Thursday, April 19, 2018

A Week of Waste: Day 4 - Where does it all come from?

While making my coffee this morning my thoughts were on the question of where all of my waste comes from, you know before it is waste.  

Where do the raw materials originate?  

How far do they travel to where the product is made?  

How much physical waste is produced in the manufacturing process?

How much of a carbon footprint does each of these products have?

Like many I try to buy as local as I can when it comes to my food.  I am lucky that Maine has as many farms as it has and that the both the chain grocery store nearest to my house, and the co-op down the street offer local options all year round.  But that is only a fraction of the items I buy on a regular basis.  Toilet paper, dish detergent, laundry soap, period products, toothpaste, shampoo, cat food, coffee, chocolate, tea, and so many other things that I use regularly without a whole lot of thought all originate from places far away and unknown to me.

There was a time when things that came from far away were transported on boats that were powered by the wind and hauled by wagon from the ports to their destination.  They were not common things, and many were considered luxury goods or occasional treats.  The idea of getting an orange in one’s Christmas stocking makes much more sense when you consider there was a time when they were not available year-round in every grocery store in the nation.  

Today these things arrive by ship, train, and truck all powered by fossil fuels.  This is added to whatever fuel was used to power the energy to harvest, mine, or manufacture the item prior to it being shipped to its next destination.  The earth can’t keep up with the number of byproducts and waste we produce in the process of having our needs and wants met.  The natural cycle of plants pulling carbon dioxide from the air and putting out oxygen, the filtration process of sand and soil to clean water as it trickles its way back to the aquifer, the ocean’s ability to circulate water from warm to cool to warm again…have all been disrupted. 

There is so much we have today that is convenient, and that is good.  We all should have access to certain things, like healthy food, and hygiene supplies, but maybe we’d be better off if a few things were harder to get.  Maybe oranges shouldn’t be in our stores year-round, maybe even my precious coffee should cost more and become an occasional treat instead of my regular morning pick me up.  Maybe I should try harder to find local sources for soaps and cleaning products.  

This is a day where as one person I feel overwhelmed at the amount of work that must be done to turn things around.  I am one person.  One person.  And I want to do more. 

So, I read, and research, and try to find ways to decrease my impact.  I write to try to magnify my own voice, and to connect to others doing this work.   Yes, I want to do more, I have to do more…because I love this one beautiful earth, and the people who live on it, and the creatures and plants who share this wondrous place with me.   And I, like all of us, have only a short time here to make a difference. 

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