On a day like Earth Day, it’s usual to see lists here, there, & everywhere — things to do to save the planet.
I’ve never been a big fan.
Cutting the top off a plastic bottle to make a bird feeder is nice, and kind of a fun craft. But for planet-saving it’s just a gimmick. Unless you want to add 300 bird feeders to your yard. Every year. And then watch them one day all get blown away by a storm.
The history of the mass environmental movement has been a history of trying to creatively re-use the enormous mounds of “stuff” we create and throw out every day. It’s a hopeless quest. As long as we’re a culture of “stuff,” that stuff will create litter. Through accidents, carelessness, pettiness, storms — whatever.
The real answer may also be hopeless. It’s the easiest thing in the world, and the hardest: Use less stuff. We have within each of us the power of our wallet and our choice. The trick is to stop living in our tiny moment of time and realize that every action we take ripples out far beyond us.
The waste we generate doesn’t go “away” when we take our bags to the trash can or dumpster or recycling bin. It all has a long, multi-step, and very uncertain road ahead of it. And if that “stuff” is plastic, the only way it ever goes away is in the fires of an incinerator. Otherwise, it’s still there. Always there. To be buried, or reused, until it’s lost into the oceans. Every choice we make to bring a new plastic tchotchky — packaged in a plastic box, tossed into a plastic shopping bag — into our home is a choice that ripples out for 1000 years.
So this Earth Day, to make a real difference, don’t cut a bottle into a bird feeder. Figure out how to buy fewer bottles.
Open-air landfill for Honolulu, Hawaii. With the blue Pacific downstream.