Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Zero Impact Living

Zero impact living is the holy grail of many environmentalists. As with the mythical holy grail, it is an impossible goal. Unless of course you selectively define what zero impact living is. Using linen bags, and non-packaged food is great, and if it makes you feel good, ok. Go ahead and do it. But returning your milk bottles or egg cartons back to the store you bought them from is just passing on the responsibility of creating waste.

I read a book called "Garbageland" which was written by someone who was willing to buy into the whole recycling, no waste concept. After doing some investigation, it was found that somewhere around 40-60% of the stuff that is "recycled," actually goes to the landfill. So taking your egg cartons and milk jugs back to the store you bought them from, probably results in some of them being sent to the landfill. In other words, you didn't create zero waste, you just let someone else throw it away.

Why do we throw away so much stuff? Because it costs more to recycle it than it does to make new stuff from virgin materials. There are exceptions - metals primarily. My guess is every municipal recycling program is operated at a loss. Even with free raw materials, the price for re-used milk jugs doesn't cover the cost of sorting, cleaning and processing. Even with oil at hundreds of dollars a barrel. Copper wire on the other hand is a different story.

So do I make a conscious effort to "Live Green," heck no! I fill my recycling container up every week because otherwise I would have to pay extra to put it in the regular trash. I alternate between bagging my grass clippings and leaving them on the lawn. I have a garden, but haven't been very successful in the last year, except for brocoli. I make sure I always get plastic bags because they are used to line our garbage cans (there's great health benefits to not having bits of trash, rotted food, or poop lying around your house, it smells better too!).

I have been to farmer's markets in three states, only the one in Texas had competitively priced produce compared to the supermarkets. In the end, I would rather buy my produce from a company that ships it in on a truck from California than the farmer who lives 2 hours away that drives it in to the farmers market. Why? Because it is cheaper when shipped 80,000 lbs at a time across the country, rather than 1000 lbs at a time from down the road. (And those mass produced vegetables with all of their chemicals sure do look a lot better. Plus, in blind taste tests, people actually prefer the mass produced chemical laden produce. Go figure, we've progressed.)

When did this war of man/nature begin? Do we fault the Beavers for making dams and messing up the waterways? So why be upset when mankind builds a road to bring cheap produce all over the nation? The world is a much bigger place than we think, and in spite of the large sounding numbers as to the amount of trash we produce, it isn't that much and doesn't take up that much space. So, feel free to throw away that cheeseburger wrapper and not feel guilty. I certainly don't. And if you won't, then the next time I go to McDonald's I'll get two cheeseburgers and throw away a wrapper for you. Heck, I might even be kind enough to throw out the cheeseburger too and let one of Mother Nature's creations see what they are missing!

No comments:

Post a Comment