Monday, February 05, 2007

Wasting Resources

I have a bit of an obsession with resource conservation. I know this is so and am admitting to it openly. Yesterday I grabbed three plastic bags after the church potluck. Someone had brought their contributions in these bags, and they were going to be thrown out. So I snagged them, brought them home, and tossed them in the recycling bin. I completely forgot about my vow not to bring any plastic into the house this month, but I do not think this action breaks that vow. I also have 500 Cracker Barrel menus in my car right now. That’s right, 500. I intend to tear them up slowly over the next several days and then compost them. Why do I have 500 Cracker Barrel menus? Because the store where I work was using a new test menu, and it didn’t work out, so today we were converting back to the core menu. All of the test menus were thrown out last night. I managed to convince a manager to let me have an entire ream of (completely unused) test menus, and they are going to be composted for my garden. (The manager had no idea what composting was and thought I was a bit soft in the head, but that’s another issue entirely.) I recycle or reuse everything that can be done so. I’ve gotten my trash flow down to about one bag a week, not counting litter box changes. I even use junk mail envelopes and announcements as dog toys; my little poodle loves to shred paper! So yes, I have a mild to moderate obsession with resource management. However, I am not entirely sure this is an unhealthy obsession, given our culture’s profligacy with resources.

Case in Point 1: Cracker Barrel. This one company uses 6% of the world’s maple syrup. That’s six percent of all the maple syrup made in the world, every single year. How does this happen? Extreme waste. Whenever someone orders anything that needs syrup, they send out a 1.7 oz bottle of pure maple syrup. If this sounds like a lot, it is. A normal size bottle is about 8 ounces. No one uses that much syrup on pancakes, and whatever is left in the bottle (usually 2/3 or even more) is thrown out. That’s right, they throw it out. (Assuming the person doesn’t take the bottle home, which does occasionally happen.) I got pancakes one day –long story –and brought my bottle home because I couldn’t bear the thought of wasting all that syrup. Two weeks later, I still have some left after using it in my oatmeal just about every morning. Does this policy make any sense to anyone else? It’s no wonder their food costs are so high! I could go on and on about the other waste issues in the restaurant business, but I think I’ve made my point.

Case in Point 2: my classes this semester. The workload is kicking my butt, which is the reason I haven’t been blogging as much. I have a presentation to make in each class. It’s a group presentation. In my occupational psych class my group is all ready preparing. Here is what my group wants to do (aside from me), and this is considered standard in grad classes apparently: hand out a folder to every person in class (all 30 of them) containing at least two handouts from each person in the group, and a CD containing the entire presentation. Oh yeah, and serve dinner: they want to do fried chicken and sides from Wal-Mart. I’m sorry, but this whole plan has left me aghast. It’s a waste of time, money, and most of all resources. The folders are bad enough, but feeding an entire class a fried chicken dinner is just over the top. Even if I had the money to participate in this madness (and believe me, I don’t) I couldn’t do so in good conscience. But now I’m left in the uncomfortable position of having to explain my reasoning to my teammates without sounding like a skinflint. The trouble is, I have no idea of how to do this.

And these are just a couple of examples. Our entire lifestyle is completely crazy. It’s no wonder the U.S. and Britain are sending their garbage to China now –we don’t have room for it here!

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

At the local university here there are no paper handouts by lecturers at all and their notes are posted on line for students to read at leisure. Could your group not do the same with the contents of the CD. As for dinner for all, can your group really claim that this is a necessary part of education? What is the group psychology going on here? If they feel obliged to spend money (which I wonder at) what about a contribution to a hunger charity so that food can go to those who really need it.



2/06/2007 2:41 AM  
Blogger turnip said...

Walk into your student union and you will be astounded at the waste! Usually for "sanitary" reasons too. Its apalling. I totally understand having an "obsession" - I started saving and reusing saran wrap from my co-workers think I am nuts :)
I can make it last a good week though and after its gone I am switching to a non-disposable container.
In my grad school experience, I NEVER heard of serving dinner...I don't know what they are thinking. Unfortunately though...handouts are standard...required for a lot of my presentations, could you used recycled paper though?

2/10/2007 7:05 PM  
Blogger rani said...

Ha! I am SO glad to hear someone else is obsessed with the 3 Rs - what a great obsession to have!

I second the website idea - make a cool website for your project and let classmates give you comments and "grades." If the dinner is necessary, make it a potluck with the theme of your presentation (thinking food for psychology!). Or bring all that maple syrup and make pancakes!

I think you can also explain to your teammates that saving on paper and resources is important to you and in line with your principles - they'll come around.

2/22/2007 4:36 PM  

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