I'm on Strike!

Whenever I’m turning on the telly there is some other bad news about some environmental issue, or some blinkered self proclaimed recycling specialist is patronizing another family who then, in close up, with big wide eyes conscience-smittenly affirm that never, ever, ever! again they will do those bad things, and that everything had become so much nicer for them, that they have grown – as a family!

Been there! Done it! And No – I’m not growing as a person, I’m only getting grumpier.

And that’s why I’m on: ‘Save the Earth’ Strike!

I went through all this environmental mind change phase once already in Germany. But I was young back then and life sort of organised itself. And things were done differently. The ‘Green Party’ had won the first local elections and pressure for change was not just directed towards people, but towards industry as well. They had their hiccup phases at the beginning, but now they have a rather well working system.

Now - some 20 years on – here in England, it is starting all over again. But just that wee bit differently. Here the ‘Subjects of the Queen’ are supposed to sort out the mess all by themselves.

Don’t get me wrong – I very much like it here – but this environment stuff goes on my nerves.

When we came here in 1999 we used the water from the tap hoping that it would be OK, until most of the water reservoirs from the heating systems in our street started leaking. Neighbours investigated and were told that chemical experiments with the water might have affected the copper of the tanks. Duh!

Thus encouraged we got bottled water – in plastic. In Germany we had glass bottles for re-use. Hence we were very uncomfortable to produce those amounts of plastic waste and after a while we got a water filter of which we only can hope that it does the trick.

At that time recycling was not a big issue around here, and we felt like ‘the good ones’! Do you know this feeling of doing something nice without being asked? Feels good, doesn’t it? But sometimes you are not quick enough and you get told to do it, or you are getting criticised for not doing it well enough? The ‘feel-good-about-it’ factor crushes to less than zero in an instant and turns into grumpiness.

Something like this caused my strike reaction.

At the same time when I eventually came to grips on managing my life, basically due to ownership of my own car, all these guilt-issues mushroomed sneakily via every channel possible. Eat locally grown stuff, but don’t use the car to get it, don’t use the car at all, don’t fly, recycle, but don’t use the car to bring the stuff to the skip, move your bum, but don’t use the car to get to the gym, eat organic, don’t waste energy! My carbon footprint is following me like a shadow: tip-tap, tip-tap…

Due to change of diet we started to use a lot of fresh organic skimmed milk and back we were to the piles of plastic waste. So I called the milkman for delivery of glass bottles. And here it comes:

Organic milk only comes in square pack and they don’t have the skimmed milk anyway.

So much to organic and ‘avoiding is better than recycling’.

However: Me, having become a re-organisation professional in the meantime, transformed the guest loo into a recycling area. If I would have to go to the recycling site I would make it worthwhile and recycle everything possible.

So whenever I thought I would have the time to drop that stuff off, the car was loaded and more often than not – I didn’t have the time! Shopping days always got critical, as usually there was no space in the trunk to put the shopping – but on my route the shopping came first, and having to go the other way round was not carbon efficient – Hmm!

Altogether it was a pain, but I did it – good girl! And then I got told off.

Plastic I collected in standard plastic carrier bags – plastic goes with plastic, right? Wrong!

On top of the big skips were big metal grids which only left something like 7” holes to put things through. Much too small for my bags. I thought they were meant to prevent foils and light plastics from flying around and strong girl that I am I lifted that thing and chucked my bag in. Hey, this guy came flying across that site towards me, explaining that they wanted me to empty my bag and then putting the carrier bag into a different bin.

Have you ever tied the handles of a carrier bag and then tried to open it again? Usually not working out. So I was standing there in my high heels on a grid walkway, wearing my good work clothes (site is best reached after work as located on my way back home – carbon footprint! Remember?), trying to tear these damn bags, what usually cuts into the flesh and fiddling that stuff through the holes while the wind blew it all over the place. And this was on a lovely summer’s day. Apart from the being told off bit the thought of winter made my neck hair standing on end.

So: Apparently carrier bags are different kinds of plastic, but there is a lot of other different plastic around. I studied some semester of Chemistry and wouldn’t know what is recyclable and what not. I then learned that apparently there is information printed on the packaging. I’m already standing hours on end in shops reading the labels of food ingredients – as I am told to do by all those dietician people – and now I’m supposed to read the packaging details as well. They should put comfy armchairs in the shops to do all the reading.

There is recyclable plastic around for every purpose: Use it for crying out loud, and forbid the non-recyclable ones by law. And give me my milk in glass bottles!

There is another interesting thing: Did you know that buying locally is not necessarily ‘good’? The carbon balance can be better for tomatoes which are flown in, as they don’t need greenhouse heating like the local ones. So it has to be local AND seasonal.

When I drive to the farm shop I want to make it worthwhile, get a lot of stuff and then freeze it – ouch! Needs energy! But then: A full freezer needs less energy than an empty one, so I better not eat that stuff then.

How on earth am I supposed to do the sums – and how on earth am I supposed to stay motivated when then next thing I hear on the telly is about the USA not bothering, and China opening a new coal fuelled energy plant every week or so?

I consider myself rather well educated and believe I know a lot of things – but I’m helpless! The more facts I get, the less I can bring them together.

20 years back in Germany we dumped double wrapping into crates the shops had to provide. Oh, it happened ever so quickly that there was no double wrapping anymore. I asked at my local supermarket recently if I at least could leave them a huge plastic pouch they use as security seal for make up. The answer was: No! The shops even add an extra layer. Supermarkets, keep your green clubcard points on re-used bags and push suppliers to use sensible wrapping! Don’t wrap every bit at the fresh counter into foil plus a separate bag. Collect the stuff and put it into one paper bag with an accumulated bill on it. Or give me the choice to bring my own container and just print me the label.

The technology and the strategies are out there in the world – all it is needed is to learn from what is done elsewhere already.

And that’s why I’m on strike.

Industry only will respond to authority - authorities only will respond to crisis. So we need to reach crisis point quickly. I truly believe that by trying our best as individuals we are delaying crisis point.

Hence I’m planning to stay on strike until authorities take action.

Give me a framework that makes sense and guidelines which leave me with a reasonably comfortable life and I’m the first one to jump back on board.
Rika's Column

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Homage to Mukuefchen
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Oh No, not again!
Wrongly Wired
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How Embarrassing
Homage to Monica
I'm on Strike
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We Had It All

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Copyright 2007 incredible-ladies.com
Author: Rika