Wednesday, June 04, 2008

When Convenience Turns to Waste

OK. I have a beef to share with you. It's one of my new 'pet peeves' about staying in hotels. Many hotels offer in room coffee makers to allow you to brew your own cup of Java first thing in the morning. A nice touch that I generally appreciate.

The newest 'trend' however, is to have single cup 'disposable' brewing kits. Each kit contains a paper cup and lid, a disposable 'brewing tray' and the coffee filter packet. That means, that instead of just a filter packet being thrown away (while the carafe, brewing tray and coffee cup get washed and reused) we are now throwing away the cup, lid and brewing tray. I guess this was in answer to hygenic concerns. Who knows what someone did with the carafe, brewing tray or coffee cup. Please! I always gave each item a thorough rinse with hot water. How dirty could it be?

To make matters worse, and even more offensive to me, many hotels provide individually packaged 'condiments' (creamer, sugar, artifical sweetener and a stir stick). That means, that if someone needs 1 sugar for their coffee, they are wasting a creamer, a sugar and an artifical sweetener. Usually they get thrown in the trash. In the old days, you would find a little container with packets of sugar, creamer and artifical sweetener. Now, you 'get it all' whether you want it or not, conveniently sealed in a plastic bag that also gets thrown away.

I always feel guilty using these condiment packs now, because I never use artificial sweetener and it always ends up in the trash. If I leave it on the counter, in an idealistic spasm, hoping the maid will take it and use it, I'm certain it ends up in the trash after all.

Why do we need this level of convenience and indulgence. Does it really save that much money to not have the maid replenish a condiment cup? Does it really save the traveler from disease to have all those disposable items available for brewing their coffee? I can't believe it makes that much difference.

It just creates more garbage for the landfills and fosters the prevailing attitude of indulgence and convenience that plagues much of our American society today. We have so much we can throw things away carelessly and without thought.

Restaurant portions in the US also reflect this trend in attitude. The portions served in most American restaurants are 2 - 4 times greater than what a normal person should be eating at one sitting. It seems as though it is the ultimate sign of affluence to be able to waste things without concern. Traveling so much around the world, seeing the standard of living of most of the people on the planet (outside of the US), makes this a very sensitive issue for me. There are hungry people, barely surviving, all around our earth, and we are throwing away massive amounts of food every single day, in every single restaurant around the country. Something is wrong with that picture.

In my own life, I endeavor to be conscious of the resources I use and the impact that I have on the planet. It isn't easy, and I do often experience some pangs of guilt over the luxurious life that I live.

Rather than wallow in guilt, I encourage us all, myself included to be conscious and do the best we can to treat our resources with reverence and respect, to make wise choices about what we do/do not use, and endeavor to not waste what we have available to us in such great abundance. Ordering the right amount of food, sharing a meal with someone, taking home (and actually eating) our leftovers... that's one way we can become more conscious of the resources we have been given.

As for the in room coffee makers... I don't always use these 'single use' systems. If I do, I at least try to resuse the cups and lids I'm given.

Every little bit helps. That is how I try to approach it. Make one simple change. Then another. It is a way of saying to mother earth, "I appreciate what you give me, and I will treat it with respect and reverence."

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