Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Sustainability begins at home

The visiting speaker presented a simple message: vote against Proposition 23 in the November election and receive the gratitude of successive generations for stopping climate change.

A stainless-steel water bottle was nestled at the speaker's feet, but in the back of the meeting hall, snacks were being served on paper plates with paper napkins and plastic silverware. The majority of those present did not have reusable bottles or travel mugs, so beverages were being drunk from disposable cups.

I was disappointed that nowhere in the speaker's presentation was there any mention of practical changes in his listeners' lives and habits. His use of a reusable bottle could have been a starting point for an energizing dialog about sustainable daily habits.

I don't intend to sound as if I am picking on this single presentation. Only a few weeks earlier, I attended an event in a school gymnasium that was serving bottled water to its 100-plus participants.

In a school gymnasium with drinking fountains. Hello!?! What an absolutely unnecessary waste!

My main concern about the more recent presentation was the simplistic and limited nature of the solution that was being proposed to avert climate catastrophe.

Environmental disaster will not be diverted with a single vote in November. We make choices every day that will have direct bearing upon how much waste we generate and upon how much of the resources we squander will have to be replaced.

To start with, the stainless-steel bottle that the speaker was drinking from has counterparts that are widely available.

Ceramic bowls with sealable rubber lids are also readily available and make a great alternative to disposable take-out containers.

Reusable bags are made from sturdy canvas and also from recycled plastic bags. Imagine how fewer plastic bags will end up littering the environment if they remain at the checkout stand.

Public transit is increasingly available but the speaker's presentation took place on a day when the buses do not run.

Personal changes need widespread support. A reusable bottle can be filled from the tap at home, but refill stations need to be publicly available -- since an empty water bottle does no good to its carrier if it cannot be refilled.

Disposable plates and utensils could be eliminated in favor of those that can be washed and reused or by encouraging each person in attendance to bring his or her own.

Event promoters should consider the timing of their event and the venue's proximity to public transportation routes. They should then include that information in their pre-event publicity.

And yes, legislation does have a part in enforcing waste reduction; a proposition that attempts to undermine clean energy and air polution standards deserves to be defeated at the polls. But legislation alone can't be the only factor. Each of us must also make decisions that promote sustainability.

I was impressed by one recent event, SolFest in Ukiah, which was promoted as a bottled water-free event. Reusable bottles were available for sale and there were free water refills for everyone.

For a start, I would like to see more events where bottled water is not on the menu. For nonprofit groups to sell stainless-steel bottles with their logos printed upon them would be an excellent fundraiser.

For more information about hosting a bottled water-free event, visit www.foodandwaterwatch.org/water/bottled/free-your-event-from-bottled-water/.

Published Oct. 12, 2010 in the Lake County Record-Bee

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