I recently ordered some syrup. I’m talking flavored syrups to jazz up my espresso drinks. I like to add some flavors here and there, mix it up a little, go for something different. I know some folks are purists and just don’t like to add flavors. I can go with straight up but I also like to add some zing. I was out–I had been for a while–so I ordered some more from Amazon.

When you order from Amazon, as you may know if you have ordered from Amazon, you often have the choice of getting things from outside vendors. I had lots of options, and I went with the two syrups I wanted from two different sellers. I received them on the same day.

I received a bottle of Monin hazelnut syrup from CoffeeAM. It was just what I ordered and was shipped intact. It was packaged well, in fact. I can’t imagine it would have broken. The packaging was pretty cool, actually. It was a self-inflating tube of plastic. The problem is that it was all plastic. Plus it was packed in polystyrene peanuts–more plastic.  Here is what it looked like:

Glass in Plastic in Cardboard

Glass in Plastic in Cardboard

I received a bottle of Monin coconut syrup from Boba Tea Direct. It also was packed well enough that it would have taken a lot to have broken. Again, I was impressed by the packaging–even more so than the other shipment. This was all paper packaging. There was no plastic except the tape on the box. It looked like this:

Glass in Paper

Glass in Paper

The prices on the two bottles were about the same. I only ordered from two sellers because they were not both available from CoffeeAM and the hazelnut syrup at Boba Tea Direct was a lot more pricey (not sure what that was about). But because of the paper packaging, rather than plastic, I will order from Boba Tea Direct in the future. The bubble tube was cool, but I can’t toss that in the compost bin, or even recycle it. The world could use a little less plastic. It isn’t huge, but at least I can take one small action.  You?

Mud and Plastic

My daughter had the idea over dinner that we take a family walk down the road.  When your kid asks to do something outside as a family, it is awfully hard to say no, even if you have your pajamas on unaccountably early and the hour has crept beyond the usual one for dinner.  So I donned the jeans once more, slipped on mud boots with my children, and off we went.

A month ago, the ditch lining the road was deep with ice.  We would walk across with nary a step down.  Now it is muddy, running with melted snow.  The children tossed rocks, some of which made the hoped for splash, some of which stuck impressively into the mud.  They stomped and squished.  The shouted and laughed.  We had a hard time getting them to turn around so we could get home for bed.

We picked up a crazy amount of trash a few weeks ago, but there is more now.  Some of it has peeked out from the ice or snow, but some of it is new.  I can’t get over the amount of new litter to be found in those few weeks.  I want to believe it is just an accident, that each new piece bounced from a truck bed my mistake, but there is too much of it.  People are tossing that crap out the window.  It can bring one down, seeing how someone cares little enough that they will leave it to others to pick up their empties.

We generate enough trash as it is.  Americans generate about 4.6 pounds of solid waste per day, per person, and only about a quarter of it gets recycled, even though we could recycle about 3/4 of it.  A large percentage of that 4.6 pounds seems to wind up along the road.  I picked up two aluminum cans this evening–one whole and filled with mud, the other squashed flat–and one flattened plastic bottle.  I will recycle them.  At least, I will take them to the transfer station to be recycled by someone else, but that is more than my untidy neighbor, whoever he or she might be.

The kids are happy to help me clean things up.  I guess they do understand the importance of cleaning up, even though they left a huge mess on the floor this evening before they went to bed (it got too late to push that one).  They were dirty enough that I told them to leave the rest of the plastic bottles, half buried in the winter’s layer of sand, where they were.  I can go get those later at some point.

I had to do some boot rinsing when we got home.  We were a tad muddy.  I tossed what I was carrying into a blue recycling bin, cleaned some footwear, washed my hands, and headed to the kitchen to clean up that mess.  Sometimes it feels like I spend my whole day cleaning up messes.  But what fun would life be without messes, right?  As soon as I am done here, I think I will pick up all the toys on the floor.  I should probably make the kids clean up their own mess, but I need to be a nice guy once in a while.  Maybe tonight will be that once.

Plastic Crap

I have way too much plastic crap.  It is all around me.  This computer is mostly plastic.  I eat off plastic.  I wear plastic.  I drive around in a vehicle made largely of plastic.  I am swimming in plastic.  I mean this, at least occasionally, literally.  Have you ever been to one of those kid play spaces where one can wade through a sea of multi-colored plastic balls?  I have.  It was a nice swim.  And it was lots of plastic.

Seriously.  Look around.  Plastic is everywhere.  And we take it for granted.  If you do a little reading about plastic and if you start noticing, it gets a little scary.  Think about this:  Except for a minuscule amount that has been incinerated, every bit of plastic ever created still exists.  It doesn’t go away.  It doesn’t biodegrade.  It doesn’t go back to the earth.  It sits around and clutters up the place.

Here is something you should know.  In the North Pacific Ocean there is a patch of water that spins slowly around so that everything floating in it eventually comes together.  It is called the North Pacific subtropical gyre, and it contains more plastic than any other place on earth.  It covers the surface of the ocean in an area about twice the size of Texas.  For those of you not familiar with United States geography, Texas is a state and it is, as the locals like to brag, really really big.

And then there is this:  this gyre is one of five.  There are four others.  They are filled with bottle caps and chairs and bags and toy dolls and flip flops and logs of Styrofoam.  All the plastic that gets tossed aside somewhere without being buried eventually makes it to the ocean.  It floats about and floats about.  It never goes away.  Some of it breaks down into smaller pieces but it never loses its molecular structure.  The plastic bag that you used one time to carry a plastic bottle of lotion (that you also used one time) flies out your window and will be around for hundreds of years.  At least.

One woman decided she would try to keep things in check.  She decided to try to reduce her plastic use so that as little plastic as possible was added to her life.  She keeps a blog that I have been reading, and I recommend it.  It is inspiring.  It has made me keenly aware of my own plastic consumption and waste.  She calls it Fake Plastic Fish and its tag line is this:  Fake Plastic Fish… they’re cute, and if we don’t solve our plastic problem, they could be the only kind we have left.

If you want to read a fascinating, albeit disturbing, article about plastic, check out Our Oceans are Turning Into Plastic… Are We? It is a thorough read that should get you thinking.  If you are a thinking person, that is.

I now try even harder to keep plastic out of my house.  I have been an advocate of reducing plastic use for a long time, but these days I have been ever more aware of how much it is a spawn of the deh-vill, as my friend Skip would say.  Look around.  I bet you see plastic everywhere you turn.  My guess is that anyone reading this has plastic on his or her body at this moment.  Fleece?  Watch?  Hair clip?  Buttons?  I dare you to tell me you have no plastic on your body.

Again, I have way too much plastic crap.  All these toys and markers hanging around the house don’t help.  I don’t want to revert back to 150 years ago, when plastic did not exist yet.  Plastic has made a huge difference in all our lives.  Think of medicine and food safety, for a couple examples.  But, since only a small percentage of plastic gets recycled, even that which gets dumped into the blue bins to be recycled, I ask you this:  Is that mocha frappuccino you had recently really worth it?  That plastic cup was molded, packed, shipped, unpacked, pulled from a plastic sleeve, filled with that cold frothy drink and served to you.  You enjoyed it for half an hour, if you are a slow sipper, and that cup’s plastic will outlast your great grandchildren’s great grandchildren.

Makes you want to get a good (stainless steel) travel mug, doesn’t it?