It takes a bit of courage to speak up and and ask for options that are kinder to our planet, but it’s worth it.
Today we live in a disposable world, but it wasn’t always like that. There was a time in our not too distant past where we only used what we needed and everything was reused, when possible. How then, do we get back to a place where we all respect our possessions, how they were made and where they came from?
I had a recent conversation with a friend about the need and importance of discussing our impact on the environment with at least one person every single day. She used a random conversation she had had with a woman about Southern California smog as an example. The woman observed that air quality has dramatically improved since her childhood in the 1970s. It is hard to imagine that the air quality is what many people would consider better, but in fact, it was so bad many decades ago that you literally could not see the mountains because the air was so brown. This reminds me of another SoCal smog story. A friend of mine who grew up in Temple City in the 1950s and 1960s has memories of swimming in his family pool, struggling to breathe because the air quality was so bad. If I remember correctly, he even mentioned that the news would report “brown outs,” which was when the air quality was so bad the local governments recommended that residents stay indoors. Gross!
It is hard to look at the smoggy mountain-scape and believe it used to be worse, but it definitely was.
A former version of me would have been afraid of his reaction or afraid to sound like I was promoting an agenda or something.
This made me stop and ask the question, do I really need to talk about the environment? Many people successfully separate business and pleasure, but I am not one of them. I have no on and off switch; I am always on. Day in, day out, I live and breathe zero waste. For me it is not good enough to follow my heart part of the time. Sometimes I feel like that is to a detriment, but that is a whole different conversation to have another time!
My point is, as it relates to zero waste and the environment, if people see me and my zero waste toolkit out and about, but don’t understand what I am doing or why, will I actually have an impact?
… I show the cup and tell the person I am speaking with that I am going to use this cup instead, if it is okay with them, because I want to reduce trash by using a reusable cup.
Earlier this week I had an appointment with my dentist for a checkup. I decided to bring a bamboo toothbrush with me. After my appointment I showed it to him, sharing the crazy statistic that we landfill 4.7 billion plastic toothbrushes per year in the US. As a dentist, he gives a toothbrush to his patients after cleaning appointments. Imagine the impact of handing out several hundred bamboo toothbrushes to his patients each year. A former version of me would have been afraid of his reaction or afraid to sound like I was promoting an agenda or something. Not anymore. He was concerned with the potential price difference between the conventional plastic toothbrushes he purchases and bamboo toothbrushes, but I did my best to quell his fears. I do not know if he will make the switch, but he committed to looking into it.
I had another environmental conversation yesterday while ordering lunch. Let me preface this by acknowledging that I know that I should not drink soda! Haha. Okay, now that I have cleared that up…I ordered a soda with lunch, immediately showing the cashier my stainless steel pint glass, telling her I wanted to use it instead of the single use disposable cups they normally provide. I used to be afraid to do something like this, but now I do not even ask. Instead, I show the cup and tell the person I am speaking with that I am going to use this cup instead, if it is okay with them, because I want to reduce trash by using a reusable cup. Depending on how they react, I tell them my aversion to single use items, how I hate generating trash.
In this instance, she replied that what I said made sense, agreeing that the cups were wasteful and commenting that we live in a disposable world. I told her that I am working to change that, one cup at a time. She smiled and said that since I was using my own cup, she would not charge me for the drink.
Hey Jonathan! Of course I recognize myself as the friend who suggested talking about the environment every day. And look at the impact you might have had—potentially changing the way dentists give out toothbrushes or lunch places dispensed soda.
A lot of the problem is that people have when thinking about the environment is that they don't think any one action is going to be enough. And it's not. But that is why we have to start thinking about the environment as a *social* problem—and the solution as a social solution.
Just imagine for a moment, a world where everyone talk about the environment every day. We could solve the problem so much quicker together than we can alone.
Thank you for this post.
Yes! I love that you took your bamboo toothbrush to the dentist. And I need to have these conversations more myself…thanks for the reminder 🙂
How great it is what you're doing; bringing your reusable container to the restaurant that you know will otherwise give you a disposable cup (read: almost instant future trash). I do a similar thing– I pretty much know that I'll be taking home leftovers about 99% of the time, so I bring my Tupperware-like container to the restaurant and politely request that they use that, instead of the styrofoam container they'd otherwise waste. Good work ZeroWaste Guy– keep it up :)))