Sung to the tune of Legalize It by Peter Tosh
A Sattvic Planet is GREEN
Last week in honor of Earth Day I asked the question, What color is a Sattvic Planet? Continuing with the momentum generated from that post I want to write about another environmental topic this week. It is so tempting for me to write about food every week because it is a topic that I am passionate about, and I suspect many of you are drawn to this site because you share that interest. However, since one of the primary themes of this site is that human health can’t exist without environmental health, and environmental health can’t exist without human health, I need to focus on environmental topics on occasion.
Portland, Oregon has become famous for being perhaps the most environmentally conscious city in the nation. This is evident in the large percent of commuters who walk, bike, bus, or ride the light rails and streetcars. Further evidence can be seen in the vibrant food scene there, which emphasizes locally grown and sustainably produced products. LEED built green buildings covered with solar panels and living roofs are not difficult to find in this progressive city. However, despite all these successes, Portland does encounter obstacles while biking down the path to sustainability. City leaders have a goal of reducing waste by 25% from 2009 levels by the year 2030. One of the ways they plan to do this is by offering curbside compost pickup, which is a way of diverting food and yard waste from the landfill. Recently Portland hit an obstacle to reaching its waste goal when it was forced to ban compostable food containers generated by businesses from the compost program.
The primary problem they faced came from commercial customers, not residential customers. Too much of the compostable materials were the bio-based forks, cups and containers that have gained popularity among environmentally friendly businesses recently. These containers and utensils, often made of corn based plastic, were taking too long to breakdown for the business model to be successful. Interviews with local environmental leaders describe the popularity of these bio-based products as a feel good measure that allows people to continue their lives as usual, but without the guilt of being wasteful.
Real change requires more thought than effort
I’m sure that there are benefits of using these bio-based products, and I appreciate the intention of the businesses and customers who have made an effort to use them for the purpose of reducing our impact on the environment, but the reality is that even in a green city like Portland many people are still not making the effort to truly adjust their lifestyle to live more harmoniously with the planet. I see this all the time at the Bellingham food co-op when people order a meal from the deli. Despite the large seating area and the option to use real plates and utensils, people will order their food to go, and many of them will then thoughtlessly sit in the seating area eating out of bio-based corn plastic containers. Minimizing waste can be as simple as eating at the restaurant instead of carrying it home in a plastic container. Often times I bring a reusable container to the deli, or bulk section, and sometimes I even bring a container to the restaurant for my leftovers.
Agent Smith says the following to Morpheus during a scene from the movie The Matrix:
“Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply and multiply until every natural resource is consumed and the only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet.”
Dark, I know, but I’ve always been fascinated by that quote because it is an interesting way of viewing our interactions with our surroundings. However, I should try and end this post on a more positive message. There are so many things we can do differently with our daily routines to help create a healthy environment, and that environment in return will help create a healthier you. I could make a list a mile long of individual actions to take in your daily routine, but for now I simply want to encourage you to be aware of the consequences of your purchases, decisions and actions.
“Minimize it, yeah, yeah, and I will advertise it”