junk mail, catalogues and newspaper inserts – Seriously, is there no end to the assault on our trees to produce millions of ads we don’t want or read?  As I settle in and read the news,  with more frequency I read about another environmental assault such as a chemical or oil spill threatening our waterways, soils and atmosphere.   Although, I am grateful for the coverage, since most infractions never make it to news print.

Sigh.  Once when perseverating to a sage friend, she advised me – “You need to spend half your time helping the environment and half your time enjoying it”.  Think I’ll take a hike.

hiking-feet-fall-1240
https://www.greatsmokies.com/hiking.php

Styrofoam Be Gone!

imgp10863
http://thebadinogden.blogspot.com/2005/09/garbage-at-beus-pond.html

Summer is finally here –time for picnics!  I can buy 170 Styrofoam plates for just $3.97.  What a bargain!  Or not.  Time to “Pause”.

In 1937, Dow Chemical introduced Styrofoam to the US, an expanded polystyrene foam petroleum based product.  A 1986 an Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Report named the process of creating polystyrene as the fifth largest creator of hazardous waste.  In 2000 the EPA determined styrene as a possible human carcinogen.

Many sources report, by volume Styrofoam uses 25-30 percent of the landfill space.  Once there, it never decomposes, breaking down into smaller pieces.  The wind carries these particles and other Styrofoam litter throughout the environment and into our waterways.  Styrofoam is disastrous for animals, birds, and marine life as they mistaken these toxic particles for food, choking them and clogging their digestive systems.  As Styrofoam accumulates, it also puts our health at risk when we eat fish.

Styrofoam is commonly used for egg cartons, beverage cups, plates, bowls, produce/meat trays, take-out food and packaging peanuts.  The Sierra Club reports each year Americans throw away 2.5 billion  Styrofoam coffee cups every year, enough to circle the earth 436 times – just One Styrofoam product!

While technology for recycling polystyrenes is available, the melt-down process is toxic, the market is very small, it is not cost effective and not available locally.

Progress is being made.  Some entities are outlawing polystyrene foam (Taiwan, Portland, New York City and several cities in California).  Scientists are developing alternatives.  Bagasse take-out containers made of crushed stalks of sugar cane and sturdy paper boxes are now available.

How can you help? Use your Consumer Purchasing Power and stop buying it and help me educate store and restaurant managers and your friends!  Instead of Styrofoam coffee cups, use reusable mugs or paper insulated cups.  Instead of Styrofoam plates and bowls, use reusable dishware, or paper plates.   Give UPS Styrofoam peanuts to reuse; instead use shredded newspaper or real popcorn.    Don’t buy take-out food unless they use bagasse, paper boxes/bags or aluminum foil – better yet, bring your own container.  Take your Styrofoam egg cartons to the Farmer’s Market for reuse and grab some goodies.  Avoid produce packaged in Styrofoam trays!  Throw big Styrofoam packaging blocks into your attic for insulation.  Event Organizers – Use paper insulated cups, #1 plastic cups (recyclable) & fiber or bagasse clamshells, paper bags or aluminum foil.  And pick up Styrofoam litter so it doesn’t have a chance to break-down and wreak havoc!  We need to tackle this menace!

 

10-5-13 Sugar Creek MRR effot
Styrofoam mess cleaned up on Sugar Creek, MO during event hosted by Missouri River Relief 2014

Progress on Our Behalf

Sweeping changes are occurring in the food industry, perhaps escaping your notice. It’s encouraging to see changes. As we gain momentum gravitating toward healthier choices, the industry responds. They study our patterns and give us what we want, or rather, “need”. Decisions are made based on our feedback in the way of purchases, phone calls, written comments, and petitions. Maybe they see our nation’s health has declined or perhaps they are responding to our feedback and purchasing patterns and realize it makes good business sense.

WebMD highly recommends avoiding the following seven food additives – food colorings, high fructose corn syrup, aspartame, monosodium glutamate (MSG), sodium benzoate and trans-fats. Recent food industry shifts are focusing on these particular additives. While the level of commitment varies greatly and it’s still not apparent whether all the ambitious time-lines for 2015 have been met, here is progress in the works –

The Aldi Supermarket chain (about 1,400 stores in the US) recently announced by the end of 2015 all their branded products, will be free of synthetic colors, partially hydrogenated oils and MSG.

Taco Bell states by the beginning of 2016, they will remove artificial flavors and colors, added trans fat, high fructose corn syrup, and unsustainable palm oil from its core menu items, introduce aspartame-free diet Pepsi and convert to 100% cage free eggs by the end of 2016. Pizza Hut plans to remove artificial colors and flavors from most of their menu items in 2015. Burger King is committed to converting to cage-free eggs by 2017; whereas, McDonalds and Denny’s plan to convert within a ten year period. Noodle and Company is committed to removing artificial colors, flavors and preservatives from their soups, sauces and dressings by the end of 2015. Panera plans to ditch 150 artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors and preservatives from its menus by the end of 2016. Papa Johns will eliminate all synthetic ingredients from its recipes by the end of 2016, removing corn syrup and preservatives. Subway also plans to make changes over the next 18 months removing artificial colors, flavors, and preservatives from their menu.

