Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Earth Day

Happy Earth Day!

In honor of the 38th Anniversary of Earth Day, I'm offering up a new Green Tip of the Day...

Plastic! What would we do without that wonderful material? It can be formed into any shape and color we desire. It can be as supple as a raincoat or as solid as a railroad tie. And, it's recyclable (for the most part). Such a great invention.

But... (you knew this was coming, didn't you?)... Most consumer plastics don't get recycled, and many that do, get "recycled" in third world countries.

I was running stairs at my old high school stadium (Go Milton!) and counted 27 used plastic water/juice bottles scattered all over the bleachers. On a recent walk around town, I counted 4 plastic grocery bags, 10 plastic bottles, 3 CD cases and 3 plastic "blister" packs (you know, those damn hard-to-open packages everything seems to come in now).

In fact, the U.S. only recycles about 34% of its plastic bottles. Guess where the rest of those bottles wind up? Take a look around you.

And, it's not just the lack of recycling of these products that is the problem. According to National Geographic, in the U.S. we buy 29 million plastic bottles of water or soft drinks every year. 29 MILLION! And, it takes 17 million barrels of crude oil (yes, oil!) to make those bottles. That's one hell of a lot of energy!

Now, I'm not ALL gripe and groan... many companies are coming up with some very creative uses for the recycled plastic bottle, including fibers for jackets, new fabrics for upholstery, and new building materials. But, it's still not enough.

So, what's the answer? Do we stop drinking bottled water? Of course not. But, we don't need to run around all day with a new bottle of water in hand (unless you're refilling it each time you run out.) We're not as dehydrated a society as Madison Avenue would like us to believe. But, if you have to have your agua, use your own bottle. And, there are plenty of bottles available that won't impart that weird plastic taste to your beverage of choice.

I use my plastic bicycle bottles when I need to carry fluids with me on short jaunts. Of course, I occasionally buy a bottle at the store, but I take that bottle home and reuse it. And, when it wears out, I recycle it.

I also buy powdered drink mixes in paper pouches or cardboard canisters. I could easily go through about 20 2 litre bottles of juice or mixer in a year, but I don't (did I say mixer?). First of all, I simply don't have the room on BABS for even 3 or 4 bottles. Second, if I don't buy those 20 bottles, that's 20 fewer bottles coming from the manufacturer and 20 fewer bottles potentially finding their way into landfills or recycle centers.

I guess it comes down to consumption. Consumption, not of the beverage, but of the package. Anywhere you can reuse a package, or bring your own package, you're saving a little bit of energy. And, at 29 million bottles a year, we could use a little of that savings, don't you think?


Ashlyn said...

have you seen the movie wild america??? this is ashlyn, tracy thomas' daughter. it's a cool thing you're doing :)

Holt Webb said...

Hi Ashlyn.

I haven't seen the movie yet, but it looks like I should. Did you like it?