July 2, 2010

Answers for the Socially Responsible Shopper: Bio-Degradable

Plastic is Evil.

That, at least, is the message we get when, as impressionable 6-year-olds, we are shown a variation on the following tramatizing image:

Thank you to Save Our Seabirds

In addition to shocking images of animal's being mauled by plastic, young minds are taught that plastic takes about a thousand years to decompose in land fills, where 93% of it ends up (Please see "How Long Does Our Garbage Last" for more details).  These delightful nougats of information, and others like them, turn plastic into a menacing predator with its sights set on world domination.

To try and skirt the bad taste plastic has left in the mouths of consumers, major corporations have begun using bio-degradable packaging in their products, and then stamping it all over with "green" messaging. 

What does "Bio-Degradable" mean? It is any substance made of plant or animal origins, which can be broken down by living organisms. This is great for the environment because it means the waste won't sit in a landfill for the next 1,000 years.  Natural processes can get rid of the materials!  Love, Peace, Hope for everyone!

Thanks to the Huffington Post
Unfortunately, if bio-degradable materials end up inside large plastic bags, it has no access to those organisms and therefore will not break down until the plastic does.  Soooo, approximately July 2, 3010 for the garbage you took out this morning.

In order for Bio-degradable waste to be good for the environment, we as consumers need to take the initiative to create compost piles in our backyards.  Compost piles (where biodegradable waste is thrown into a hole in the ground and then broken down by worms and other natural organisms) return the nutrients in bio-degradable materials to the earth.

Thanks to Napa Recycling
Why do I care? Composting bio-degradable garbage (banana peels, apple cores and other food garbage in addition to bio-degradable packaging) is the best way to keep earth cleaning by letting nature break down waste.  It also reduces land-fill sizes, leaving more room for parks and neighborhoods. Please see this helpful page at Earth Easy for details on how to get started!

An alternative to bio-degradable packaging that will help save the earth is re-usable packaging made from cloth.  One World Projects sells small draw-string bags that can be used to hold purchased products at the bottom of This Page.  The bags are made out of re-used fabric from the traditional garb of Guatemalan women.

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