Chipotle serves GMO-free tortillas and soybean oil. Kroger, Safeway, Aldi, Cosco, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, and Red Lobster have all stated their commitment to not stock recently Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved GMO salmon. Sadly against over-whelming public outcry, the FDA approved what many now call “frankenfish”.

Chipotle, Panera and Chick-fil-A all now serve meat raised without antibiotics and McDonalds plans to switch to hormone-free chicken by spring 2016. Milk products are more frequently boasting “hormone free”. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has repeatedly warned about the public health threat of antibiotic resistance due to the overuse of antibiotics in the meat industry.
More good news next week.

Campbell’s announced it will disclose GMO ingredients across their entire product line and are calling for a national, mandatory GMO labeling regimen. Contrary to the chemical’s primary justification against such labeling, they said GMO labeling will not cause food prices to go up. Campbells Soup plans to remove artificial and unhealthy ingredients in all products by mid-2018. Given the Senate recent defeat of the bill dubbed as Deny Americans the Right to Know (DARK) Act, General Mills has stated it’s intention to start labeling GMO products nationwide in preparation for Vermont’s GMO labeling mandate that goes into effect July 1st.

Nestles says it will remove artificial flavoring and colors, including Red 40 and Yellow 5, from all of its chocolate products by the end of 2015 and reduce the sodium content of their frozen pizza and snack products by ten percent. Krafts iconic neon orange macaroni and cheese will take on a new hue with plans to remove Yellow 5 and Yellow 6 by 2016. General Mills is working on removing their artificial color and flavors by 2017. Trix eaters will lose their blue and green crispies! Kelloggs plans to remove artificial colors and flavors from their cereals by 2018.
Schwann Foods plans to remove artificial and unhealthy ingredients from their offerings as well as high-fructose corn syrup by 2017.

Lowes and Home Depot have pledged to phase out neonicotinoid pesticide tainted garden plants, the chemical associated with the decline of bees and other pollinators. Home Depot reports it has removed neonicotinoid pesticides from 80% of their flowering plants, committed to a complete phase-out by 2018, Lowes being 2019. Pop Weaver and Pop Secret are phasing out neonicotinoid seed coatings. As a side note, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced their plans to ban neonicotinoid insecticide use in all wildlife refuges nationwide by January 2016 and the European Union already has a moratorium on all uses.

The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition reports 61 percent of the food Americans buy is highly processed. Removing some of the harmful chemicals is a step in the right direction, but fact remains a diet based on junk food, fast foods and processed food will always be lacking. Basic combinations of saturated fat, calories, sugar with minimal fiber is never healthy. Studies have shown 80% of the contents in processed foods come from just four ingredients – corn, wheat, soy, and meat. Industry is happy to fill our shelves with those ingredients as farm subsidies have made them inexpensive to produce. While removing harmful chemicals is certainly progress, eating whole foods and unprocessed foods will always remain the healthier option.

Precious Water

splash
http://www.islamforchristians.com/world-water-day-islamic-perspective/

If you live in the US, remember the wide-spread unrelenting drought of Summer 2012?  That summer, I recall one day they predicted a 90% chance of rain, and it still didn’t rain!  It’s a bit unsettling – 95% of the Scientists have confirmed we are experiencing Climate Change, so extreme weather patterns and droughts will likely become more common.  According to the U.S. Drought Monitor, year 2013 ended with 31% of the contiguous US experiencing moderate to extreme drought.  As droughts become more common, it’ll become more difficult to replenish our current water supplies and our soils become dryer.

Continue reading “Precious Water”

The History of Consumerism & Garbage

Do you ever wonder how it has all come down to this – Frantic consumption while curbs are overflowing with trash on garbage day?  To better understand, I read “Gone Tomorrow – The Hidden Life of Garbage” by Heather Rogers and “Waste and Want – A Social History of Trash” by Susan Strasser and searched the Internet.  Here are some interesting tidbits –

During the 17th and 18th century almost nothing was thrown away, reusing and recycling was commonplace practice as it was generally cheaper to reuse items than to buy new ones.

1830s – The poor and “swill” children scavenged the streets for any items of worth.  Ragmen worked the streets buying bones, paper, old iron, bottles and rags.

1842 – Estimated 10,000 hogs were on NYC streets. The roaming pigs consumed so much garbage and furnished so much food for the poor that efforts to ban them ran into political opposition.

