By Patty Mochel
The scientific data we’ve been getting from the news media reached a pivotal point in the past year – our climate is changing, the natural world is changing and soon we will see consequences of extreme weather events in our own communities. My friends at Green Towson Alliance have talked a lot about what the scientific data is telling us – that many people will suffer as a result of climate change. While we are working to make bigger, positive changes to mitigate climate change – such as planting as many canopy, shade trees as possible in our Towson and Baltimore County neighborhoods– I felt a sense of urgency after the Climate Strike in September. I felt I must make immediate changes in my own habits.
The first change I made was picking up plastic. For a year now, I have been looking for and picking up what I call “fish chokers” – bits of plastic that, when washed into a stream, river and eventually the Chesapeake Bay and ocean – appear to be food to a fish or other marine animal. We’ve all read heartbreaking stories about animals who have been found to be full of plastic that they accidentally swallowed. So I always look for these bits of plastic when I go to my neighborhood YMCA to work out. I usually find them in the parking lot surface, near the curb where they have been accidentally dropped. Now I try to find five fish chokers every time single I am out walking. The very sad thing is that I often find bags worth of plastic junk.
My second change was to go through my kitchen cabinets to find my old recyclable coffee cup that someone gave to me for Christmas many years ago. I remember to put it in the car so my Sunday morning Starbucks coffee is not in a paper cup (which is NOT recyclable because it is lined with plastic!)
Next, I began to refuse to use any plastic bags of any type. Some time ago, I was at the grocery store and saw a clerk emptying the plastic bag recycling bin that stands outside the store. I asked him, “Do those bags really get recycled?” and he replied, “No.” He told me that someone always puts a plastic bag with food in it into the bin – and that once there’s an old sandwich or whatever in the bin, they have to throw out all of the plastic bags because they have been contaminated. Now when I do my weekly shopping, I do not use plastic bags, and I ask the checkout person to not put anything in a plastic bag.
At the grocery store, I try to choose foods that come in recyclable glass, metal, or cardboard. I can usually find what I am looking for in a cardboard box that has no plastic. My family likes applesauce, and now I purchase apple sauce in a large glass container, and freeze portions for my family for future meals.
Finally, I decided to make one more weekly meatless meal. I am a vegetarian, and my meat-eating husband and son are good-humored about eating vegetarian meals a few times a week. Instead of alternating days that I served meat for dinner, I added one more vegetarian meal a week.
These are small changes, and within a few weeks they had become habitual. What changes are you and your family making?