Is there a middle way?

Not a Papercup

This is such an awkward topic to write about because I don’t fully practice it.  Don’t get me wrong – I care about the environment – I mean, I watched Planet Earth and saw the video of the poor Polar Bear swimming through the slush that used to be a polar ice cap.  Honestly, I wanted to jump down there and drag the poor thing to dry land.  (And on a side note, why don’t the guys videoing this stuff ever do that?  I know their excuse is that they would be interfering with nature or something, but aren’t they already interfering already by hovering over the Bear in a helicopter? If you know an endangered animal is about drown or be eaten, why not use your interference for good?  Anyways, back to what we were talking about…)

I have the separate bins for trash and recyclables that I use, but beyond that, I’m not too involved with the debate.  I’m not for the crazy extremes of either side, and that’s why this is awkward to write about – I don’t want anyone reading this to think I’m some kind of wacko, as if being a good steward of what we’ve been given is my new religion or something.  Sure, save some endangered butterflies if you can, but don’t grab some poor farmer’s land who is barely getting by and not allow him to plant more crops on his land just because some butterflies hang out there.  Use some logic and common sense.  On the other end, we can’t keep pouring pollution into the skies and water, or bury our trash and not expect there to be a consequence.  Anyone ever see the huge “hills” on 121 and 35?  Those are trash mountains, in case you didn’t know.  When the wind catches right, the smell circulates for miles…

I think the problem has been framed wrong.  Let me explain.  The ‘centrist’ position on this issue is barely heard on TV or radio.  All you hear about is either some extreme environmentalist group chaining themselves together around some lake to save an endangered trout fish.  And you mock and laugh.  Or you hear about some chemical plant near the border who only pours out their toxic fumes when the wind is blowing south so that all the deformities, diseases, and waste drifts to the Mexican population across the border, and not the Americans, thereby bypassing environmental waste regulations.  And you are disgusted.  True story.

So the question should be, “How can I be responsible with what I have been given?”  Is there a middle way?  And not at the expense of living a healthy, productive, reasonable life.  While thinking over this, here are some initial ideas I have that are easy, quick, and barely affect your normal flow of life.

A.  Porcelain vs. Cardboard.  If you are hanging out at Starbucks, get a Porcelain mug, not the cardboard cup.  They have them behind the counter, and they are free to use.  And, let’s be honest, doesn’t coffee taste better when you drink it from a mug?  Here are some quick numbers – The US Coalition for Resource Recovery (CORR) estimates that 58 BILLION (that’s 58,000,000,000!) (1)  paper cups are used each year in the United States alone.  We only have 136 million people in the US.  This amounts to 645,000 Tons of waste that goes to landfills per year.  Can you imagine?  It’s a paper cup and weighs next to nothing!  But added up, it carries a lot of weight.  So try it.  You might get a strange look from the Barista, but just try it.  Oh, and if you buy a Starbucks mug or tumbler, you will save 10 cents off your drink every time you use it in their store.  They will wash it out and everything.  Just tell them when you are in the drive through that you have a mug for them to use.  Simple, right?  It’s only practical if you are going to stay for a while, but still, it’s so easy.

B.  Stop using the ground as your trash can.  I have a buddy who was on a first date, and they stopped off at Sonic for some Cherry Limeades, because they were going to hang out at a park before dinner.  They were about to pull out of the driving lot to head to dinner when the girl opens her door and drops the Styrofoam cup on the parking lot.  There was a trash can 5 feet away – she was just too lazy to walk to it.  They never had another date again.  Moral of the story, littering is not sexy.  Also, if you smoke, keep the cigarette butts and throw them in the trash, not out the window.  The world is something we are to cultivate, not treat as our trash can.

C.  Anyone drink bottled water?  My wife and I do.  It’s easy, convenient, and keeps us hydrated.  Plus water is much better than the 72 ounce sugar syrup some elect to drink.  Anyone refill plastic water bottles with filtered water?  Or do you just throw the bottle away and grab a new bottle next time?  My wife and I did, but consider for a second how much it costs and how much you are wasting.   You probably have never considered bottled water to be a health risk, have you?  Did you know that most bottled water companies are not subject to FDA rules and requirements?  This has led to there being a dramatic lack of fluoride in bottled water, which can increase risk of tooth decay, and they could (and some do) contain contaminants and bacteria that are above strict state health limits.  This means that your tap water is more than likely safer for you to drink than some bottled water.  We have been drinking a lot of water since we started P90X, so we need a lot of water, and therefore have a lot of empty bottles every day.  Here’s a few ideas:  Does your office have a  filter on their tap? You can just refill them there. Just make sure they replace the filter regularly, and make sure this is cool.  You don’t want to steal to do this.  Or buy a water filter for your tap at home, or a Brita jug for the fridge.  50 Billion water bottles are thrown away every year in the US, and 200 Billion around the world.  You might not stop drinking bottled water, but you might take a few extra minutes to save money and be a better steward of what you’ve been given.  (2)

Well, that’s it for today.  Like I said, we are not great at this, but we are doing what we can within reason.  I’m not saying you should not drink Starbucks or bottled water.  All I am saying is that since are going to drink them, save yourself some money and do the right thing in the meantime.

(1) http://wasteage.com/news/starbucks-manhattan-cup-recycling-program-20090914/

(2) http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bottled_water

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3 thoughts on “Is there a middle way?

  1. Great post, Phillip. I would suggest one thing…stop drinking bottled water. I appreciate what you said in your post but it is unsafe to refill a plastic water bottle due to the bpa’s released into the water after the intial use and 50 billion bottles a year should be mortifying to people. It’s not, but it should be. Most people who drink bottled water pay more per gallon for water than they do for gasoline (thought you’d like that point since this post is coming on the heels of your other post about saving money, or at least knowing where your money is going.) ok, so alternatives – buy a Klean Kanteen – they are $20 and last forever and are recyclable – most agree that water in North Texas is gross – buy a reverse osmosis filter for your sink – around $200 but totally worth it.

    Love you!

    John

    • That’s good advice, John. Thanks man. And thanks for the follow-up suggestions on alternative ways to save money and drink good water. It’s crazy to think we spend more on water than gas…wild. Hey, I’m going to need your insight into some great coffee shops and coffee roasters in the area as well.
      Great stuff, man. Thanks.

  2. Jonathan David Finch says:
    I am not a wacko (well depends on who you ask) When you live in the country and you have to eek the living from the land, you have to be an extremist about recycling. I am a recycler although my family is not. This is very hard. I did not read the entire entry, but it is something that every one should take much more to mind !
    I know how hard it … to just clean up the mess made by one man, how much harder will it be for my children or my family to clean up after 10 or 20 men/women.
    I am not a wacko but if everyone did just a little, really did, then there could be change, but most people I know only do the bare minimum of recycling.
    Any how it’s great to remind people – it might start someone who does not at all, and get them to do some recycling.

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