Plastic Rich / Plastic Poor

I am reading Susan Freinkel’s book, Plastic, A Toxic Love Story.

The book is comprehensive, and a fascinating read about the history of plastic and products familiar to all of us. It also got me feeling depressed, and then alarmed about the future and the environment my grandchildren will inhabit.

Ms. Freinkel chooses eight objects to help tell the story of plastic:  The comb, the chair, the Frisbee, the IV bag, the disposable lighter, the grocery bag, the soda bottle and the credit card.

She examines how these objects are made, the history, the culture of plastics, and how synthetics affect our health and environment.

There is a comment from a speaker at a plastics manufacturer’s conference in 1956, quoted as saying “Your future is in the garbage wagon”. How true…and it turns out that today, the average American throws away 300 pounds of packaging a year — and this mountain of containers and wrappings accounts for about 1/3 of the municipal waste stream.

Initially, we had to be taught to throw away plastic items — especially after the depression era culture of “use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without”.

But it did not take long for us to absorb the lessons — especially because everyone was becoming more prosperous — at the same time when many disposable products were entering the market.  Life magazine dubbed this (then) new era “Throwaway Living” .

The thing is…in these modern times, the abundance of plastic waste is not exclusive to a wealthy country like the United States.  Plastic waste is also an issue for the poor.

The difference between the Philippines and the US per capita income is huge.  The Philippines is at $2,007 (US Department of State data – 2010) and the US is at $47,084 (World Bank, 2010 data).

So…you would think that when you don’t have the money to spend on disposable utensils and other disposable conveniences, the issue of plastic trash is minimized.

Unfortunately, that is not the case in a country like the Philippines. Because the poor can afford to buy only the bare necessities…these items are packed in very small, plastic packages.  Snack foods too, are packed in tiny packages, and remnants of these tiny packages are often seen at the beach, by the side of the road…well, all over really.

Can you imagine buying only a clove of garlic, as pictured below, from a local market…

or just enough spice, or salt for cooking the day’s family meal?

or to buy detergent and laundry products to wash just a few items of clothing?

I am part of this plastics generation — and problem — and feel propelled into doing something, before it is too late.

The question is…what can I do…how do I get the word out?  Well, here is a part of getting the word out…PLEASE READ THIS TIMELY BOOK.

~Lola Jane

Senator Lowenthal’s Bill to Ban Foam Containers in California

If signed into law, a bill by state Senator Alan Lowenthal would make California the first state to ban polystyrene (Styrofoam) containers, beginning in 2016.

There are already more than 50 cities and counties in California that ban these containers, including the city of Salinas.

The Santa Cruz based Save Our Shores website lists why polystyrene is a threat to communities:

  1. Polystyrene contains toxic chemicals that can leach out of the material into hot foods and beverages that humans consume
  2. In most cities, polystyrene cannot be recycled and it is not compostable
  3. Polystyrene never fully biodegrades and thus easily become litter, costing communities economically and environmentally.

Which is why I find it hard to believe that there are opponents to this bill — and find the negative responses short-sighted.  An article by Sheila Kumar of the Associated Press in yesterday’s Monterey Herald reported that opponents of the bill

  • say that it fails to address the root cause of litter — the litterers themselves.
  • and that litterers will toss out the containers whether they’re made of polystyrene or biodegradable cardboard (this according to Michael Westerfield, corporate director of recycling for Dart Container) and “At the end of the day, people that litter don’t care what type of product they’re littering” .

So, OK… I agree on the littering issue — and we need to look at why people litter, but Mr. Westerfield misses the point if you want to look at the litterer as a root cause to address.

  • If there is litter (such as on purpose litter by litter bugs, or by accident litter, e.g., because the container is blown away), the difference is really the litter material.  If the packaging material biodegrades in a few months time, then litter is a smaller problem than if it is a plastic material –Styrofoam being a form of plastic– that can take hundreds of years to break down and cause problems if washed out to sea.
  •  We have 840 miles of coastline in California.  A lot of plastic trash that gets into sewers, or that washes away during heavy rains can end up on our beaches—-and in the ocean.

The article cited one restaurant alone –BJ’s Kountry Kitchen — that uses about 26,000 of the 9 inch foam Styrofoam clamshell a year for customer take-out.  This is ONE restaurant!  Would you rather they use biodegradable — or Styrofoam containers, especially if the containers end up in the hands of these litterers?

The article further states:

  • The California Chamber of Commerce has labeled the measure as one of its “job killer bills” saying it threatens manufacturing jobs while increasing costs for restaurants that will have to spend more on alternative containers.

A job killer?  How about alternate manufacturing jobs focused on green, biodegradable packaging, or an altogether new packaging technology?

And with regard to increased costs by restaurants on alternative containers…..well, let us think outside the take-out box on this point.

