I was in Oregon over the weekend taking my daughter back to
college, and we were at a little roadside restaurant that had
biodegradable plastic cups made of corn. At least they said
they were made of corn. The cup looked and felt for all the world
Now Oregon takes its recycling seriously. I mean, they’ve got
recycle bins for the recycle bins. Just kidding. But grocery stores
and campgrounds do have elaborately defined containers for just
about every sort of recyclable.
So when I asked the girls behind the counter at the Butteville Store — oldest
continuously-operating business in Oregon — if they had a container
for plastic cups made of corn, I was surprised to hear they didn’t.
They had no idea if the cups will even degrade because they just
throw them out with the trash.
We Henrys established a compost bin this summer, so I offered to
take the cup with me. I was curious about how long the corn cup
would take to disintegrate.
“Let us know how it works, would’ja?” the girls asked.
So now I’m on task to report back to Butteville as to whether
the biodegradable plastic cup will be a boon to the environment or
a dead bust.
With that I launch a new topic on this blog, “Living Lite.” I’m
not trying to stomp on environmental reporter
Chris Dunagan’s turf. But the corn cup thing got me thinking
about our lives as consumers.
No, I don’t subscribe to the mentality purveyed in magazines
with names like “Real Simplistic.” Articles and pictures therein
seem to suggest that you — read women, who make up more of the
consuming public than men — can do it all, have it all, be it all.
All you’ve got to do it is buy enough containers to hold it all.
And make tidy little dishes that look pretty enough for a magazine,
but would they actually give you the energy to do everything you do
in a day to make life look ever so simple? I think not.
No, what I’m talking about — and I hesitate to use the term,
because it’s become such a catch phrase — is sustainability. I’m
embarrassed to say at the height of the 1990s glut, the wrapping
for my children’s Christmas presents took up way more space than
the toys did. Every week, we’d amass a herd of plastic bags from
the grocery store. I’d always forget to recycle them, and I swear
they multiplied like rabbits in the kitchen closet.
I’m trying to do better, not only for the planet’s sake, but
because I’ve found the main thing I lack is not stuff but time, and
if consume less, my theory goes, I may have more time.
What does that have to do with watching a corn cup disintegrate?
It’s part of my trying to achieve a balance in my life of doing,
consuming and tossing, because they’re often related. I’m trying to
live lightly, to do less, but make what I do count, to take and
give just enough. I’m figuring it out in baby steps. One step will
be to see how this cup behaves over time among the rotting
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