Plastic – what are our responsibilities?

Walk into any public building such as a mall, grocery store or movie theater and you will see thousands of products all very beautifully wrapped in shiny multi-coloured plastic packaging. Soft-drink bottles, chocolate bars, yogurt, cereal and even fruit and vegetables wrapped up in plastic. Hard plastic, soft plastic, clear plastic, colourful plastic.

Now, there is no doubt that plastic is one of, if not the most abundant and useful material in the world. I actually don’t know how much of what we see around us would even be possible without plastic – especially in terms of technology such as electronics and transportation. However, most people don’t recycle at home and most businesses don’t recycle. So, there is this massive amount of plastic being generated and most of it is just ending up in a landfill – you know the place where a huge pile of waste is put into the ground? I really don’t know much about the various kinds of plastic but from what i have read it is an extremely long lasting material which brings me to my main point – why do we use an incredibly long lasting material for items that only last a days or a week or two at most? Ice cream, soft drinks, chocolate, cigarettes – all fast moving consumer goods, are all heavily packaged in plastic, yet only last a few days or weeks on the shelves and then a matter of minutes or hours after being consumed. The packaging is then thrown into the trash.

My responsibility ends here
My responsibility ends here

Many of these product companies show a little man throwing his trash so responsibly into a bin on the packaging of their products- where do they think this is actually going? Do they care at all if the packaging that they create in such enormous quantities ends up in a landfill, a river or on the streets? Once the sale is done do they care? Should they care?

I believe that any company which creates something which is going to be around for decades or centuries has the responsibility to care about what happens to it after the sale is over. I suppose it’s just part of our short-sighted money driven culture  – to not know or care what happens once the money is in the bank. But when the landfills are over-flowing (already happening in Johannesburg – seen it with my own eyes), what are we going to do about it? Some companies are now adding information about what the packaging is made from and encouraging consumers to recycle, which is good. Some retailers even have recycling bins outside their stores. Personally, I try to stay away from items packaged in plastic (not always possible). If unavoidable, I separate and recycle everything that I can. If I’m traveling or I can’t keep my empty plastic bottle or wrappers on me until I find a recycling spot, only then will I reluctantly put it into the bin. Even then – making sure the empty container is clean (if possible) ensures that it is recyclable. If the waste company servicing that particular bin happens to separate and recycle then at least that container is averted from ending up in a landfill and the methane which may be generated from rotting food left inside the container is also avoided.

Crazy idea, but I think where possible, the packaging material of products should be inline with the lifespan of the product. So projects like infrastructure, telecommunications, transport – things that will be important for a very long time to come should harness the longevity of plastic, while things like junk food and FMCG products should be forced to use short-term materials or at least biodegradable materials due to the massive quantities they are produced in and their very short life spans.

I think we will see far more biodegradable packaging in the near future and I hope companies which produce large volumes of plastic begin to think about the unnecessary impact they are having on the environment. Hopefully there will also be tighter regulations on the production of these materials. Thanks for reading!

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When Boundaries Dissolve

Each piece of land, each property in a town or city is a certain size with a certain colour wall surrounding it. Within these walls the workings of each family, business or organisation operates in unique ways. However, beneath all of the walls, fences, gates, roads and buildings, it is all just one big piece of land. Every town and city is ultimately just one piece of land. The whole world in fact, is just one giant sphere with a plethora of landscapes. It’s interesting to then consider how we draw arbitrary lines across the earth and assign one side to a group of people and the other side to another group of people, in very simplistic terms.

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We then turn most of our focus inward and develop our world within those borders. We call ourselves certain names, create our own songs and design flags and rituals as part of our identity. This I think is a positve thing. Cultural identity is something that perhaps we need to feel. A certain amount of ego is perhaps healthy and gives us a sense of unity and well being.

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If we zoom in and consider the family home as a microcosm of the larger outside world, we see similar patterns of identity; family names, values, ambitions and ways of behaving. These identities allow us to feel comfortable and give us a foundation on which to build our own unique story.

However, I think it is when we fail to see past the border, fail to recognise that we all live in the same neighbourhood but with different identities and beliefs, that we let our unity become potentially destructive. We then gather our forces to oppose the people on the other side because they are different, because we fear for the existence of our own identity. We forget that what seperates us is simply a border; a fundamentally imaginary line which allows us to enjoy our unique identities but which also divides us and acts as a catalyst to distort our feelings of compassion for our neighbours.

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I suppose what im trying to say is that perhaps the walls around our homes, our places of work or even our countries are there for practical purposes and not to serve as a boundary confining your curiosity or your compassion within. The walls are there to make us feel safe and united, not necessarily to keep out the percieved enemy.

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The earth and the sky run freely underneath, around and above all of the walls, gates and fences. Your imagination and your sense of connection with others do not have to be confined to the boundaries that physically surround you. We are not here for very long and there is only so much time to connect with those around you. Take a chance. Don’t let borders stand in your way.

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How do we ensure a clean and sustainable water supply?

Water makes up the majority of our own bodies and the majority of the planet itself. It quenches our thirst on a hot day or when we have had one too many drinks the night before. But I find that in both the western and the eastern world (the limited parts that I have been lucky enough to visit) we waste it as if it were infinite and indestructible.

