The napkin that saved the world

I have a hard time trying not to come off as a complete and total snob. In fact, I'm terrified of coming off as this "little snooty white girl" who can afford to be a hippy. I don't want to be like that, I just really want you to recycle.

I worry too much about what people think of me.

This is why I have yet to bring my own container with me when I eat out at restaurants where I know I might have leftovers to take home with me. I want to be that person and yet I don't want to be "that person." My face already burns red when whenever I hastily remember to tell the employees at Subway that I don't want a pile of napkins nor do I want the bag in which they put the sandwich.

Who would've thought that trying to reduce how much waste I produce each day would call for so much gumption?

I know this blog is supposed to be focused in around the environment, but it's been a while since I directly wrote about it. Ever since I finished reading No Impact Man, it's been lurking in the back of my brain. I was really fired up about everything after I read that book. I came away knowing that I couldn't "save the world," but a deep conviction that I have a lot of control over how much environmental impact I create myself. (So much so that I almost cried at work. True story). I cannot change the entire world, but I can change myself. But for some reason, I never really wrote about it after I turned the last page.  Sure, I mentioned it a few times during the course of reading it. I even filled that book up with post-it notes of things I wanted to talk about in this blog.

But I didn't.

There isn't one easy answer to why that was the case and I am sure that a big part of it came down to the fact that suddenly blogging felt like a chore after being on the computer all day long for work. Yet, there is a little part of me that knows that my life still looks very much the same since finishing that book. I haven't done anything drastic. In fact, I keep making the same dumb errors. Today, for example, I forgot to take my reusable bag out of the car when I went to the farmer's market. I didn't even think about it until the lady handed me my broccoli in a plastic bag.


Sometimes, I tell people that even though the item is already bagged that I do not want that bag. I then take the item out and carry on with my day.

Sometimes, I do not.

Today was one of those days.

Sometimes trying to reduce my carbon footprint calls for courage.

And it's a ridiculous kind of courage too. After all, who cares? Why should I feel embarrassed about not wanting a plastic bag at subway? Why am I not brave enough to bring my own container and ask if they could put my sandwich in it instead of wrapping it up multiple times?

Sometimes, I find in me this ridiculous courage (that maybe can barely be called courage) like when I finally had enough nerve to ask the stewardess on my flight from Santa Cruz to Miami this past summer  if she would kindly put water in my personal water bottle instead of those little plastic cups they hand out to everyone.

No problem.

(Except for the fact that she made me hold it out to her even though I was sitting in the window seat and there were two men sitting between me and her. Of course we hit some turbulence and the water went all over these guys' pants. Thankfully, they were pretty gracious).

I think my "fear" of using reusable things (the ones that go beyond the hip reusable bags that everyone keeps in their cars but hardly ever use) is based on the fact that no one else around me seems to be doing this, (which might not be true, but hey, I haven't seen anyone at a restaurant whip out their own glad ware yet). But, I need to remember that people are often inspired by action when they start to see it.  I wouldn't have even thought to ask for the water in my own bottle (and all over my seat-mates) if my friend, Lucas, had't told me he does that all the time on flights.

A lot of our inaction, I believe comes from our lack of connection the bigger issues. It's hard to care about the environment when things around us seem fine. It's hard to be creative when the situation does not demand it.

Back to No Impact Man, I really enjoyed this book because I loved what Colin realized at the end of his project. His newly discovered environmentally-aware life was not only more beneficial, but was one that brought him into community with those around him.
I sometimes wonder if our lack of social connection and community is at the root of our environmental problems. I wonder, at least in my case, if that lack has meant that I don't feel responsible or accountable to anything beyond myself. Without real community, where is the visceral sense of connection to something larger, to something to which I owe my care? Maybe one reason I felt like I couldn't make a difference when the project started was because I wasn't firmly connected to anything to which I could make a difference.  
Who would've thought; caring about the planet really means caring about one another. Maybe if I knew what exactly happened to our trash in a "smack you in the face everyday" type way, I would swear them off forever, no exceptions.

Speaking of books, I just started reading A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, which is a coming of age story of a poor girl who lives in New York in the early 1900s. There is a line in the first chapter that I found myself thinking about all day. The line was simply, "She was richer because she had something to waste." 

I am rich because I have something to waste. In fact, I must be loaded because I waste lots of things. I waste these things because I can. I waste because I am disconnect to the realities around me.

I never really know how to end these types of posts because I don't have one answer or a nice little story to tie everything up. But I write these posts because I don't want to stop thinking about these things.

My life might not be drastically different after reading No Impact Man, but one thing that has changed is that I now carry around these cute bird cloth napkins my sister gave me. There is always one in my lunchbox and my goal is to always have one in my bag so whenever I go to a restaurant, I have it with me. Regardless, the amount of napkin trash I create has practically been eliminated.

It's a start at least and a good reminder that I can be braver than I think I can be. And so can you.