First Week Fail…..

Posted: August 3, 2012 by bigwhiteship in Week 2: Reflections + Social Sustainability
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Seriously, how hard can it be?  All I had to do was buy a mug and I was good to go!  Bye, bye disposable cups that I was burning through at a rate of three per day.

Well, as it turned out, old habits are hard to fight and convenience is difficult to break.  So there I was, sitting in class Monday morning, shamefully looking around me to see who knew that I was BigWhiteShip and that I had massively failed at such a seemingly easy task.  It actually ended up taking me two more days before I managed to get my sorry behind over to the bookstore and buy that re-usable coffee mug.


And there it is, my personal re-usable mug, sitting on my desk in class.

I learned two lessons in the process.  The first lesson did not come as a great surprise, I NEED MY COFFEE…!  It was somewhat surprising that just by thinking about wanting to make a small change in the world through adjusting my less than sustainable habits I started becoming more aware.  Before I managed to finally buy this mug, I still got that first cup of coffee but after that I stopped buying more.  The guilt of knowing that I was still contributing to the problem of billions upon billions of paper cups being tossed out each year had started to grow roots in my brain.  Those first few days I just consumed less coffee.  Not ideal considering my coffee habit, but just by reflecting on my actions I knew a change was needed, which for me just goes to show how powerful a tool it can be to keep bringing sustainability issues to the forefront.


Did I contribute to this?

The second lesson I learned was one that I already have had to fight for years at work.  If the more responsible and sustainable approach takes more effort, it is very difficult to get a high participation percentage.  In managing two campus restaurants and having access to the kitchens of virtually every other one, I know firsthand how much food we throw out each year on campus, not to mention all the packaging material in which the customer carries the food out of our locations.  Yes, there are many composting efforts at Oregon State, and we do participate, but we’re not even scratching the surface of the work we could accomplish.  It is just so much easier to have one big container in which we throw everything, both for the kitchen as well as the customer.  Until we start making the old approach less convenient, or make it more costly, it is my belief that we will continue to just pay lip service to sustainability.

What if we required every outlet on campus to only sell beverages in re-usable, consumer supplied cups?  Recycling empty cans and bottles?  For as long as I can remember deposits on soda bottles has been $0.50 each back home in Holland.  You better believe that we saved and returned every empty Pepsi bottle in our house.  Maybe if a customer wants to buy a latte we should charge them $0.50 extra for the privilege of being unsustainable.

I don’t know about you, but I probably would have bought my reusable mug a lot faster if that were the case…  I realize I’m only one guy here trying to make a difference, but together as a class, and especially by sharing our stories, maybe we can create some exponential growth in the right direction.  The world around us, and I’m talking lesser developed countries here, seeks to emulate the western “civilized” countries more and more.  As we export our lifestyle, is this really what we want them to learn?  Waste is okay?  However that waste takes shape?  I would say ‘no thanks’, but maybe you have a different opinion.  I would love to hear from everyone.

  1. julie says:

    JB, I think you made a great point about exporting our lifestyle. Should we really be promoting disposability as some cultural ideal? I think we could learn a lot from cultures around the world that have smart, sustainable ideas that they have been practicing for generations.

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