If a restaurant starts a campaign to educate customers on the problems with litter and added costs of packaging, and introduces concepts on reducing packaging, bringing their own “take-out” food containers, then over time, wouldn’t their “take-out” packaging costs actually be reduced?

What did people do BEFORE throw away plastics and Styrofoam containers?  The restaurant probably had earth friendly options for take-out packaging, or customers brought their own containers to restaurants.

Already, Gayles Bakery & Rosticceria — a certified Monterey Bay Area Green Business, in business for over 30 years — advertises on the radio and on their website to bring your own food container for take-out orders. Their website at www.gaylesbakery.com, lists their environmental policy as well as tips on their efforts to reduce food packaging.  To encourage this shift in how take-out food is packaged, they have weekly drawings for a $100 gift card when you bring your own bag, food containers or mugs for take-out.

If we distill the reasons for opposition and objections to pro-environment type legislation…it becomes clear the reason is of selfishness, and, well….being short-sighted and not thinking about the future (and other) inhabitants of this planet.  Otherwise why would you NOT want to support making changes for the good of the planet, and so our children and grandchildren will have a clean and healthy environment to live in?

We all have to make sacrifices for the greater good, and to prevent our environment from being loaded up with toxic plastic waste (plastic is so new to our system that there are no microbes in nature that can truly break it down — read the  recently published book “Plastic” A Toxic Love Story by Susan Freinkel).

And if that means more initial costs for biodegradable take out boxes, then so be it.  At least until we make a shift in our habits, and rethink the true cost of our throw-away society.

What do you think about this bill to ban Styrofoam containers?   Should restaurants impose a fee on take-out containers or give you a credit / discount or freebie if you bring your own containers?

Bring John Sayles’ Film “Amigo” to Monterey Area

The latest movie by Academy Award-nominated writer/director John Sayles– filmed on location in the Philippines — is set in the 1900’s, during a time in history when the Philippines was occupied by the US.

The Philippines and the US share a great deal of history, but many do not know about this particular era of Philippine and American history — and that this was the first time the US Military fought beyond the Americas as a world power.

The movie recently opened in US cities where there are large populations of Filipino-Americans.  But it looks like Monterey country residents who want to see the movie will have to drive to the San Francisco Bay Area, unless it plays at the Osio or Salinas area movie theaters.

There is a campaign to “Bring Amigo to Your Town”.  So…for those interested in seeing the movie, please send a link of this post to your friends — and click here to add Monterey County zip codes to the campaign.

The reviews have been excellent:

“Entertaining and relevant!”  -A.O. Scott, THE NEW YORK TIMES

“Engrossing!  Intelligently rip-roaring, a thoughtful action film.” -J. Hoberman, VILLAGE VOICE

“FOUR STARS… Sayles’ best in a decade!” -Joe Neumaier, NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Here is the movie SYNOPSIS (from the movie website http://www3.amigomovie.com/ — where you can see the movie trailer)

AMIGO, the 17th feature film from Academy Award-nominated writer-director John Sayles, stars legendary Filipino actor Joel Torre as Rafael, a village mayor caught in the murderous crossfire of the Philippine-American War.

When U.S. troops occupy his village, Rafael comes under pressure from a tough-as-nails officer (Chris Cooper) to help the Americans in their hunt for Filipino guerilla fighters.  But Rafael’s brother (Ronnie Lazaro) is the head of the local guerillas, and considers anyone who cooperates with the Americans to be a traitor.  Rafael quickly finds himself forced to make the impossible, potentially deadly decisions faced by ordinary civilians in an occupied country.

A powerful drama of friendship, betrayal, romance and heartbreaking violence, AMIGO is a page torn from the untold history of the Philippines, and a mirror of today’s unresolvable conflicts.

It is worth reading A.O. Scott’s review, titled “The Cause is Familiar, but the War is Less so”.  Here is an excerpt:

“We’re here to win hearts and minds,” says Colonel Hardacre (Chris Cooper) as he rides into San Isidro. His use of a phrase made notorious during Vietnam (and revived, often without irony, in more recent wars) may sound a bit anachronistic and overly pointed, but it also reinforces a disconcerting parallel. Long before the word quagmire was applied to Vietnam, Mark Twain used it to describe America’s Philippines entanglement, which he vigorously opposed. An early statement of American policy declared that “only through American occupation” was “the idea of a free, self-governing and united Filipino commonwealth at all conceivable.” It is hard to imagine a clearer statement of the contradictions of nation building.

If you have seen the movie, please comment.  Thank you.

~ Lola Jane

Lavender and Natural Wreaths at Creekside Farms

I recently visited Creekside Farms in Greenfield for their lavender.

Wreath from www.creeksidefarms.com

Creekside Farms is a family owned and operated farm, right here in Monterey County.

