Tuesday, October 16, 2012

School Lunch Horror

So a picture cruised over Facebook the other day. I don't even remember what group posted it. It was supposedly a picture of some kid's school lunch. The idea behind the picture was that it looked nasty, and here they thought their kids were being overly picky, but now seeing this they realized how horrible their poor little angels had it at lunchtime.

Now, it's really hard to tell where this picture really came from. It looks, for all intents and purposes, like ethnic take-out, as one person commented. That's really what it looks like to me. Looks pretty good actually. I know many people who would be perfectly happy to have this. I'd try it. Looks like grape leaves. Looks like a lentil or other bean mixture. And, look, fresh veggies. What's the problem?

Well. I'll tell you what my problem is. I hope to HELL this isn't a school lunch. Not because of how it looks (again, I'd eat it), but because of WHAT IT'S IN. Are you kidding me??? Is there a reason a school lunch would be in a TAKE-OUT Styrofoam container??? With a little extra cup of something on the side for added Styrofoam pleasure? Do they have plastic forks and spoons and knives to go along with this??? (Actually, I'm pretty sure if they pulled out on this, yes that would be the case.) I know a lot of schools have been using one-use Styrofoam trays in the lunch room. I'm not really sure when or why that happened. Why it was easier to have kids throw things away and learn to be disposable rather than the solid trays that got washed every day, the ones we used, the ones you gave back for tomorrow's lunch. I know (and applaud) that some school are seeing the error of those ways and are returning to something a little more Earth-friendly and cost-efficient...

So, yeah. It's amusing that they are trying to sell this as some horrifying school lunch thing. I'm not amused that we aren't horrified by the thought of all this garbage emanating from our schools on a daily basis.

Perspective. Think for yourselves, people. See more than what they are trying to spin at you.

Our Plastic Bag Addiction

The more I know, the less I want to know.

I toured the Algalita Marine Research Institute in Redondo Beach (http://www.algalita.org/index.php). These great people are responsible for research in the 5 Gyres, especially the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, as well as the tsunami debris field. I have met, and know and respect these people. They are doing amazing work. They inspire me.

Bezoar from camel's stomach
During the tour, the instructors brought out something surprising. It didn't have anything to do with the oceans. It had to do with the Arabian desert, of all places. Plastic bag pollution there? Yes.

I Googled, and I've seen some pictures of the desert just strewn with plastic bags. I don't recommend it; it's pretty depressing. And before you think that you have nothing to do with that... yes, our recycling cast-offs (because, remember, we don't actually recycle things here, we just bundle them and ship them off to other countries to be processed) end up over there, and because even those places don't want to recycle plastic bags, they just get tossed away. They blow off into the environment. No one wants to pick them up. Where else to put them, anyway? Then, it turns out, camels will go along and just eat whatever they come across in a goat-like manner. They are not discerning, They do not know what will hurt them. They just graze. So they end up munching a bunch of plastic bags. All this crap and debris just kind of sticks around in their stomach, becoming a huge mass called a bezoar, which I have pictured here. This, of course, eventually kills them. Slowly and painfully. This thing pictured weighs around 30 pounds. Think about THAT extra weight in YOUR stomach. You weigh more but you starve to death anyway, because you can't take in nutrients around this thing.

Our plastic habit has much further-reaching impact than we think. How insane is it to grab something that you use for mere moments, then discard, and then that thing goes on to pollute the place we live for years and years and years? How does that make any sense to anyone? Because it's convenient? Surely we are better than that. Surely. Please let us be better than that.

We need to realize that other creatures on this planet are suffering because of our carelessness, negligence, and desire for convenience. Because we can't be bothered to remember our reusable bags. Because we just have to have bottled water. Because... just because. There are no real reasons to do this to the planet and to the animals that live on it and through no fault of their own are harmed by OUR actions. Ours. Ours and nobody else's. And there is no excuse for this. There really isn't. We don't have to be a disposable society. We don't. We need to think, we need to care. We need to be the stewards of this Earth that we are supposed to be. That the other creatures here need us to be, because they cannot defend themselves against our apathy.

We have to do better. We just do.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

I've Seen Enough. Just Shoot Me Now.

Someone somewhere was talking about hard boiled eggs. My former co-worker when I had a job would bring in hard boiled eggs. Great snack, good basis for a lunch. Got a bunch of eggs and the are about to go over to the dark side? Hard-boil them and you got lots more use out of them. Egg salad? Yum. Deviled eggs? One of my favorites. Super yum. Husband hates them; I rarely have them. Here's a funny thing about me: I worked in some very fine restaurants as a sous chef, and I was pretty damn good. I made a chicken piccata, make you weep. Scampi? Mmmm. I could do it all. But I have never mastered the perfect hard boiled eggs. They are inevitable underdone or done to the point of green. You know what I mean, when they yolk is just plain angry. Or they will not peel properly. But, yeah, I, a fairly accomplished professional chef at one time, cannot boil an egg to save my life.

And yet, and still, I would never. Ever. EVER. Never never never in my entire life, even DREAM of buying... wait for it... pre-shelled, packaged hard-boiled eggs.

