Examining Our Environmental Consciences

by Marlene Pikus     

Time for us to slow down, take a deep breath, and start thinking about our little piece of the world that fits into the collective universe that we will be talking about at the upcoming Statewide Summit.  We have the best of intentions to leave the earth in good condition for generations to come.  What surprises me is that the little, daily efforts of my consciousness to save the planet will be laughed at or ridiculed as a waste of time by people that are hurrying through life with the most convenient way to do things even though their way involves more waste, especially from single-use plastic.

I do the obvious things like composting and recycling everything I can at the appropriate collection sites, including metals and aluminum for cash, but I do go further.  Instead of taking the clean plastic bags to the grocery store to recycle in their collection bins, I reuse them with my reusable shopping bags to put the meats or chicken into and continue to reuse them for future groceries or for household trash until their "demise" and then dispose of them in an appropriate manner which includes tying them into knots before disposing of them into the trash.  The same procedure is used for the small plastic bags used for produce.  I take those back to the store and reuse them over and over again.  It only makes sense to reuse them and the "twisties.”  Glass jars and bottles are other items that can be used for food, beverage, or whatever else is needed to be stored around the house without purchasing more plastic for the same purpose. Washing and rinsing out plastic containers with lids from cottage cheese or even take-out-food and reusing them for food storage instead of purchasing more plastic just makes good sense in reducing further plastic production. Did I mention that plastic is produced from oil?

Maybe it is my age that is showing because I grew up in financially hard times and we were not surrounded by plastic.  My parents grew up in the depression and taught me how to be creative in my thinking with how to "make do" with less.  My father was a mechanical engineer and held patents for inventions, so he knew how to think through to a solution for a problem.  My mother was a high-school graduate, which was quite the accomplishment in her day when women were not valued in the labor market— until World War II when she became a factory-worker in the war-effort.

My mother taught me how to sew, "patch" and reuse and recycle my clothes into fabric for future projects.  She and my father taught me to never waste anything. One of my favorite recycled items are old socks.  I cut them into a rope-like material from one end to the other and use the cord for wherever needed.  I use it in the garden to tie up the plants and I even crocheted a rug using a very large crochet hook.  It is amazing what one can do with old stuff instead of sending it to a landfill. I feel a sense of accomplishment from my endeavors, as silly as it may sound to others.

Another way for us to move toward a better future is to pay attention to the products you usually buy and the containers or wrappings on the products.  If there is plastic where there could be a cardboard or paper wrapping, call the question and comment number on the package and make a point of mentioning that you would like to see earth-friendly materials and that the corporations have a responsibility toward the earth and its future.  One product that is showing up everywhere in large quantities are old toothbrushes.  We need to push for a better product design that will lessen the impact of the discarded toothbrushes.  Perhaps a disposable "head" that detaches from the handle.  Let's get thinking on our everyday lives and the little things that could make a difference.

I find it challenging and also gratifying to see how I can reduce “my footprint” on the earth.  An important point I would like to add before I leave you to your creative thinking and projects, is that we need to stop producing “needless plastic.” People buy plastic bags and storage containers weekly without a second thought to “What am I doing?” especially when just tossing them into the trash after a single use.  These become bad habits but thought of as “time-savers”?  What is that about?  We see the pictures of the “ocean-waste-islands” and the efforts to now clean them up when the production of those items has not stopped.  Is it insane to think that we can fix a problem when we keep producing the same items?  Time to examine what we do in our daily lives that we can do differently to actually make a difference as small as it may seem but definitely in a positive direction.  Hope to see you at the Summit on March 23 in New Philadelphia!  [See article on Homepage]