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At home in San Diego, we do rather well with refusing, reusing, reducing, recycling, and composting. We're not perfect by any means, but have been making big strides…including limiting plastic purchases with fresh eyes, etc.
We just got home from traveling to two states far away, visiting my maternal relatives and my husband's entire family. The main point of the trip, though, was a work conference in the midst of the family visits. Four airline flights, two family homes and a hotel stay later and I am so discouraged about all of our efforts. Does all the refusing, reusing, reducing, recycling, and composting that our family of three does really help????
Have you seen the amount of waste in the airports and on planes??? The complimentary packets of peanuts and pretzels are so small, the flight attendants give every passenger two. On two of the four flights, I saw ONE flight attendant on each of those flights (not the entire crew) saving the plastic cups out of the trash (for reuse or recycling, I'm not certain…a comment was made about washing them in the back between services on the long flight, but it sounded in jest). The cans of drinks are not cold, so everyone asks for a cup of ice even if they want the entire contents of a can. We brought our empty SS bottles through security and awkwardly filled them from water fountains before boarding…no hydration stations to be seen. I didn't see a single other person with a SS bottle in any of the airports or on any of our flights. Likewise, we brought our own snacks from home and didn't see anyone else doing so. Being the only ones doing so was fine from a "different" standpoint, but it is just sad…
The hotel was better than average in some ways. The sign in the bathroom stated if you wanted your linens and towels changed, call the front desk. I think this is better than the more common "throw 'em on the floor for replacement or keep 'em hanging for reuse" simply because it requires more effort on the guest's part to get them replaced. The conference was HUGE and the continental breakfast in the morning had reusable mugs for coffee and tea and real china plates and wood stir sticks and carafes, etc….everything was reusable, if one was inclined. Lunch, however, was the opposite. Paper gift bags were at the beginning of each large table followed by a plastic packet (fork, spoon, knife, napkin, salt, pepper) and choice of salad in plastic reusable containers with lids (paper sign on metal holder announced choices) and choice of sandwich in deli paper with plastic sticker identifying each sandwich and choice of apple in large metal bowl (at least two varieties of apples) and single serving chips (no choices) and single cookie in deli bag with plastic sticker holding down the flap announcing the type of cookie (no choices) and choice of bottled water or soda in cans. I'd like to think the deli paper and bag were waxed paper, but I didn't try to tear it and see for myself. We arrived on a Sunday in the South to this hotel. Not much was open for dinner, so we opted for the hotel bar versus roaming the streets after asking several people for options. Our dinners were quite tasty and I opted for the local craft beer (and tap water, both of which were great). All dinners arrive in plastic boxes with a paper/plastic? liner. Strange. We were slightly ahead of the crowd, so we didn't see this until ours arrived and then we saw all the other diners receiving the same set-up. If we'd seen it in advance, I would have asked for an alternative.
At another point in the trip, we were in both a hospital (ER and regular room) and a nursing home. Whoa! So much plastic and waste, I cannot even wrap my head around it all…
The waste we saw in our own families homes was equally disturbing. We spent time in four homes (two in each location) and there was no recycling in one location at all (only 20 miles from a MAJOR city; not in the sticks AT ALL); limited recycling in the other location (also suburb of MAJOR city). Refusing, reducing, reusing, recycling, and composting were not in practice that we could see, except for cardboard and can recycling. Our families were very gracious towards us and we appreciate them in many ways, so that's all I want to say. It is just so discouraging and disheartening.
Please help me reframe the experience and continue our efforts. At the moment, I simply cannot fathom what good it does… :(
That does sound like a lot of discouragement in a short period of time. I've definitely been there. As for reframing the experience, I try to see my environmental actions as things that spring from my values. Then, even if I can't see my impact on the larger world, ostensibly I'll feel good because I'm trying to live in line with my values. So it's not always easy, but at this point I think it would be even harder to just throw everything in the landfill and be done with it. And, there's always the chance that you can influence someone around you with your actions, causing a chain reaction of influence. I don't know if this helped at all, but you're definitely not the only person wondering about what one individual can really do.
Aemilius, thank you! That's exactly what I wanted to say but couldn't find the right words.
Thank you both! :)
Ultimately, I keep going for exactly the reasons you mentioned, Aemilius. I needed a little distance to renew my own sense of purpose in my actions.
Aghhhhhhh!!!! I understand totally how you feel. It´s why I´ve logged in to "rant rant rant" this morning. But this is not the place to say what I see & how alone I feel… I´ll add that to my own rant. Rather, for encouragement think about how much your saving over time. Beth posted this blog post about me last year. I´m going to print it & up it on my own fridge, as to I´m wondering now, "really, is it worth it?" & I´m feeling pretty over it I have to say.
I must of refused at least another 500 items since it was written. Individuals DO count. Individuals DO count. Individuals DO count!!!
When the problem seems so overwhelming, I like to think about the reasons I make these changes personally. Because it's the right thing to do. Because it makes me happy to be mindful of my choices. Because it gives me a sense of freedom not to automatically buy the stuff that is pushed at me. Also? You never know who's watching. Your personal actions really do make a difference when other people see your example!
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