I am finding it hard to believe that these exist. Then, I have to remember that they only exist because people ACTUALLY BUY THEM.

Somewhere, there was a demand for this product. Yeah. They even have a Trader Joe's brand. (See, I knew there were multiple reasons I stay out of that place...) "They're great when you're in a hurry!" "My husband loves them for his lunch!" "They're convenient!" (of course) "We save energy by not boiling them ourselves a few time a week, and by buying these instead."

No. No, no, no. No. Eggs come in a really great container (so long as you stick with the paper one, not the Styrofoam kind), and seriously, you can boil them at once one day and have them for the rest of the week. It's not difficult. I can come up with not one excuse to introduce this plastic packaging into to environment. Not one. If you can, please let me know. Because I sure cannot.

"I have a hard time peeling them!" No. "I don't have time." Nope. "I eat them more often since they come so easy like this!" No no no. If you have to resort to this, just skip it altogether. Really. You obviously do not need it that badly.

If you ever see me buying these, you have every permission to beat me silly. I'm not too worried. I'd have to have had a lobotomy to have these in my cart. These make about as much sense as buying packaged pre-peeled bananas. There is no reason to send this packaging into the ocean. None. I can't stress it enough. If I ever see someone buying these... let's just say, maybe it's better that I limit my exposure to public places. I'm OK with that.

The fact that these have apparently been around for a few years just goes to show how little I look for this stuff. It does not even occur to me that this is a fillable niche.

What about you?

Sunday, October 7, 2012

Over 36 Pounds

Very excited... I am taking a Speakers' Training Course called Rise Above Plastics. Yesterday was our first class. We met at Venice Beach for a clean-up to see exactly what gets washed up/left behind on a daily basis. We arrived with buckets and gloves and great attitudes, and set to work picking up what we could.

Just my small contribution to the pick-up.
The beach looked pretty clean on a sunny Saturday morning. The craziness of Venice Beach had not quite hit full force yet, and there were surfers, and people riding bikes on the path. Typical Southern California day. We were to go out for just 20 minutes. In that time, about 40 of us picked up almost 40 pounds of crap.

When you think about that number, please realize that the nearly 20 cigarette butts I personally found weigh very very little. It takes a lot of those to make a pound. Bottle caps, same thing, they are pretty light. Also, most of what I was trying to grab were tiny little broken bits of Styrofoam. You know, that stuff you use for mere minutes but then it never, ever, ever goes away? Styrofoam and plastic will never break down completely; they are here for good. I picked up countless little bits that used to be something bigger and got broken up out there to be eaten by fish and other animals that have no idea that what they are eating is going to kill them.

The other thing about cigarette butts: think about all those chemicals and carcinogens that we humans happily and willingly take into our bodies, and what is left in the filters. Now realize that when that filter hits the water, those chemicals get leached out immediately into the water. Now think about the 100 or so that we picked up in 20 minutes on one tiny stretch of beach on one morning. That adds up to a lot of chemicals. The oceans can only handle so much. Small little tiny creatures directly affected, which affects the bigger guys, which affects the even bigger guys, which eventually comes right around to... us. Is there any wonder the cancer rate among our children and pets has exploded? I never wonder. I know why.

And soon, I will go around speaking out alllllll about it. Come see me!

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Baby Soft

There's a product that has been around for 75 years... a name most have heard at some point in their life. Dreft. I hadn't really thought about it, because I don't know nuthin' 'bout birthin' no babies... and I avoid that aisle in the stores (baby AND laundry aisles, actually), so it took a commercial to make me go HMMMM....

Can't help but notice the PLASTIC diaper...
This here is a product specifically marketed to and targeted at parents of babies. So, then, is it all fresh and natural and not made with lots of chemicals and completely safe? It's been around so long, surely it's safe. Looking at their FAQs, I had to be pleased to see that at least they discourage the use of dryer sheets and softeners. But do you know WHY they say you shouldn't use dryer sheets? Because the use of dryer sheets can cut down on the effectiveness of the flame-retardant that is in baby clothes. (You know what's in flame-retardant? Bad chemicals. Why are we OK with these bad chemicals next to a baby's delicate skin? And why do we have to make babies flame-retardant anyway? Are we smoking around them a lot? Do they frequently burst into little flames? Does anyone ever ask why we need this?? I'm asking now. Please, do inform if you know. I didn't really realize that we had a problem with infants playing with lighters much...)

But I digress. Back to the chemical soup that is Dreft. It's kinda funny to me because they talk a little in circles. They market themselves right off the page. They say how specially formulated Dreft is for babies but how it's OK if you want to keep right on using it on all laundry and it's great for adults, too! Well, which is it?  Am I the only one that sees the double-speak there? NOT TO MENTION that under the FAQ on "powder or liquid" they say that one is great for one thing and the other is great for another thing and they are both great so go ahead and buy both! Umm... wow. Who falls for this??? Apparently, moms everywhere for 75 years fall for it....

