"This product saves the customer time by...." says the entrepreneur on Shark Tank. The Sharks start getting interested and paying attention. They know that a product which saves time is gold. No one has enough time. Everyone is looking for tools to make daily tasks faster.
I don't want to waste time on menial tasks. I want to spend my time away from work with family, friends, projects, workouts, reading, watching a movie. The last thing I want to do is spend more of my precious time cleaning, washing, or carrying.
The Bagel Bag
I went through the Tim Horton's drive thru on my way to the rock climbing gym after work. My chocolate chip muffin and whole grain bagel would give me the carbs I needed to climb for the 2-3 hour session. As I picked up my bag, I was thrilled that I got through the drive thru so quickly. There wasn't anyone else in line and within a minute I was on my way again.
I started eating the muffin after I found it hiding among the paper napkins. After finishing the muffin and attempting to lick off some of the chocolate from the muffin wrapper, I reached in to find the bagel in another small bag. I didn't get anything on it, just wanted it toasted, because it gets messy to eat a bagel with butter while driving. The bagel was good. I received some joy from feeling seeds and grains on my tongue which reminded me that I got a "good" bagel.
I arrived at the gym and was getting psyched for a night of interesting boulder problems when I ran into some trouble throwing away the Tim Horton's trash. The Rock Climbing gym, being a setting for outdoor enthusiasts, had a recycling bin. This was to cater to the environmentalist, conservationist rock climber. No problem. 3 out of the 4 items were recyclable. The bag the bagel came in was not because it was plasticky. Most likely because bagels are rarely without butter or cream cheese. I walked up to the garbage can and placed the bagel bag on top. It immediately fell off the large pile because it was light and the can was overflowing. Picking it back up, I tucked it into the corner so it wouldn't end up on the floor again wondering where the next person was going to play Tetris with their trash.
As I looked at the can, I realized how many people at the gym had done exactly what I had. It wasn't so bad on an individual level, but when we all took the convenient route in order to get a few more minutes at home and a few more minutes at the gym, even a trash can wasn't keeping up.
I could have made some sandwiche, brought them to work, then ate them on the way to the gym. I could have grabbed an apple too, maybe some carrots. But, I had already done that for lunch at work today. I just wanted to get something on the way.
Seeing the trash overflowing at the gym, a location where many people are reasonably aware of our waste problem, showed that even the best of us are driven by the desire for easy, convenient, quick, low-effort, time saving.
At what point do our collective actions overwhelm what is reasonable? What is a reasonable amount of waste?
Surveying people in the world, I think we'd get answers ranging from "zero waste" to "we have a good waste system and it is designed to handle our lifestyle". I've asked people this question and sometimes the answer is a deflection to countries, like those in Southeast Asia, that have poor waste handling systems. They seem to be the source of much of the plastic waste in the ocean.
Whatever their answer, my thought process for making decisions rarely involved my impact upon my neighbors. I think that gets to the core of my issue. My decision considered price and convenience.
This thought, "how does this affect my neighbor" is new to me. It is strange. I don't hear others asking this question about their daily activities. Should it even be something I consider? I have a lot going on. In order to answer it, I'll have to do some deeper analysis than price vs convenience. That'll be a drag.
Every once in awhile I'll see a picture of trash, plastic in the ocean, wildlife harmed, killed by someones trash. I say to myself, "this is a real problem. Why do we have so much trash? How did it get around that turtle's shell?"
We may have entered a real world version of the dark times that Albus Dumbledore spoke about in the Harry Potter series.
Dark times lie ahead of us and there will be a time when we must choose between what is easy and what is right. -Albus Dumbledore
What is easy? Single use items. What is right? Sustainable living.
Sustainable - of, relating to, or being a method of harvesting or using a resource so that the resource is not depleted or permanently damaged. Merriam-Webster
What is thrown in the trash is not sustainable. It has been depleted, used fully, worn out. It cannot be reused, renewed, repurposed, recycled.
Every piece of garbage was produced using a raw material, usually from plastic or a tree. Often times, especially with disposable plates or cups or food packaging, it is produced with both a tree and a plastic coating. The plastic coating ensures that the liquid doesn't leak from the cup and the plate doesn't get soggy. The cup could negatively affect our neighbor through the plastic coating breaking down into hormone disrupting compounds. The dyes used to color the items could leach into the food and cause harm. Our neighbor's air quality will have been reduced due to the manufacturing of the single use item causing asthma and other respiratory diseases. It also means placing a bet that climate change is not caused by us. It is also very likely that these single-use convenient items are not produced in a country with strong labor safety standards and high wages, so our convenience is also supporting oppression and unfair wages.
One thing is certain, there should be a difference in the way we, as Christians, live our lives because we love our neighbors more than ourselves. Could living lives that are less convenient be an opportunity to demonstrate that?
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. Romans 12:2