1866 – Rags were used to make paper.  By the late1870s wood pulp was used for newsprint, and prices dropped rapidly.  Soon paper was recycled into more paper.

1890s – Articles in magazines focused primarily on germs; cleaning supplies purchases more than doubled between 1900 and 1929.

 

https://www.pinterest.com/pin/83457399315862808/

 

1894 – Sears, Roebuck and Co. catalog began; by 1897 the Sears catalog was 786 pages long.

vintage-sears-roebuck-catalog_73216
http://www.eefurnish.com/post_historic-sears-catalog_73199/

1895 – In NYC, garbage was hauled to Barren Island where people sorted it and salvaged 60% for reuse.

1900s – As technological innovations and mass production became common, producing goods became easier and cheaper.  Heinz and Procter & Gamble were mass-producing and selling packaged products.  Middle-class people learned to toss things in the trash, attracted by the convenience and repelled by the association of reuse and recycling with a new class of impoverished scavengers.  As the city’s trash system improved, it became easier to throw things away.

garbage-landfill-facts-670x442
https://enlightenme.com/garbage-collection/

 

In 1902 about 4/5 of cities required some separation of organic garbage or ashes so that these wastes could be recycled or reused.  Contractors hired immigrant workers to pick through trash and separate out marketable bones, rags and bottles.

By 1930 – Waste services no longer needed to pay for themselves through salvaged materials.  Organic discards were no longer put back into the soil.

1914 – Home Economics Extension Service formed – introduced farm women to new products, labor-saving devices, and provided latest methods instructions.

Late 1920s – Movies, magazines and Radio become major commercial enterprises.

1924 – Kleenex introduced by Kimberly-Clark; “Germ-filled handkerchiefs are a menace to society!”

https://envisioningtheamericandream.files.wordpress.com/2014/02/kleenex-33-swscan09842.jpg

1929 – The rhetoric of convenience, luxury, and cleanliness was potent; the ideal of the durable and reusable was displaced by aspirations of leisure and luxury, ease and cleanliness.

Flies and Disease: Kill the Fly and Save the Child. An early British public health poster (c.1920)

1930s –  Art Deco was introduced; industrial design became a fad among manufacturers.

1933 – The common practice of dumping garbage in the ocean ruled illegal by US Supreme Court.

1930-1940 – Engineers packed earth with trash to reclaim low land; Site of NYC 1939 World’s Fair was built on land filled with trash.

1939-1945 – World War II – Due to a massive material shortage some items were rationed and recycling by participating in scrap drives is considered patriotic.  Millions of people donated metals (pots and pans, kettles, ice cream scoops, and hair curlers) and conserved fiber.  National Rubber Drives secured tires for the military. Waste fat was collected to make glycerin for explosives.  Citizens planted “Victory Gardens to produce food.

http://www.nationalww2museumimages.org/web-assets/images/victory-garden-snapshot3.jpg
https://www.nal.usda.gov/exhibits/speccoll/files/original/86db8febaf3b0410377d23ee4924eb20.jpg

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Post WW II –After years of deferred gratification, consumers spending increased 60%.  Advertisers encouraged people to buy more than one of everything and manufacturers started adding built in obsolescence – Planned failure of materials; functional obsolescence (outdated), style obsolescence. Recycling was largely forgotten.

 

1950s – Age of paper plates, polyester, fast food, TV dinners, new refrigerators, washing machines, lots of packaging.

http://clickamericana.com/wp-content/uploads/tv-dinner-1967.jpg

1953 – Keep America Beautiful (KAB) was established by the packaging industry.  It focused on individual’s bad habits & laws that steered clear of regulating industry. Reducing consumption and mandating reuse was threatening so they switched the focus to litter and recycling. Centerpiece was its great cultural invention – Litter.

1955-1958 Standard Packaging expands and triples sales of discardable trays, boxes, bags, plates, bowls, utensils.

Advertising spending mushroomed from one billion in 1920 to more than 4.5 billion in 1950 & by 1956 almost 10 billion – all to promote consumer spending; Advertising tapped into insecurities – bad breath, body odor.  Marketing based on desire, anxiety and envy were highly effective; Advertising connected social status and human value with ability to consume.  Sound familiar?

1960 – Plastics became one of the largest industries in the country; Styrofoam emerged as a new disposable.

1961 – Proctor & Gamble introduced disposable diapers.

1970 – First Earth Day, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle” concept promoted; Recycling became popular again, drop-off recycling centers were established; Rising energy costs – recycling saved energy.

http://66.media.tumblr.com/cff88624acd6a4c1d52b9a0952858bbb/tumblr_inline_nn4b8pJ99k1qi9i16_500.jpg

1970s – Manufactures deployed smoke screen of job losses and economic doom to head off packaging regulations.

