Friday, April 11, 2008

"Well, Duh!" Environmentalism

Every month the church orders a case of 1,000 Styrofoam cups and stir sticks. Each case costs a little more than $22.00. A case of 1,000 cup lids costs a little more than $17.00.

We encourage the use of lids, though most people don't take one. Spills are common, especially among the children getting their cocoa. This means we have to have Dave Ross out frequently to clean the carpets, particularly in the Java Junction area, and down the halls immediately adjacent to it.

Ultimately, the cups, stirrers, and lids wind up in the wastebaskets, which are lined with plastic garbage bags. Our custodian, Jun, gathers them, as does the set-up person that does the Saturday night walk-through. We don't have a weekend custodian, so if there is an event on Saturday, the wastebaskets can sometimes be overloaded with trash- mostly cups.

All of that goes out to the dumpster. Recently, there was some discussion about having yet another weekly pickup added to our hauling contract, since we have frequent over-flows. However, we haven't done that yet. From there, the hauler takes all our trash to the landfill, which is 40 miles away in Vermillion County, burning diesel all the way. Why does it have to go so far? Because when our county landfill was declared full in 1990, we couldn't build another site any closer, without the risk of groundwater contamination. It's east-central Illinois; the water table reflects the fact that this was all a tallgrass swamp at one time. Thus the trip to Vermillion County.

Once there, it is entombed in perpetuity (we hope!) in a modern landfill arrangement that is designed to keep water out and garbage in. Nothing really rots away there; it's just buried. It actally never goes away. So, all our Styrofoam coffee cups, which wouldn't rot anyway, are all over there near Danville, awaiting the end of time.

Now, I have a suggestion:
What if everyone who regularly attends our church started bringing their travel mug in with them on Sunday morning, or even for meetings? I'll bet nearly everyone has one. In fact, I'll bet a lot of the cars in the parking lot have one sitting in the cup-holder on a regular basis, so it would just be a matter of bringing it in when you come in the building. If we all started doing this we could buy fewer cups, lids, and stirrers; produce less trash; keep the carpets cleaner (since travel mugs usually have lids), and extend the life of the landfill. So, we save the church a fair little chunk of money each month, save ourselves some tax dollars that go to landfill maintenance, as well as act as good stewards of our environment. At home, I call this "well, duh!" environmentalism, because it's an easy, cost-free change that saves money. It's a no-brainer!

If you're with me on this, leave a quick comment. Who's in?


grant said...

I started doing this when I was at UBC circa 1999. People thought it was so strange and they started calling my mug a "Linus Blanket"

If I am martyred and they make an icon about me, the caption will read "St. Grant shown here with faithful coffee mug"


Joyce said...

You'll be patron saint of Green Gooney-birds!

Green Bean said...

Joyce, it is so great that you are suggesting changes like this in your church. Changes made there will surely spill over into people's daily lives.

CindyW said...

Nice suggestion, especially in the church. In my very humble opinion, the price of styro-foam cups does not reflect the real cost. We have a a disjointed cradle to grave lifecycle. The first part stops at final product and second part picks up when the final product is consumed and tossed. We as consumers wind up paying for the second part. As the landfill gets more and more scares, the second part will get more expensive. Either the consumers will continue to shoulder the ever increasing burden, or the cost will be shifted to the manufacturers. For example, in Europe, all PC manufacturers get charge a x% of their shipment to cover for the recycle/disposal cost. Perhaps it will be the way in the future for us in the US as well. Have a great weekend.

Joyce said...

Green Bean, I know a lot of these people recycle at home, but somehow we all forget that when we're in a public space. But for a church member, church IS home, so we should just carry our good habits over to that building, too.

Cindy, I think about this all the time. If you figure in disposal and recycling costs, everything has hidden expenses that we are paying. Honestly, though I'm not big on disincentives, I'd love to see a big honking tax on Styrofoam!

grant said...

If we can go after bog tobacco and have huge taxes on those products, I think the same thing can apply to Styrofoam products. Actually if you think about it, the dangers of Styrofoam are more universal than even second hand smoking.

I'll have to look around and find an alternative product to use when we make our "etchings" out of meat trays at school. :(

+Grant- patron saint of Green Gooney-birds (depicted here with coffee mug)

Joyce said...

There go all your free art supplies, Grant!

grant said...

This might be of interest

Green Bean said...

Good point, Joyce. Somehow we all get out in public and the way we live more consciously at home just disappears in a puff of smoke. I'm as guilty as the next person.

Going Crunchy said...

My pastor is now calling me the Greenie. I'm rattling the cage to look at these issues quickly.

At a minimum I suggested only buying Seventh Generation (or similar) recycled products and then recycling. Right now we have NO bins anywhere. I'd like to ban juice boxes and such as you can't recycle those either.

I've also suggested compostable cups and such.

I'm really pushing towards the idea of just having real plastes, cups, spoons, etc. and washing them. We have a bang up kitchen and plenty of hands.

My point is that it is an earth stewardship issue, and most things that are worth it do require more thought and effort. It's also better financially for the church in the long term IMHO.

I think if we can send folks to Africa, build houses in New Orleans and do the host of all sorts of other biggie things we can surely wash a few durn plates and cups.

Joyce said...

The way I understand it, the reason we shifted to using paper plates at church suppers is that we were going to have to do a major overhaul of our kitchen in order to meet health standards for sterile washing-up. There is a way to do it, but you have to have some people n the congregation go through a certification course, and one of them then has to be present at every kitchen related function. So it's kind of a complicated issue. We could just start with the cups, and see how that goes.

DramaMama said...

Don't forget to put a sign by the coffee maker encouraging/thanking people who bring their own cups? More people probably see the coffee maker than your blog, no offense. I know at our church even people w/no computer drink coffee! Just a thought...