Saturday, July 30, 2011

When to Complicate Things

We have a tendency in American culture to over simplify things. In politics, we see things very straightforward and we tend not to look at multiple sides of an issue. This is not always a bad thing.  It helps us make quick decisions, keeps us solid on platforms we stand for, and reduces our distractions.  We seem to glorify this idea of simplicity, even dedicating a week to it.  I myself have been known to spread the mantra, "Keep it simple Stupid!"
I do believe, however, that there is a time to complicate things, especially when it comes to energy and plastics.  Right now what concerns me about the replacing oil discussion is that it seems like we want one alternative plastic to solve all the problems.  Corn plastics are gaining ground, but this also perpetuates corn production growth, an industry which still relies heavily on petroleum for fuel, fertilizer and processing.  It does have its upsides though, especially since so much plastic ends up in the ocean, if it is biodegradable that may help (although who really knows, right?) reduce contamination.
We are making plastics out of various vegetables, and today I read an article on a new plastic made from fish scraps. These are innovative and good solutions, but my hope is that we don't pick one and run with it. We need to diversify our energy needs, so that we aren't relying on one or two resources to try and sustain us.
How do we shift from these monocultural tendencies? The same way our food system is going back to diverse solutions, by buying a variety of energy sources. Don't let one win. Instead, buy products that are powered in different ways, and reduce your energy consumption.  If you are a homeowner, you have a lot of options. A few solar panels can heat your water tank. A white roof can reduce your cooling costs.  Try some hand powered appliances.  Invest in wind, solar and hydro power.
With plastics, reusable is the key. Try and use washable containers, bags and water bottles whenever possible.  When you do buy plastic, look for alternative materials. A combination of recycled post consumer plastic, bioplastics and other cleaner materials will help send the right message.  Good luck in complicating your plastics!

1 comment:

  1. Thumbs up to the end of the post where you talk about reusing. What I'd really like to see is a society wide discussion of our throw away culture and how to move away from that, making the development of alternative plastics less of a concern.