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Monday, May 16, 2011

Making a Commitment to Make Things Better...One Step at a Time

Change is never easy.  Sometimes we don't change because we don't think there's a reason to change.  Or we don't know there's a reason to change.

And sometimes we do know...but it's easier not to change.  Or so we think.

A lot of things in our society are 'convenient'.  I run a Terracycle program at our Elementary School.  Terracycle has had a brigade called the 'Home Storage' brigade for a while now.  It is sponsored by Ziploc, who recently decided to end their sponsorship.  So the brigade is going away...slowly, a few schools at a time, in the reverse order of when you signed up.  Since we were one of the first to sign up, we were one of the first to go.  Not having this brigade around is upsetting a lot of people.  REALLY upsetting people.  Enough that they are willing to write letters to Glad and Hefty and ask them to take on sponsorship of the brigade.

So this has me thinking and wondering.  Are Ziploc bags really that much more 'convenient' than anything else?  When I started becoming aware of how much plastic our family disposed of, I made a commitment to stop buying ziploc-type bags.  When the last one came out of the box, that was it.  I bought 2 sandwich containers for my sons to take to school and we saved some empty butter containers to use as snack containers.  We've lived Ziploc-free for over a year now and it doesn't feel any less 'convenient' to me.  If I were going to do it over again today, knowing what I know now, I would probably buy stainless-steel sandwich containers instead of the plastic ones I bought back then, but when I see all of the Ziploc bags being thrown away every day at school, it makes me glad that I took that one small step.

And now this act by Ziploc gives me another chance to spread the word.  You can survive without your Ziploc bags.  Some people tell me they still wash and reuse their Ziploc bags and I think that's great, but I still ask them when that last bag comes out of the box to consider a better alternative.  In turn, they tell me that I shouldn't buy butter in plastic containers and indeed, they are right!  So we encourage each other and help each other along the way.

I also think that if you are passionate enough to write letters to companies asking them to sponsor your desire to keep using and discarding (and then Terracycling) your plastic bags, you should be passionate enough to ask them to think of better alternatives, too.  I grew up as a fast-food kid and have a guilty-pleasure of taking my sons to Chick-Fil-A on occasion (please don't shoot me for this!), but every time I go there, the styrofoam cups drive me insane!  So I write to them.  I've probably written 20 letters so far, but the response I always get is that they feel that styrofoam is 'overall' the best environmental choice they could make.  I disagree, so I no longer buy drinks if I take my boys there.  And I find that we go there less and less often now.  For a while, I would buy the drinks, feel so guilty, and save the rinsed out cups.  My mom would take them and use them as packaging when she shipped things for her small business.  Somehow this allowed me to feel less guilty.  But the last time I handed her a stack of cups, I knew the insanity had to stop!  Like a smoker who knows it's their last puff, I quit, cold-turkey!  I made a commitment and declared it out loud to my family:  "We will no longer buy drinks in styrofoam cups!"  It is our latest commitment and for 2 months now, it has stuck.  It makes me proud when my sons say, "We don't like styrofoam because it never goes away.  And animals eat it and get sick.  And some die."  They get it.  They made the commitment with me.

We're not perfect.  We go to Rita's water ice for a treat. comes in disposable paper cups.  No, it's not the healthiest treat in the world.  But every time we go (which is not very often because it is an expensive treat for a family of 5!) now, we take our own spoons.  And we are not shy about it.  People see our spoons and say, 'What a great idea!  That's something I can do.'  And that's the whole point.

The other day someone wrote on my Facebook wall that she was happy to report that her son no longer uses straws because he was inspired by the story I told him about Milo.  (  And he is passing the word on to others!

Do something good.  Make a commitment.  Inspire others.

We're not perfect, but together, we'll get there.  One commitment at a time.