The number that made me an environmentalist

I hate waste. I’m the person who reuses gift bags, counts my pennies, and always gets a “doggie bag” when I go out to eat.

One time, while on a business trip to San Francisco, I was eating a particularly delicious meal at a restaurant on Nob Hill. With such large serving sizes, I too soon ran out of room in my stomach, as did my colleagues. Since we had no refrigerators in our hotel rooms, it didn’t seem logical to ask for a carry out. My colleagues left their remains for the bus boy to take out to the garbage, but I couldn’t bear to see my delicious meal go to trash, especially when I had passed so many hungry-looking people on my way from the train station to the restaurant. I asked for a doggy bag.

What I hadn’t realized was that most of these hungry-looking people were also drunk and therefore unable to climb the steep hill that led to the restaurant. And so for blocks I carried the styrofoam container, looking for someone to share it with. We still hadn’t found anyone when my colleagues decided we needed to view the bridge from the windows of another restaurant. Not wanting to look conspicuous, I was tempted to throw out my food in a trash can at the entrance, but I just couldn’t. I had already invested in making sure this food wasn’t wasted. I don’t remember much about the view we saw from the restaurant. I was too busy focussing on my big white box and trying not to draw attention to myself. Never was I so glad to see a homeless person when we finally spotted one about a block further down the hill. He didn’t even have a choice on if he was going to have my leftovers. “Here,” I said, shoving the food into his hands as I continued walking. Whew! Mission accomplished. The food (hopefully) went into someone’s stomach rather than in a trash bin.

With such an aversion to waste, you would think I was a born environmentalist, but not so. I remember in college wondering why some of my peers were so concerned about the environment. “Why bother?” I thought, “God’s just going to come destroy this earth anyway.” What I didn’t realize at that time was that the verse in the Bible that talks about this destruction specifically points out that God will destroy those who have destroyed the earth (Revelation 11:18).

As I matured, I also became more aware of the importance of caring for our planet. I married a biology graduate who worked with endangered species, chose a political party partly because of its conservation platform, gave my kids nature names (Dakota Sky and Sierra Brooke), and kept a recycling bin in my office. But I still wouldn’t say I was an environmentalist. 

Not until I saw this video:

The part that shook me the most was the statistic on how much of what goes into  the products we purchase are still in use six months later. A whopping ONE percent. That means that 99 percent of what goes into production is either thrown out during the production process, trashed as soon as the product is opened, consumed, or otherwise done away with within six months!

After watching that video, I couldn’t sleep. I got up in the middle of the night and watched all the other Story of Stuff videos. I knew I was being impacted like never before. What I didn’t know was that this video was planting a seed that would eventually grow into my personal journey to reduce waste, which I will soon be embarking on. 

If you aren’t aware of the journey I’ll be taking, please read my first blog. I could certainly use your support as I try new things to avoid waste—especially in those moments when I find myself tempted to take the easy route, to throw out that meal so I can be less conspicuous rather than walking another block to put it to good use. A little “you go girl” would mean a lot as I step out into unknown territory. 



About Lori Futcher

Freelance writer and copyeditor
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