The best environmental advice I’ve ever had

Many years ago, I was seeing a friend – Cynthia Edwards, the permaculture teacher – off at Heathrow airport on her return to the US. We stopped off at a coffee shop while we waited for her plane to board. I sugared my coffee and reached for the default stirring implement – a small plastic wand with a slotted paddle at the end, hundreds of which were sticking out of a tub on the counter. Gently, she put her hand on my arm and gave me the best piece of green lifestyle advice I’ve ever had; “Don’t use plastic if you can use something else.” She picked up a metal fork, turned it upside down and stirred my coffee with the handle.

That was back in 1992, and that sentence has popped up in my head every time I’ve picked up a plastic artefact ever since. It’s a stunning piece of advice, and universally applicable; you want to buy a shirt? Look for a pure cotton one; avoid polycotton or microfibre unless the functionality it offers outweighs the environmental cost of the material, or can’t be achieved with a cotton garment. Ditto with any consumer item. If you’re looking for a radio or hi-fi, favour the one with a metal chassis rather than plastic. A kitchen knife? Get one with a wooden handle (as another friend said, “What’s the point of having a blade that will eventually rust away attached to a handle that will last forever?”).

Try it. Every time you pick up a plastic item or one with plastic components, think to yourself, “Don’t use plastic if you can use something else.” Ever so subtly, but ever so effectively, it’ll change your life.


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About PeterM

My country is the world, and my religion is to do good.

3 responses to “The best environmental advice I’ve ever had”

  1. Goeffrey Boyles says :

    Adding to the Coffee retoric, i’ve always found it quite unecessary to use a a stiring stick. If you are the one pouring the coffee into the cup just add your sugar, Craem or powdered cream and pour the steaming brew right over the top of it. The swirling waves of java induced by your skillful hand will do all the stirring and your cup is filled in one motion. That is saving a step as well as recognising the first of the 3R’s – Reduce.

    But not to detract from your basic message, I challenge my self to find another way to accomplish tasks when ever possible to the most culturly ingrained tasks like using a Straw to drink from a glass. GB

  2. Vince Kosik says :

    What ever happened to Cynthia Edwards? I remember her from many years back at Permaculture gatherings. Hope she is well and a real true person!
    That was good insight, unforunately that probably means the end to our culture… heh, that’s what it’s all about…. hope the next generation does better!

  3. PeterM says :

    Hi Vince

    Bless her, I haven’t seen hide nor hair of her for lo, these many years! I’d be interested to catch up with her too. Last I heard, a couple of years ago, she was back in Nepal again, volunteering.

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