Friday, July 21, 2017

Seriously?



It’s been more than a week since I returned from the amazing youth event, EYE (Episcopal Youth Event) 2017 held in Oklahoma City.  I am still hearing the songs of the worship band in my head, laughing to myself at some of our “inside” jokes among our delegation (Yee Haw!)  and am just so grateful for the outpouring of love, energy and enthusiasm that filled my heart and the heart of the other 1,200 participants all week long.

But there’s one thing that I just can’t shake.  It’s “stuck in my craw,” as my grandmother used to say.

It is the egregious use of Styrofoam and plastic plates, cups and utensils that we used all… week… long.

Seriously.

Now, this is not all on the EYE staff; we were on a college campus and ate at the college dining room that used a third- party food vendor.  The food was what you would have imagined for this particular audience:  pizza, burgers, tacos, cereal, scrambled eggs.  But it was all served on foam plates with plastic cups and plastic utensils.






1,200 people X 3 meals a day X 4 days = 14,000 meals served on plastic, and eaten with plastic.

That’s a heck of a load to dump into a landfill.

When Presiding Bishop Curry was elected to lead our Church and to cast a vision for our future, he chose the “Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement” as the central idea to focus our work, worship and life together.  Not long after that, three priorities of the “Episcopal Branch of the Jesus Movement” were articulated for us.  They are:
Racial Reconciliation, Evangelism and Environmental Stewardship.    Here’s a handy chart to see how it all fits together.



And still, in spite of our focus on caring for creation,  in spite of committing one third of our missional energy towards taking care of our planet, Styrofoam sits at the center of many of our tables. 

Here’s some excellent facts about why using Styrofoam is a bad idea:


"Polystyrene is a type of plastic manufactured from non-renewable fossil fuels (which is where its connection to climate change comes in) and synthetic chemicals. It usually comes in two forms: “Expanded polystyrene foam (EPS), which is the stuff that’s made into cups, plates, take-out food containers, and packing materials; and “solid polystyrene,” which gets turned into plastic forks, CD and DVD cases, even smoke detector housings.

‘Styrofoam' is how most of us generically refer to the EPS material, but it’s actually a term trademarked by the Dow Chemical Company for extruded polystyrene that’s used in thermal insulation and craft applications.

Now, here’s why polystyrene is a problem:

  It does not biodegrade. It may break into small pieces, even minuscule pieces. But the smaller EPS gets, the harder it is to clean up.

  It is made of fossil fuels and synthetic chemicals. Those chemicals may leach if they come in contact with hot, greasy or acidic food. Yes, they keep your coffee hot – but they may also add an unwanted dose of toxins to your drink.


  Animals sometimes eat it. Turtles and fish seem to mistake EPS for food, and that can kill them. Not only can they not digest it, but the foam could be full of poisons that it has absorbed from contaminants floating in the water.

  It can’t be recycled. Some commercial mailing houses may accept packing peanuts, but for the most part community recycling centers do not accept throwaway foam food containers.

Some places in our country have taken a stand.

Some cities and town are starting to ban Styrofoam.

Throwaway polystyrene coffee cups, soup bowls, plates, and trays have gotten the boot. So have those foamy clamshell-style cartons fast food comes in. Even packing peanuts are going the way of the dodo.

Here’s a list of cities that have completely or partially banned Styrofoam
  New York City (and several other cities in New York)
  Takoma Park, MD
  Seattle, Washington
  Washington DC
  Miami Beach, FL
  Freeport, Maine
  Portland, Maine
  Nantucket (City & County), Massachusetts
  Minneapolis, Minnesota
  Portland, Oregon (and several other Oregon cities)
  Los Angeles County and San Francisco, California (and many other cities and counties in CA)."

to read the whole article, use this link http://storyofstuff.org/blog/styrofoam-bans-are-sweeping-across-the-nation/




In my travels around our amazingly beautiful diocese- a place of fragile, natural beauty- I run into Styrofoam about ½ of the time at coffee hour.

I am also, at non-Styrofoam parishes, frequently gifted with coffee mugs bearing the name of the church I am visiting. These ceramic cups are used on Sundays in lieu of foam or plastic.

It’s not that hard to use ceramic.  Washing them up is a chore, sure, but think of it as a little extra time for fellowship.

Or use alternative cups.  There are biodegradable cups being made from things like bamboo, hemp, mushrooms and sugar cane, now.  My hunch is that they are pretty expensive, though, so why not just buy a bunch of mugs?

I’d love to hear what our congregations are doing in terms of environmental stewardship initiatives.  Please comment! 

It’s the little things.  Really.  When we can commit to the little things, then the bigger things come easier and soon, we are on our way to preserving our planet.

Our children and grandchildren and their children and grandchildren will thank us.

POST-PUBLICATION NOTE:
I have learned from a blog reader that the leadership of the EYE team did question the food service people about the use of foam plates.  They were told that water is a precious commodity in OK and that it was in response to that that occasioned the foam plates.  See the list of comments on my Facebook plate that documents some research I then did on finding biodegradable plates at a reasonable price point.  







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