Saturday, April 22, 2017

All That Glitters is Not Good- Earth Day Thoughts and Promises

Purple Knight Salvia that is eating my flower bed. 

This morning, I got my oldest kid off to dance and then sat on the porch drinking coffee and watching the hummingbirds make their way through the purple salvia flowers and the velvety deep purple petunias. They make the journey through the flower beds several times a day are not shy about us watching them. The salvia has grown into a mass of purple hysteria that is slowly eating my front garden bed. I am hesitant to transplant it anywhere else because I fear it is not a native plant and might be invasive. It is gorgeous and feeds the hummingbirds but I always worry if I am ignorantly damaging the eco-system around me. I am going to guess that it is not an “if” but a “how” because I am certain, despite my best efforts that I am causing some damage. We all are.

            But as I sipped my coffee, I pondered Earth Day, the commemoration of the beginning of the environmental movement that began in the 70s. I humorously remember the first Earth Day that I celebrated. It was in 1989 and I learned about it in school, where I also learned how I could make my house more environmentally friendly. Always ready to save the underdog, in this case the planet, I marched home and filled an empty milk jug with water and put it in the toilet tank. My intent was to save water, but all I really did was mess up the apparatus in the toilet tank so it would not flush. I also started my first compost pile. I convinced my parents to let me put all of the vegetable scraps in the backyard to decompose. They thought I was crazy as they watched me carry trash out to the corner of the patio and dump it on the concrete slab. Of course, you should not start a compost pile on concrete, it should be started in the dirt. But I was certain that those moldy onion scraps were going to make a nice pile of dirt that we could put in the lawn. My parents were certain that we were just feeding vermin. They were right but my intentions were good. And that is really what it is about, trying to constantly change the way we make choices to have the least amount of impact on the planet.

            I think about my impact often. I go into the grocery stores or even worse the dollar stores and look at the shelves full of stuff that will never biodegrade and think to myself, this is all going to be in a landfill before long. So I take my cloth shopping bags and try to make the best choices to add as little as possible to those heaps of refuse that we try to hide from our reality. Our trash is a problem we are pushing into the future for our grandchildren to deal with. But there has to be some balance in the environmental zeal. I have to be patient with myself and not be too rigid. I knew a woman years ago, she ran a famous blog and was the picture perfect environmentalist and mother. She had 4 young children and created so little waste that she stopped her trash service completely. Her family used cloth toilet paper, need I say more? Then one day, she snapped. She abandoned her family and moved to the jungle with some hot younger guy. She went too far. There has to be balance but we must always strive to assess our impact. What can we do better?
            This is a question that I am constantly asking myself with Bean Tree Soap. Trust me, every choice is made painstakingly. I am not crazy about the shrink wrap on bath bombs but it seems to be the only viable way that I can keep the humidity from affecting them. When I find a better way, I will take it. I use cloth as much as I can in my workshop. I reuse packaging to mail orders as much as possible and I try to use recyclable packaging. That is the reason that I switched to organic sustainable palm oil a few years ago. Sure, it was more expensive but it was a cause that was very important to me. The palm debate is a hot one, forests are being cut down so that people can plant palm plantations to keep up with demand. This leaves animals, like orangutans, without a home, starving refugees of consumerism. But on the flip side, there is a palm industry that supports many indigenous peoples on old growth plantations. Without an economy for palm oil, these people would be without an income. Also at the time I was debating this, my alternative to keep the properties of my soap the same would have been to use beef tallow. I did not want to use factory farmed beef tallow in my soap. I could not feel good about that either. My compromise was to use organic, sustainable palm oil from plantations that are certified not to be part of the devastation associated with palm oil. I may eventually go vegan AND palm free but for now, I am keeping the organic sustainable palm.
            So that brings me to this Earth Day and how is my life and my company evolving to be kinder to this planet that I love? How can I be a better steward of my home? Well the answer lies in glitter. Yup! Glitter. Traditional glitter is made of small pieces of plastic. These small pieces of plastic get washed down the drain and go into our water cycle. At my house this means that it goes into a septic tank, but when that is pumped out where does it go then? At your house will it go directly to a water treatment plant? Will it accidentally wind up like those microbeads in lakes, ponds, or the ocean where it can harm critters who live in those environments? I think about these things quite often and it concerns me. So, in my commitment to always trying to do better, from here on out, all of the glitter used at Bean Tree Soap will be biodegradable glitter. I have purposely let my stock dwindle and the new glitters are on their way. Yes, it is not the same. And yes, I will miss some of that amazing iridescent sparkle because well…glitter. But the new stuff is shiny and I can feel good about it breaking down and not ending up in the gut of a sea turtle or embedded in the skin of some wild amphibian.

            This is my choice for today. It is a constant journey and I am always marching forward in an attempt to be as kind as possible. Because, in truth, every day should be Earth Day and we should all seek out the little ways we can be kinder to our planet and better stewards of the vast beauty and bounty of all that it has to offer us because all that glitters is not good for us. Happy Earth Day! 

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