Environmindful Monday Tips

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It was November 18th, I was driving my car heading to my physical therapy appointment.  My mind was racing, thinking about all of the things I needed to do that day.  Remember this.  Don’t forget that.  Write that down when you park the car.  Send yourself a message to call that person back. Then the report on the radio, that had been nothing more than a hum in the background of my noisy thoughts just moments ago, caught my ear.  They had a guest on from the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency (MPCA) and were about to release a waste composition report, called The demographics of garbage: What are Minnesotans really throwing away? highlighting the current recycling trends in Minnesota.  Awesome!  I was so excited.  (Okay, yes, I know, I get excited by weird stuff.)  Did I have enough time to listen?  I checked the time.  If they time it right I will.

I was so excited, sitting there in my car smiling, because I was certain I was going to hear good news.  I was positive they were going to tell me that Minnesota is making some serious headway, that things are starting to look up.  They were going to tell me that Minnesota folks are “getting it”, catching on and realizing that recycling and being mindful about waste is as straight forward as tieing your shoes.  They were going to say that we have less waste than the last time they did this study and that we are a great example for the rest of the United States.

But that isn’t what I heard.  In fact, for this urban farming, tree-hugging, enviro-friendly, sustainable, permie, green girl… the news was devastating.  Instead, they reported the following:

  • The amount of plastic thrown away has increased from 11 percent of the waste stream to 18 percent since 2000.
  • Paper in the waste stream has decreased from 34 percent to 25 percent, likely due to decreased printing of newspapers.
  • Twelve thousand tons, or 24 million pounds, of aluminum beverage containers were discarded in Minnesota in 2012—the equivalent of 3.6 million aluminum cans per day.
  • Over 543,000 tons (1 billion pounds) of recyclable paper were discarded in Minnesota in 2012.
  • 21,000 tons (41 million pounds) of PET beverage container plastic were discarded in 2012.
  • Organics (food) accounts for 31 percent of the waste stream, which is a 21 percent increase from the 2000 study.

My heart sunk, I felt sick and my eyes welled with tears.  For this girl who tries so hard to make a difference, who tries to teach by doing every single day, writes for herself and anyone who will listen, hoping that at some point it will impact at least one or two people, but dreaming that she will help create a shift, for her, the news was defeating.  So I sat.  I sat and listened.  I listened about how we are producing more garbage and more food waste today than we did just thirteen years ago.  I listened to how they have to dig bigger and bigger holes to bury our garbage, how so much of this “garbage” could be stopped before it hits the piles and recycled, reused, turned into other materials, turned into jobs, jobs that could help our economy and how nearly a third of this garbage is food waste which could be composted and turned into soil!  And worse… they don’t know what this means for the next generation because they are running out of places to put the garbage! Hearing this report made me doubt myself.  It made me doubt my belief in the good of people, of humanity and of the intelligence of the Minnesotan if not American society.  It made me doubt why I bother trying.  Why I bother doing what I do.

Then, I paused.  And I got pissed. I started yelling in the car.  WAKE UP PEOPLE!  Seriously!  What the hell is it going to take for you to wake up!?!?  What are you waiting for?  For them to come a dig a damned hole in your back yard and start piling garbage?!  Do you not realize you live in the Land of 10,000 Lakes?!  Do you not realize that we live for our lakes?  For the North Shore?  For “up north” and cabins?  Do you really think you can keep doing what you’re doing and it will have no effect? Do you think you can just keep throwing more and more away and it’s someone else’s problem to deal with?!?  Wake the hell up people!  It’s not going to happen!  YOU ARE KILLING YOURSELF AND TAKING THE REST OF US WITH YOU! (Whew!  It felt good to get that out.)  As I glanced around the parking lot, making sure no one saw the crazy lady screaming in her car.  I regained my composure and headed for my appointment.

All throughout my appointment I kept losing focus.  My mind kept coming back to “what am I going to do about this”? I wasn’t sure.  I’ll blog about it.  No, I can’t blog about it.  People will think I’m crazy.  I have to do something though.  I decided to let it gel for a while.

Fast forward to November 28th.  As a relatively new Norwex consultant (I signed-on at the end of August, but became active in November) I was cruising all of my emails and saw the promotion for the Norwex R.A.C.E. (Race Against Chemicals in our Environment) raising money for food shelves.  On the webpage they were asking for consultants and customers to commit to make a small change in lifestyle that will take you on a path to reducing chemicals in the world.  In return, Norwex is donating a dollar to a local food shelf for each commitment that is posted.

That’s when I decided.  I made three commitments, one of which is to post one enviro-friendly tip each week on my blog.  In trying to decide which day of the week to do it, I remembered that I had designated Monday as Mindful Mondays last year, it seemed like an appropriate day to post such tips.

Since today is my first enviro-friendly Monday post, I thought it would be nice to share the two other commitments I made on the Norwex R.A.C.E. page.

Without further adieu, Environmindful Monday tips #1 and #2:

  1. Use only one sheet of paper towel in public restrooms, doubling the absorbancy by folding it in half, based on this awesome TEDxTalk: How To Use One Paper Towel: Joe Smith at TEDxConcordiaUPortland
  2. Create a system in my home and car to stash my reusable bags so I never have an excuse to use a new paper or plastic bag in stores

Be. Mindful.

Kate

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