1972 – First deposit law in the US, roadside litter down 35% by volume, millions fewer beverage containers were consumed, energy savings, jobs increased, prices stabilized; Later most repealed – Disposables favored by grocery store chains as it saved labor and space.

1976 – Beverage containers fastest growing type of solid waste; Packaging, measured by weight, became the single largest category of municipal solid waste at 34%.

1980s – Curbside recycling systems began.

Late 1980s – An EPA study reports more than 99% of all plastic containers were discarded after only a single use. Americans were throwing away 10 million tons of plastic each year, 25% of all waste by volume.

recycled-plastic-bottles1
http://blogs.stlawu.edu/chelseapriebe/files/2012/11/recycled-plastic-bottles1.jpg

1981 – Americans held over 6 million garage sales a year, generating nearly a billion dollars, freeing up space for more consumption.

1993 -The EPA reported that domestic recycling had tripled from 7% to almost 22%. Recycling programs are expected to pay for themselves, while solid waste departments are fully funded no matter what.  Recycling has long been the enemy of the solid waste industry, stealing volumes otherwise headed for profit making landfills.

2005 – Over 30% of municipal waste is packaging & 40% of that is plastic; Much of America’s discards get shipped overseas for recycling and disposal.

Our population and consumerism has grown exponentially – All at the expense of our Earth and finite natural resources.  It seems our appetites are insatiable – exactly what the advertisers and Billionaires want.  We are bombarded by ads, stores even open on Thanksgiving vying for the Christmas buck.  We all “need” things, I get that.  But when it comes to “wants” or simply the desire to shop, maybe try a Second Hand Store or take a nature walk instead!   Reduce, Reuse, Recycle!

https://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/5/50/Logo_RRR_H%C3%A9lice_azul.jpg

 

Healthier Consumer Practices

Part 7 – “Story of Stuff” Series

Positive changes are happening all around us.  Farmer’s Markets and organic gardening practices are on the rise.  People are becoming more concerned about chemical exposure electing to make or purchase green cleaning products.

Organics are the fastest growing product in our grocery stores and stores are offering more chemical-free options across many product lines.  Target plans to double organic and sustainable product brands with it’s Made to Matter campaign.  I more frequently see organic food donated to the local food bank.

More products are boasting “less packaging”, “no high fructose corn syrup”, and “non-GMO”.  Nestle USA says they are eliminating artificial flavor and colors from their chocolates by the end of the year – over 250 products and 10 brands.  More paper products have the “Sustainable Forestry Initiatives” label.

Over 60 countries have either banned or limited the use of genetically modified foods (GMO).  The US public is becoming more informed and businesses are hearing our voice – Many stores including Costco, Kroger, Safeway, Trader Joes, Whole Foods, Target say they won’t stock GMO salmon even if it is approved.  McDonalds is converting to hormone-free chicken and milk products.  No doubt, competing companies will quickly follow suit.

And locally, kindred spirits are in motion.  The local Sierra Club is vocal and active.  River stewards from all over the state are involved with Missouri River Relief and thousands of MO Clean Stream teams.  Boonvillians have embraced Pick-Up Boonville activities.

Great strides have been made in the solar industry rolling out more affordable and productive products. Solar panels are producing energy locally – Imhoff Hometown Appliance, our high school, homes and businesses.  Missouri Solar Solution has moved to into town and a Renewable Energy Associates degree is now offered at our State Fair Community College local campus.

Our high school students are becoming informed and speaking up.  An article in a recent student paper insert voiced health concerns about Astroturf exposure and the FCCLA group is involved with Breathe Easy Boonville, speaking on behalf of our workers exposed to second-hand smoke.

Student bodies and other groups are challenging institutions with carbon based investments.  Droughts in California, melting glaciers and rising seas make it harder for skeptics to deny climate change realities. The media is more frequently exposing the damages caused by climate change and carbon based industries while renewable energy technology is improving and becoming more cost competitive.  The recent United Nations Conference on Climate Change (COP21) was successful, 195 world leaders signed a pact to aggressively reduce carbons and shift to clean renewable energy.

As the public becomes more informed, our voices will become louder.  Hopefully we will then elect more forward thinking leaders who have the fortitude and wisdom to focus on the long-term health of our bodies and Earth.  We go to great efforts to feed, clothe, nurture, love and provide for our children and grandchildren; all that effort is for naught if we don’t nurture the very Earth they need to sustain them.

The Story of Stuff Series

Part I – “My Beloved Stuff”

Part 2 – “The Costs of Stuff”

Part 3 – “Bring on the Stuff”

Part 4 – “Stuff Build-Up”

Part 5 – “Stuff Becomes Trash”

Part 6 – “Consumer Treadmill Pause”

Part 7 – “Healthier Consumer Practices”