I think it’s strange how we pour the wastes of our world into the most pure, delicate and important substance we have. So important that without it we would die in a matter of days. So amazing that it quenches thirst and nourishes without any additives. Yet we pollute it with our own excrement, use it carelessly and mix it with chemicals so harmful we wouldn’t touch them. Only later to find clean, drinkable sources depleted. We may be drying up our planet and ourselves with our disingenuous means of waste disposal and our dangerous affinity for harmful chemicals.

Of course there may be ways to clean up our water supply and hey, the world’s seas and oceans are an abundant source, but I believe that nature will not be forgiving if we squander and abuse what we have now. Surely there is a better way to use this life giving substance. Surely we could have a little more consideration for the importance and delicacy of this vital substance.

Water-less toilets? Organic dish washing liquid and other cleaning materials? Using grey water instead of pure and precious clean water? Paying attention to the amount of water one uses when washing dishes or showering and taking care not to be wasteful.

This is something that really affects the sustainability of our ever growing global society and simple changes we could easily make would transform our world.

Vote on the poll and let me know what you think the most effective solution to sustaining a clean water supply may be.

Relaxation – Finding A New Perspective

The dream world

Compared to our waking lives, dreams are often considered the more mysterious state of being. But I think our waking state is the real mystery. I think we have only began to understand what life is and the dream state is a reflection or an interpretation of our waking experiences. So instead of looking for meaning in our dreams in and of themselves, we should be looking for meaning in our lives, using our dream experiences as a mirror. The dreamer in you is the guide to enhancing your understanding of life.

I remember my dreams so often and often have amazing experiences in them. I don’t try to analyze them in detail. I just recall them because the feeling was good or the imagery was stunning. I suppose this is a reflection of something good in your life while a bad dream or nightmare may be an indication of some negative feeling or experience in your waking life. This feeling can help you to determine what is worrying you or even what course of action to take.

At the least, recalling a (good) dream is an awesome feeling and is different from most other modes of being. It’s like standing on a mountain and looking down at tiny cars moving at the most gradual of paces; a way of letting go of worries and fears and entertaining the possibility that your problems are not as big as you think.

Find a new perspective

Another way of viewing life from this light and dreamy angle is observing anything natural for a few moments. This will reveal to you the depth which exists in a tiny space of life. Look at your hand up close. See how much detail there is? How about looking at a tree up close? Have you ever thought about how much life and detail is in such a seemingly insignificant place?

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Instead of seeing dreams or any alternative views as an escape from our lives, a fantasy or another world completely, perhaps we would be wise to go deeper into these experiences and discover something; a feeling or a realisation that we may carry into our everyday lives improving them in a sustainable way. Something we may otherwise have been unaware of, living in our linear, routine, rather limited world. Music that you love can also take you on a similar journey of discovery if you’re willing to relax and just go with it. I like listening to artists like Zero 7 or Phalaeh to get into a super chilled state. A state of relaxation in which feeling something non-linear, something ethereal is not strange, it is a symptom of true relaxation.

Often our thinking minds sabotage our inclination toward the unknown, the mysterious, the awe inspiring, in an attempt to protect us. I argue that we should sometimes try to relinquish such thoughts and juuuuussst reeelaaaaxxxx. From this state, maybe we can break free of stress and bad habits and rewire ourselves for the better.

What other forms of alternative perspectives open the way for self discovery? Think about it and leave a comment.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=INn1C6ImJKg

Avaaz.org

Why is it that every time the fate of our world is discussed it is done so by predominantly white, suited up, rather unhealthy looking, old men? How is that when global equality and peace are discussed it is done so in such a homogeneous and dull environment? Why do we have to witness seemingly endless and mind numbing debates while often nothing substantial seems to result?

I felt frustrated that although there are many problems in the world, there always seems to be so much red tape surrounding the solution. To my relief, I discovered a unique, benevolent and arguably revolutionary organisation called Avaaz.

Avaaz is an online activism platform whereby important issues such as climate change, education and corruption are brought to public attention. Issues that may not get mainstream media coverage but nonetheless significantly affect you or the world you live in, in some way. Then, by simply clicking ‘Sign Petition’, any computer literate person in the world can actively make a decision to support a cause or not. Avaaz usually generates tens or hundreds of thousands of votes supporting a particular cause. This is then taken to governments or other decision makers as proof of a huge backing of the issue. In my opinion it is one of the only true forms of democracy being practiced today. I believe that the use of technology for this purpose means hope and a chance for true transformation in our world. How often do you read or hear about something and wish you could do something about it? Here is a simple, easy and free way of getting involved. I can’t remember the exact numbers but Avaaz has grown from having about 14 million members to over 32 million members in the space of two to three years. Epic.

This is a chance to bypass corruption, bypass covert deals and discussions affecting our world and a chance to empower yourself by making your voice heard on issues you care about. I donate to Avaaz monthly because I know that these people care, they’re transparent, they don’t accept donations from government or corporations and unlike tax, this money does not fall into the dark void of ‘who knows where’.

Check it out, you might dig it. If not, cool, thanks for reading!

Timo.

PS. You can also create your own petitions using their online tools, pretty cool.