They create beautiful, all natural wreaths and grow most of their wreath ingredients –herbs and flowers–on their farms, all without the use of pesticides

They recently re-launched their website and now offer their gorgeous designs for retail purchase, online (prior to this, they were a wholesale only operation.)

The lavender fields were just harvested when I visited, but you can still see blossoms on the photos below.  They use the french lavender hybrid Lavandula x intermedia var. Grosso for their products — a tall and sturdy type of lavender with beautiful blue, and very fragrant blossoms.

Here  are photos near a field growing yarrow, with some flowers in bloom.

And here is a photo of the lavender fields in full bloom beauty, courtesy of Creekside Farms.

Natural Fall Wreath from www.creeksidefarms.com

 

You can visit their website at www.creeksidefarms.com to view creations like this beautiful fall wreath, made from a mixture of dry elements such as yarrow, quince slices, cherry peppers, sweet annie, preserved fall leaves, and wheat, as well as fresh eucalyptus, bay, and curly willow.

 

Philip Glass – Culture and the Environment

Image of Philip Glass from www.daysandnightsfestival.com

On the way home last week, I heard Krista Almanzan of KAZU interview Philip Glass about a festival he organized (The Days and Nights Festival) in the Monterey Bay area.

The older I get, the more I am impressed with individuals who take on big projects despite already hefty accomplishments in their life (composer Philip Glass’ work spans 50 years).  And really, continuing to do something big at a time of their life when they don’t have to.

More so, that the festival is connected to the environment, and Philip Glass’  love and appreciation for the beauty of this area of California.

And so, back to the radio interview…..Krista asks:  “What is it about Big Sur / Carmel Valley area….and why do a festival here?”   Here are some of Mr. Glass’ response:

“It’s a really magical place….it’s got to be one of the most beautiful places in the world…. the wilderness system that exist in California has been so well-preserved and protected..

We are talking about culture in the way that we talk about the environment…It’s very diverse…and very ecstatically beautiful.   What I am looking for…is to share with an audience our enthusiasm for the commingling of art and science and music and dance and poetry…artist want to share the love of what they do…”

The festival started last Friday and will continue to September 4th.

Here is a link to the KAZU and Krista Almanzan’s interview  http://www.publicbroadcasting.net/kazu/news.newsmain/article/1/0/1841095/KAZU.Local/Composing.a.Festival.

And the link to the festival’s website: http://www.daysandnightsfestival.com/

Native Leaf’s On-Line Retail Site

Finally, the on-line retail store for Native Leaf is up and running at www.NativeLeaf.info — and it has been keeping me busy these last few weeks.

And since I enjoy this whole blogging thing, I put the retail site on a blogging format— WordPress with a Market Theme.  We have only about 1/5 of our products posted…and so a lot more work to do.

Eco-Friendly, Biodegradable Wine Bags from www.NativeLeaf.info

I have some pictures and blog posts on the site that may be interesting to those of you who know about our products.  I wish I was blogging from the start of Native Leaf…but as the saying goes, better late than never.

Here are some photo and link topics:

On the story of Philippine sleeping mats called “banig” and the origins of our romblon leaf natural placemats (From Sleeping Mats to Place Mats)

Photos of some of our weavers on the blog post Our Weaving Groups

And fun stuff too, like eating Banana-Q’s at the beach-side market where we buy our romblon leaves (Sweet Potato and Bananas Q’s—for Breakfast!)

Let me know what you think when you visit!  Thank you.

Books – Learning Colors

~ Here are two great books helpful to youngsters who are learning their colors, and will be added to our Favorites Pages.  Four-year old Gabriel really enjoyed the construction of these color books. ~

The Mixed-Up Chameleon – By Eric Carle


Eric Carle has written so many books that most households with children probably has at least one (even outside the U.S., as his most popular book, The Very Hungry Caterpillar, has been translated into 50 languages).

The Mixed-Up Chameleon is among our favorite Eric Carle book.

The book is about a  chameleon who sees a zoo —- and instead of just blending into different colors like a regular chameleon — he actually turns into the color and parts of the various animals he sees. This results into strange-looking combinations, making the chameleon look even stranger with each new animal and color he encounters.

Constructed with cutaways, each new page reveals a color tab on the right side, and matching color/animal on the left side.  By the end of the book, a rainbow is revealed, with the chameleon returning to his true shape .  One of the best color-learning books that we have come across.

Lemons are not Red – by Laura Vaccaro Seeger

This book is constructed with clever cutouts that work in bright colors and objects as you turn the page.

My grandchildren particularly enjoy these types of books, and they looked forward to turning the pages to reveal the correct object color.   There is minimal text so the focus is on learning colors.

Lemons Are Not Red starts out with yellow pages with a cutout of a red lemon.  When you turn the page, the lemon cutout reveals the previous (yellow) page and is then the correct color.

The pattern repeats with other objects like eggplant, carrots, flamingos, etc.