They claim Dreft is gentle as water on baby's skin. This made me curious to see exactly what is in this product. Learn with me, will you? Keep in mind, I personally use soap nuts, which are the ultimate in natural. I'll save you the trouble of looking anything up. Here is the list of their ingredients in their "gentle as water" product:

Ingredient Name - Function
Sodium Carbonate - removes water hardness
Sodium Aluminosilicate - removes water hardness
Linear Alkylbenzene Sulfonate - surfactant
Sodium Sulfate - processing aid
Alkyl Sulfate - surfactant
Water - processing aid
Sodium Polyacrylate  - dispersant
Silicate - processing aid
Sodium Percarbonate  -oxygen bleach
Ethoxylate - surfactant
Polyethylene Glycol 4000  -stabilizer
Fragrance - fragrance, Click Here To Learn More (GGW says - I'll list that below)
Disodium Diaminostilbene Disulfonate - fluorescent brightener
Protease - enzyme (stain remover)
Silicone  - suds suppressor

I don't know. Personally, the thought of putting something that I can't pronounce on the super-absorbent skin of an infant is a bit abhorrent to me. But that's just me. I don't have kids, so I could be wrong. Sulfates? Benzene?? Surfactant AND suds suppressor??? Which is it?? And I was GOING TO list the chemicals from which they choose to make their pleasing scents, and undoubtedly that "baby-smell" people mention (never been one for it myself), but the think is THIRTEEN PAGES!!! So here's the link: http://www.pgproductsafety.com/productsafety/ingredients/Perfume_and_Scents.pdf  That is the list of chemicals that their "perfumers select from". It's kind of staggering. 13 pages in really really small print, 2 columns, big words.

Now, it's your kid and I don't care what you do. Actually, that's a lie. I do care what you do. 'Cuz this stuff runs out and off into MY environment too. And, call me crazy, but I don't like to see kids with cancer. I just don't. When I see all these chemicals, and the population growing as it does, and the population using more and more of these chemicals, I cannot help but suspect a cause and effect. Is it just me?

So they've been around 70 years. Maybe it's time to stop? We aren't getting better or healthier. We are getting more cancer, more obese, more developmental problems. Are those the fault of Dreft? Of course not. But we need to stop with these chemicals. Stop. Nature gives us everything we need. We do not need 13 pages of chemicals to smell fake-good. Just stop.

Oh - Dreft is from our friends at Proctor & Gamble. And you know how much THEY care about their bottom line - er - I mean OUR HEALTH! Yeah, that's it.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

How Many Little Plastic Drinks?

How many little tiny plastic bottles does Society want us to use a day??

Let's see... we wake up in the morning and drink Yakult to balance our digestive systems for the day - because, you know, we eat crap - so that's one little tiny plastic bottle. Multiplied by the millions that our sold daily. Daily.

Through the morning and during lunch, we have the little stuff we add to water or soda bottles or sports drinks or vitamin waters or other Styrofoam cups or single-use cups. Those aren't little bottles but they do add up to the trash.

But then in the afternoon, we have those cute little bottles of 5-Hour Energy Drink. We should drink those every day at 3pm or so... every day... millions of us. Because instead of the natural way our bodies are supposed to work with a siesta like the entire rest of the world does, we have to keep work-work-working so we can buy-buy-buy more plastic things. Go home too tired to cook so get stuff in take-out packaging and serve on paper plates and plastic forks because it's to hard to wash dishes.

All these products are not only packaged so poorly that we should run screaming, but they are completely unnecessary. We don't need to chug probiotics daily if we would just eat better. We can bring a coffee mug to work to use at the desk or the travel mug to transport coffee. As for the "needed" energy boost in the mid-afternoon? I guess it's too much to hope we can change Society to realize that a nap would raise productivity to amazing heights...

Yeah, that'd make too much sense. Makes much more sense to pollute the ends of the Earth til we kill everyone and everything. Including ourselves.

Monday, October 1, 2012

No... Plastic... Hangers

I paraphrase, of course. It's wire hangers that are the evil things.

Why again? We pretty much used them all the time. I cannot even recall when plastic hangers came into being. Or why. Oh - because they are convenient, probably. I don't notice them to give that "Hanger Shoulder" nub-thing any less than metal. How about wood? Wooden hangers seemed fairly kind to clothes, if not trees. Don't like to sacrifice the trees? Well, how about bamboo?

The problem is, it doesn't matter if we phase out those stupid plastic things right now (though we should anyway), all those billions will still be right here. Going nowhere. Useful for nothing.

When a plastic hanger breaks, that's pretty much it. Trash. Landfill. Ocean.

Wire hangers are at least useful for other things. You can still open some locked cars with them. You can make things with them. I saw an awesome website where they were making beautiful skeleton keys with wire hanger pieces. Wire hangers can be recycled. Plastic hangers do not have any marking and therefore are not going to get recycled. (Face it, it's true.) Wooden hangers have the decency to break down over time. Plastic hangers are going to be around long after the clothes they held are dust. That's kind of sad in my book.

Cedar hangers. Those were nice.

I, like most people, have that closet full of these. I'm changing over as I can. I'll give them away so at least whomever receives them doesn't have to buy new ones. Maybe someday we'll find a use for them. I mean, I doubt it, but maybe.

When you think about all the homes across the country with all the people and all the clothes and then all the stores with all the clothes... it's kid of staggering.

Think about it.