Sometimes I get really discouraged about the state of our planet. We have made a huge mess, plain and simple. Our selfish, profit-driven actions have killed entire species, polluted entire oceans, destroyed entire ecosystems, and threatened all manner of life, large and small.
And we’ve all seen how hard it is to enact environmental protections and regulations on industries that harm the environment. It’s excruciating how slowly change happens, because 1) you can’t legislate morality, and 2) as long as we put profits over people (and nature), pipelines will exist. Carbon-based fuels will exist. Gas-guzzling SUVs will exist. None of that will change until we, collectively and globally, put the health of the planet at the top of the priorities list.
Until that magical day, it’s all about personal choices. And one relatively new business in town has placed control back in the American consumer’s hands by providing easy access to better, more eco-friendly choices. It’s called Bring Your Own, and it’s a literally shining example of zero-waste living.
Yup, that gleaming 1975 Airstream trailer parked between Taj of India and Jack Brown’s holds dozens of ways you can reduce the amount of trash you generate. On average, Americans produce 4.4 pounds of their own personal trash every day. To me, that sounds like a staggering amount, and it is, but really it’s no surprise considering how many disposable items can be found in the average household. I’ve always tried to be conscious of how much junk I’m throwing in the trash, but sometimes I get numb to what’s in front of me. After visiting Bring Your Own, I went home and really looked around at what my 4.4 pounds is made of, and I think I can make some changes. For example, packaging. Thirty-two percent of municipal waste is packaging. It’s not even the thing inside the package, which might also be disposable! And how many times have you ordered something online, and it arrives in a box inside another box with a giant plastic air bladder? Ugh. We can do better.
Here’s just a sampling of what owner Allie Emerick sells in her shop:
• Bamboo toothbrushes. Apparently we throw away 850 million plastic toothbrushes every year. !!! Allie sells toothbrushes with biodegradable handles and recyclable bristles.
• Diapers. More than 27 billion find their way to the landfill each year. Thirsties brand diapers can be washed and line-dried and used over and over.
• Feminine hygiene products. A woman uses upwards of 14,000 disposable fem-hy products in her lifetime. Or, she can stock up on GladRags brand pads and a Lunette menstrual cup and drastically reduce her trash!
• Cups and bottles. Geez, do we ever have a disposable beverage container problem. Twenty-five BILLION styrofoam cups end up in the landfill every year… and that does not include paper/cardboard cups. Plus 2.5 million plastic bottles get trashed every HOUR! For heaven’s sake, buy yourself a bamboo coffee cup and a stainless steel pint and take ‘em everywhere you go!
• Razors. Can you believe we throw away 2 billion disposable razors every year?? Allie’s got a great selection of razors and shaving accessories.
• And by the way, bring your own dang bag/jar/container when you go to Bring Your Own! A TRILLION plastic bags are thrown out every year, and they’re only used for an average of 12 minutes each. This makes me want to puke a little bit. Allie sells bags, too: shopping totes; wet bags that are handy for wet swimsuits, dirty diapers, toiletries; produce bags; soap bags; and “ditty” bags for organizing items in larger (reusable) containers. This is a way you can NEVER use a plastic bag again.
Sunday is Earth Day, and I’m issuing a challenge. Commit to one new eco-friendly action every month for a year. Ditch plastic bags altogether. Use a metal razor. Switch to a biodegradable toothbrush. Install LED bulbs. Trade your disposable water bottles for some kind of filter system. Purchase more environmentally responsible shampoos, soaps, and detergents. You could make it a First Friday thing. Head downtown to see the new artwork, and swing into Allie’s place for your latest eco-upgrade.
She’s got some books for sale in her shop about eliminating plastic from your life and reducing the amount of waste you produce, and here are some additional resources to help you identify changes you can make to your lifestyle that you can sustain:
Bring Your Own is open Thursday – Saturday 11am – 6pm. It’s also a First Friday art venue, and Allie hosts interesting events from time to time. In fact, Saturday (4/21) she’s having an Earth Day celebration with sales and giveaways. Here’s the itinerary:
~ 12:00-5:00 Light snacks/refreshments will be provided by Friendly City Food Co-op. Please plan to BYO cup/bottle for beverages.
~ 1:00-3:00 The City of Harrisonburg will have staff on-site to answer questions about ongoing environmental initiatives and share specific information about: the residential stormwater utility fee credit application process, rain barrels, red osier dogwood whips, and the new recycling center.
~ 1:00-6:00 Native plants will be available for purchase from the Natural Garden.
~ 3:00-4:00 Don’t miss “Ecological Gardening: Niche Work If You Can Get It” with Wick from the Natural Garden.
~ 4:00-5:00 Composting Workshop with Eric from Black Bear Composting. Learn how to compost in your backyard and/or with Black Bear!
Talks/workshops will be held outside the store as “standing workshops.” Please bring your own chair if you would like to have one! See you there!
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