My recent Audubon excursion to an island off the coast of Maine has me more impassioned than ever about not using plastics in any form. The environment is saturated with them, and recycling, though perhaps helpful, is not the answer as the market for recyclable plastics is not what it was before the world-wide economic downturn. And energy conservation, in any form, is more important now than ever before.
What can we do, as independent business people? Let’s start with the home office, though some of these suggestions can apply to your central office as well:
1. Buy paper for your photocopy machine that’s wrapped in paper, not plastic.
2. Turn off any lights or other appliances that you are not using, including your printer and computer. An aside: take a look at these disposal guidelines from the EPA, for when you break a compact fluorescent bulb. I was totally unaware of the dangers of mercury gas; sometimes I think we should stick with incandescents and use them sparingly.
3. Working at home? Save water by sticking to the old adage: “If it’s yellow, let it mellow. If it’s brown, flush it down.” And never, ever, leave the water running while you brush your teeth or wash dishes.
4. Coffee break? At-home coffee makers that use disposable plastic one-shot containers might be quick and easy, but why should our caffeine needs hurt the environment? Going out for coffee? Bring your own refillable mug and keep one more plastic lid out of the landfill. And if the counter person sticks your plastic iced coffee container into a styrofoam one, kindly decline the outer cup.
5. Urge your local grocer to stock products that are wrapped simply. Yogurt in plastic containers that we eat with plastic spoons? Lettuce in a plastic box? Mushrooms in styrofoam packaging? If we stop buying, the plastics producers will have to eventually stop supplying.
That’s my soapbox for today, inspired by the hundreds of pounds of plastic trash we picked up in only two days on the islands we visited in Maine. Here’s a photo of some of the winged beneficiaries of a cleaner planet — the Common Tern — that’s becoming less and less common as our oceans fill up with microscopic particles of plastic ingested by seabirds, fish and yes, eventually, us!