June 21st, the Summer Solstice. The longest of days for the northern hemisphere. These long days, with purple cloud filled twilight skies extending past 9:00 PM do not go unnoticed. These are the days I dream about in the depths of January and February, when the sun says, "good night" at 4:20 PM and my mind crumbles into a pile of vitamin D starved, unresponsive cells.
I took a morning walk through the local park, Beaver Brook Reservation. It's an activity I have taken to over the past few months when I am not traveling. It helps get the day started on a positive note; listening to the Robins, Cardinals, and other feathered fauna greeting the day. A few weeks ago I started bringing along empty shopping bags to gather wayward pieces of refuse that had either accidentally or intentionally been cast aside in the park. I was amazed by just how much "stuff" was there, and equally amazed that the vast majority of it was in the form of drink containers. Beer cans and bottles (an entire case of Mike's Hard Lemonade, no doubt the remains of an adolescent caper), energy drinks, soft drinks, and of course, water bottles.
I did a decent job of cleaning up on the route I walk. Kudos for me! The part about this that's a bit ironic is that I feel better for having picked up said refuse and redepositing it in the "correct" containers at home, recyclables here, trash there, to reduce waste. It merely relocates it. OK, so the plastic in the recycling bin will be reused (down-cycled most likely) in some capacity, the glass and metal as well, so I helped there, but the other refuse the regular trash bin will end up as a pollutant. Instead of cluttering up our little park, it will help fill a landfill. The underlying issue, that there is no "away" in the term "throw away", is not nearly solved, only highlighted.
When I walk through an area that I know was clear only days before and see a new bottle or can, I wonder about the relationship between us and the world we are part of. Acts of commerce have become separated from the environment; we don't know where that bottle of Coke came from, therefore, leaving it conveniently on the ground for someone else to deal with is perfectly acceptable. I don't get it. Buying that bottle of Coke is inherently environmentally destructive, yet it is a positive for the retailer, the distributor, the bottler, and the producer, and in some way, society. How do we reconcile that?
I am about half way through Paul Hawken's Ecology of Commerce, and this is one of the main issues Mr. Hawken strives to address; redefining commerce such that acts associated with commerce are restorative.
To that end, I decided to buy Recycline's Preserve triple blade razor. After meeting Ben Anderson at the Simmons NetImpact event a few weeks ago, I sheepishly admitted to him that I did not currently use their recycled toothbrush or razor. One reason I did not buy them; as much as I talk about resource reuse and sustainable manufacturing (such as it exists today) I am a consumer. The toothbrush & razor are not at my local supermarket, requiring extra "effort" to get them, Trader Joe's for the toothbrush and Whole Foods for the razor. Talk about hypocrisy!
Now that I have another razor that can be returned and remanufactured, what do I do with the Gillette Mach 3 handles I have? Throw them away? I know, assuming the Preserve works well, I'll mail them back to Gillette with a note asking if they would like to reuse them. Of course, with all the CO2 emitted in their shipping, will we be ahead of the game?