Day: 56 Guest Greener

So it seems that our waste-free lifestyle may have rubbed off on someone else.

Grant’s cousin, Stephen, spent a couple weeks with us this month after following our footprints and experiencing his first season of treeplanting (the traditional BC student job). Little did he know he was landing smack in the middle of the Clean Bin Project, and that garbage cans would be in short supply.

The official rules in our house encourage guests to be waste free, but don’t require it. If people want to buy material goods, they can. If they want to buy coffee in a disposable cup, they can. We just don’t want them bringing their waste into our household. Generally we eat in, so food waste at home isn’t a problem. More often than not, people feel compelled to not produce garbage because nobody else in the house is. Where are they going to put it?

Stephen more than obliged us. He carried a reusable mug, ordered pizza slices sans paper plate, and got caught up in lengthly conversations on the topics of trash and recycling. After what I like to think was a marvelous vacation with his ultra-cool older cousins, he returned to Ontario and sent us the story of his recycling hardships on board the airplane. I think his experience would resonate with a lot of us,so here it is in his own words. Stephen flies from BC to Ontario:

“On my first flight, Vancouver to Calgary, I was rather thirsty and had chosen not to purchase a water bottle (you can’t bring any liquids through security anymore…) while in the waiting lounge. As such, I decided I could justify taking one of the plastic cups (which I noted bear the ‘recycle’ symbol on the bottom) when the complimentary drink service came by during the flight. When they visited again, this time on their ‘garbage’ run at the end of the flight, I asked where my plastic cup would be going. I was informed that though paper and aluminum are recycled, Westjet sends plastics to the seagulls surrounding landfills, I suppose effectively ensuring they too have something to drink their complimentary apple juice from.

“I told the stewarding person (politically correct?) that I would bring mine along for my next flight and then recycle it when I got home. I was met with a bemused smile.

“On my next flight, which was to be nearly five hours in duration, I fell asleep and devastatingly missed the first complimentary drink service. Come the second round several hours in, you will understand when I say I was ‘particularly parched’- all that heavy sleeping.

“However, when I presented my beaming customer service assistant with my cup, which I requested be used in place of the shiny new one he was wielding, I was met with a rather flustered “I can’t…that’s okay, I’ll give you a new one”, against which I asserted, “I’m trying to recycle, can’t you just use this cup…?”

“His answer was resounding, and cast a cloud over the rest of my afternoon, as I sat contemplating the two cups now looming side by side on my tray-table. “I’m sorry, we’re not allowed. Have a new one,” he had affirmed. So blunt, unthinking, UNNECESSARY.

“What, I wondered, could be the underlying logic behind the unwavering systematic distribution of a seeming infinitude of ‘unrecyclable’ recyclable plastic cups? Why, moreover, are customers not permitted to provide their own cup (one originating from their company and of the correct volume, I might add). The only reason I could think of was that I may have put poison in the cup while it was in my possession, and by serving me my own death the Airline would be in a rather sticky situation. If this really is the issue, I have to wonder at what point paranoia will be overcome by logic.”



Filed under guest writer, no waste on the road, recycling

5 responses to “Day: 56 Guest Greener

  1. Wow – brilliant post; thank you. We felt we might meet the same response when asking to use our own containers in a butchers, but so far so good. We live in a rural environment though and I think people are much less paranoid about germs and contamination in a country setting!

    This is a very interesting read and I’m sad that Stephen couldn’t exercise his own choice on the airline with using his cup; especially as he had explained he was trying to recycle………. Is a letter to the airline in order I wonder; to follow this up?

  2. Auntie Pauline

    Loved Stephen’s musings and his and Grant and Jen’s stand on reducing waste. One hint on airplane travel, if you have to travel that way, although you can’t take a full water bottle through security, you can take an empty one. So I empty mine before security, then refill it from the water fountain by the gate before boarding.

  3. rhy

    on my flight we were faced with the same challenge. . . so I bring an empty bottle, then if you take your empty bottle to the back of the plane where they serve from, when they’re not serving, they’ve always filled it for me when i’ve asked. . . also we just asked for the can with no cup no ice and most of the time they’ll give it to you. being in the southern usa for 4 days was terrible for waste, though. . . they recycle next to nothing there! we camped with a few friends of mine who chucked their beer cans in the trash and my partner and I were pulling them out of the trash to place them in the recycling bin that was only about 100 yards away!

  4. Jen CleanBin

    Thanks for the feedback everyone. Good to hear that some people are successfully waste free on flights.

    Rhy – I can just picture you picking beer cans out of the trash! It’s a good eye-opener to get out of our “environmentally aware bubble” and realize that not everyone is taking part in recycling and reducing waste. Hope you got them to change their ways (more likely they just thought you were crazy)

  5. Alex

    I currently live in a “small” town of 4 million in China. Here, you have two options: recycle yourself, and get a small amount of money for what you bring in, or put your recyclables in the trash, for someone else to fish out later and earn money for. Everyone gets in on this: elderly ladies, professional trashpickers, little children…the list goes on and on. Since I don’t speak much Chinese, I put all of my recyclables in a box, and leave it by the trashcan (much easier for people to find that way). At least here, nothing goes to waste!

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