Is Portable Supportable?

Stained glass window in St. Nazaire Basilica, Carcassonne, France

It’s another summer to bask in the warmth, but for two weeks, I’m not home in sunny San Diego but on a trip to experience the beauties and delights of southern France. But first, this delicious “meal” of a trip starts with a quick “appetizer” visit to Barcelona before I take the train to Montpellier. In my first week so far, I see grand cities and storybook castles. Throngs of fellow sightseers at open-air markets eye beautiful Mediterranean produce, taste local delicacies, savor a rainbow of gelato flavors, or cool themselves with sparkling drink and fresh juices.

Olives of many local flavors at street market in Pezenas, France
Olives of many local flavors at street market in Pezenas, France

Amidst the beautiful sights, I also see a steady stream of plastic containers discarded moments after people have carried their quick bites and sips from the market stall, to be consumed on idle strolls or picnics. I feel uneasy at the ease with which these pleasures of the moment enable plastic to pile up, often to be misplaced into overflowing trash bins.

Do we know or care if our quick take-out meals and drinks are served in plastic containers whose life may be much longer than our quick moment of pleasure? Are we risking and choosing to damage our own future pleasure or even health? Is the quick and portable life really supportable?

For concerned earthlings, these questions don’t even begin to address other efforts we could make to protect our environment by limiting our use of other wasteful processes or toxic substances.

It’s plastic whose mind-boggling high yet brief volume of use has me concerned. What I wonder and am starting to dig into includes:

  • Which environmental experts can explain to us whether plastic recycling does or doesn’t work?
  • Can portable disposable plastic be feasibly replaced with biodegradable containers?
  • Can discarded plastic be repurposed constructively for other uses like building houses?
  • Can we become willing to carry our own reusable containers, via public service marketing that makes it cool to conserve?
  • Are marine species experiencing physical injury as well as we in turn who consume those creatures? Or can our oceans and land withstand some level of abuse from man-made chemicals?
  • Is there really a floating trash island the size of Texas or even just Peoria?
Stained glass window in St. Nazaire Basilica, Carcassonne, France
Stained glass window in St. Nazaire Basilica, Carcassonne, France

I for one hope to do more traveling to see more marvels that human hands have built, and I hope those monuments will still be there. Our own present-day hands hold the future.

We can continue to literally quench our thirst with the quick ease of carrying water in disposable plastic bottles. But if we also want to feed our hunger for travel, experience, and wonder, some careful thought in the moment can enable more carefree pleasures in the future.

See BBC’s Plasting Recycling: Your Questions Answered

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