Enjoying life, off the hamster wheel
I just read an article on CBC’s webpage about climate change. Apparently this year, 2009, is the warmest on record since 1850, with the exception of Canada and the US, which experienced cooler temperatures. For anyone who has read this blog since we started it, you’ll know that I am concerned about the impact human behaviour is having on the environment, and Neil and I have taken steps to reduce our consumption and waste and make considered choices in our purchases. However, the ubiquitous prevalence of plastic makes it difficult to reduce or eliminate products that contain plastics such as packaging, materials, paints and of course, water bottles, the primary topic of this blog entry.
I’ve noticed how few younger people, the generation below me, really don’t consider how their purchasing choices could affect the environment. For instance, they drink copious amounts of water from disposable bottles and throw them away in the garbage. They should be more aware than we are, considering all the media attention on “environmental issues”. I wonder why they don’t fill up reusable bottles with tap water, or at minimum, recycle the disposable ones. Besides, when you consider how expensive water is, it makes you cringe. Grocery store water is less expensive than the price you’d pay at a convenience store, and most people are impulsively buying water at convenience stores. Let’s take, for instance, a bottle of Dasani water from Save-On Foods. I just called them and here’s what they told me:
Add to these prices deposit fees which range from 5¢-20¢ depending on the size of the bottle, and a recycling fee of approximately 2¢ per bottle.
So, a 1.5L bottle of water is $1.79 + 20¢ + 2¢ = $2.01. Is there tax on top of that? I don’t know, but there’s probably GST.
A litre of gas is approximately $1.02 these days. So, 1.5L of gas is approximately $1.53. Correct me if I’m wrong, but I think the taxes are included in the price, but they’re broken down on the receipt so you can see what you’re paying for.
So, there you have it, you’re paying more for water than gas. Yet, apparently gas is a non-renewable resource; however, water is not, if properly managed. What’s more, according to an article from 2008 on the CBC website, most bottled water that is purchased is bottled municipal water. In Canada, municipal water supplies undergo daily testing, whereas commercial water bottling plants are tested every three years.
So now, the issue has gone from plastic packaging, to increased demand on water resources and health considerations. Not only that, but how long does water last in a plastic bottle, anyway? Years? How long has it been sitting in the bottle before it’s consumed, and what chemicals are leaching out of the plastic and into the water when you’re drinking it? More questions I don’t know the answer to.
Then there are the clothes we wear. What are you wearing right now? Stretchy jeans? Yoga attire? A soft polyester shirt or blouse? Maybe comfy fleece socks? Or are you in a hot climate, and you’ve got a spandex bathing suit under your CoolMax shorts and top, and are wearing plastic flip-flops? Whatever you might have on, or whatever you look at in the store, chances are you’ll find more plastic product than organic. Cotton is no longer the fabric of choice. Now there are numerous other lovely fabrics that drape beautifully, contain gorgeous colours, wick moisture away from the skin, don’t wrinkle, are easy to clean, etc. But most of them are a petroleum by-product. In other words, a type of plastic. Call it what you like, give it a fancy name, it’s still plastic, and it won’t biodegrade, and if you throw it into the landfill, it will persist for thousands of years or more. Ours will be the civilization that archeologists of the future will actually be able to determine what we wore, the colours we used, the things we cooked with the gadgets we handled, unlike past civilizations where very little remains have been found because things were manufactured using organic materials and broke down naturally over time. I wonder what they’ll think of all the CDs in the landfill?
I’ve only touched on a few things that I think about. I get very tired and discouraged because, just when I think there’s some progress made, something happens that deflates my optimism. Take, for instance, Richard Branson’s Virgin Galactic project. Here’s a guy who apparently is aware of environmental issues and tries to save impoverished South African nations from despair. He’s even been knighted, so he gets to be “Sir” to you and me. Yet, he’s invented a space craft for tourists that will allow a person, for a mere $200,000.00 of their disposable income to fly into space and experience weightlessness for 5 minutes! Oh, and come back down again, for a total round trip of about two hours. And he’s got about 300 people who have prepaid for a flight in space. Read about it here and here.
Not only is building and developing such a thing resources heavy, but what the heck will something like that do to the environment? I’m not saying I don’t think it’s cool, because I think it’s very cool. But it’s also potentially destructive to our environment when you consider the amount of fuel it takes to propel a rocket/plane high into the atmosphere, the materials needed to build such a vessel, the resources needed to run the plants that make the materials, etc. I’m convinced it’s a bad idea. Leave space flight to a select few, and reduce that number further. It’s not really all that necessary, anyway.
I think about other things too, like the impact of wireless technology on migratory birds and insects, the mapping of the seafloor with multibeam sonar, the plastic lined coffee cups dumped in the landfill, the countless number of plastic bottles used for all sorts of liquids, plastic bread bags, the plastic wrap you get at the deli counter, or the Ziplock bags people put their baking into and give away. On and on and on…
Yes, I sound pessimistic, even fatalistic. I won’t give up though. I’m going to keep doing my best to change my habits, reduce my imprint and (hopefully) be a part of a movement that turns around the destruction we’re laying upon our planet. I hope you, the few readers who visit this blog, will do the same as well. Our futures depend on it.
Bobbing in a bottle on a petroleum puddle,