It’s time to reuse and rethink

–by Mary Helen Darah

It is said that people come into your life for a reason, a season or a lifetime. Even though my dear friend is “down under” in the Australian continent, Lynette Graham is what I would call a “lifer.” We met when I was an I.D.C. (International Destination Consultant), which is basically serving as a glorified mom to people relocating to the area from other countries. I was assigned to help Lynette and her family adjust to life in America. I found that even though we both speak the English language we did have the occasional barrier. In addition to helping her understand medical plans, find temporary housing, and schools for her children, Lyn wanted me to recommend a salon. She called me after her first haircut and was very upset. “What kind of salon did you send me to,” she inquired. “They asked me about my BANGS! That’s rather personal don’t you think?” I always learned something new from my clients and that day, I learned the hair that lies across your forehead is called a “fringe” and a “bang” is something entirely different. Lyn also taught me the fine art (which I failed to learn until recently) that less is more, that the conservation and preservation of our environment is vital, and most importantly that there is no “plan B” if we continue to decimate our planet.

A bear forages through piles of plastic at a garbage dump for food.

I am not certain of the source, but I am giving Lyn credit for a video posted on social media. After all, she is the woman who posts photos of her kayak filled with plastic she has gathered from waterways and is on a mission to reduce plastic consumption in her neck of the woods. The video showed a poor little sea turtle with something stuck up his nose. It was painful to watch but it was one of those times when human nature takes over and I couldn’t tear myself away. I watched as they pulled a plastic straw out of the poor creature’s nostril. Something clicked. Since that moment I have been trying to make small changes that I hope will positively impact a world that I would like my future grandchildren (no pressure daughters) to enjoy and to please Mother Nature, who frankly has been acting like a menopausal basket case. Below are just a few suggestions to try in the new year ahead.

Use reusable bags
Plastic bags end up in the environment and can suffocate animals and marine life. My coworker gave me the most incredible gift. It is a reusable nylon bag, tucked in a holder no bigger than a small coin purse, that is capable of holding 40 pounds of goods. I keep it in my purse. I have reusable bags but inevitably leave them in the car. You would think that I was facing a walk across the Siberian tundra instead of to my vehicle to retrieve my bags when I forget them. Having one on hand has made a huge difference. Some stores, such as Target, give you a discount if you bring your own bag, which keeps the plastic ones out of the bellies of whales while also helping your budget.

Save a tree
This sounds like damaging advice from someone who works at a newspaper, but we recycle the paper we use while creating the publication and we use both sides when printing office materials. Also, try reusable rags for cleaning, not using half a roll of toilet paper each time you enter the bathroom (I’m not naming names) and paying bills online, which can and will make a difference.

Recycling is simple and habit-forming once you experience the warm fuzzy feeling of dropping off your things or putting them out in a specified bin.

Reuse and rethink
Instead of buying individual beverage bottles, buy in bulk and pour into a reusable beverage container. Unless you really need a straw, tell your server you do not require one. Better yet (awesome Christmas present #2) bring your reusable one! Above all, rethink the way you consume. I wish I knew who to write to tell them that the packaging of the perfume my daughter received as a gift had a layer of sparkly stars wedged between two thick pieces of plastic. I believe she would enjoy her gift even with the absence of unnecessary items that could end up in an animal’s orifice. In the sorry-to-sound-like-a-mom department: Turn off the water while brushing your teeth, turn the shower on when you’re truly ready to get in (a daunting task for people with ADD but it can be done), share a ride, and turn off the lights when not in a room.
Green, especially chartreuse, is NOT the color of choice for a Great Lake. May this be the year of small changes and big impacts. We live during a time of considerable political diversity but as Wendell Barry reminds us, “The earth is what we all have in common.” Let us be in awe of Mother Nature and cut her a bit of slack. In true maternal form, I’m sure she would tell us that if we are not willing to clean up, don’t make a mess in the first place.

Leave a Reply