Monday, December 3, 2012

My Ramblings: I Ain't Perfect

Who says green practices is an easy task? Anyone dares to argue this?

It was an easy start for me and then there were other challenges that came along. In a way, it is not easy at all. Thankfully, when I was little I grew up observing my Mum reusing those plastic bags obtained from her weekend groceries shopping. She cleaned those extra plastic bags, allowed them to dry and folded them once they were dried. When the folded plastic bags became a few bundles, she took the bundles to the wet market and happily gave them away to her favorite vegetable, fish or chicken stall owners. Not only plastic bags which Mum collected but as well as bunches of colorful raffia strings. Such little act of thoughtfulness always bring smiles to the stall owners and of course, when they are happy, Mum gets some discounts from her purchase. A little thought goes a long way.

Those were the days when the jargon "3Rs" is unknown and the word "RECYCLE" yet to exist. And yet the community has been practicing "REUSE" even before this word is emphasized now. Mum has demonstrated the concept of REUSE to me in a practical way. I see the benefits of what Mum has done (apart from the small discounts) and I am now copying her deeds but in a different way. Instead of taking those plastic bags and cleaning them (I hate cleaning!), I only keep the clean ones and use up the rests for storing waste. Because of that, I became a hoarder of plastic bags and to stop this habit, I now say "No" to new plastic bags when I buy stuffs. 
Recyclable items

So the subject is only on plastic bags and what about polystyrene a.k.a Styrofoam? Styrofoam is equally as bad as plastic bags that choked our environment and our marine wildlife! One of the nature guides here argued with me that polystyrene can be recycled. Malaysia does not have facilities that collect or accept polystyrene for recycling. But what about those polystyrene food containers? They will be oily and dirty after use. And who will bother to wash those after use? It is not easy and expensive to recycle polystyrene stained by food waste. Therefore, these polystyrene food containers are not suitable to be recycled. 

Polystyrene food containers used as serving plates at a hawker center

I so wanted to spread the words around to my friends especially of saying "No" to new plastic bags and styrofoam. It is not easy. I must walk the talk and can only spread the words around by practicing silently.

So what are my challenges?

I have been labelled as a freak by some of my friends on occasions when I freaked out at eating places serving food on styrofoam. They would give me a strange stare as if they were saying, "What's the big deal...?" or they would tell me "Don't be such a fuss!".

I cannot recall exactly which year that I started reducing the usage of polystyrene to pack my food. Very likely when I came to Langkawi years ago working with an outdoor education company. All of us (the staff and participants) were required to carry food containers all the time. If you lose your container, go look for banana leaves. I then discovered more about the dark side of consuming food on polystyrene and then it is a "fullstop" to it. Should I happen to use polystyrene, there's a way to reuse food styrofoam (picture below):
Polystyrene a.k.a. Styrofoam converted to my mouse pad. Effective la!

I may be a freak and often seen going around pasar malam (night market) with my little food containers and used plastic bags. Then again, I do get caught in situations when I didn't have these things with me to pack food. Or sometimes I did bring my food containers but  not enough to pack more yummy food. And this will be the moment when I would go "Aaaaarrrrrrgggggghhhhhh!!"

There were lots of  "Aaaaarrrrrrgggggghhhhhh!!" when I first started practicing bringing own plastic bags and food containers because I always forgot to take them along with me. And so at the pasar malam, I will be staring at the food and at the same time making decisions to pack them or not. For many times I ended up not having to eat what I was craving for because of styrofoam. Lessons learned and now I do remember.

There were occasions when I ran out of used plastic bags and guiltily, I will "sneaked" stuffs in new plastic bags. I will end up performing self consolation ritual by telling myself, "Is ok...considering I have not used new plastic bags for the past few days/weeks...??"

And then what about when I go traveling? That's the most difficult one. Very often my "Things to Pack" excludes used plastic bags and food container (they do take up some valuable spaces in my backpack). And then I will be caught in the same situation of "Aaaaarrrrrrgggggghhhhhh!!" The least I can do is by being selective in which stall I will buy from and to make sacrifices. Yet, I do ended up being guilty of taking new plastic bags. Looks like I have to bring my own "Bungkus-Kit" when I go traveling now.

My bungkus kit consists of cloth bag, food container and overused plastic bags

The biggest guilt of all will be when I got caught in the above situations by my friends. Imagine having to be seen by my friends when I packed stuffs with new plastic bags and that's even worse than being called a freak! And the remarks I got? Well, stuff 'em with excuses then! But then again, when I packed stuffs with my used plastic bags, I do get mistaken too. Shall I put a label on the used plastic bag, "I am so overused for more than twenty times!"?

And saying "No" to new plastic bags at supermarkets can be tricky as well. Reason? On some days, I do need those large and medium sized supermarket plastic bags to store garbage and stuffs. Well... at least I don't have to spend extra cash buying new garbage bags. And garbage bags are plastic bags too. Gimme a break... on some days I rejected new plastic bags, ok!

Lastly, I have another title given by a friend - "Hoarder". Because we often thought of reusing something later, we tend to keep stuffs to be used later. Then stuffs keep building up and taking up the storage space in the house. How do I ensure that I am not overly a hoarder? I use my neighbor as a benchmark... hee hee... My neighbor is the greatest hoarder I have ever met. 

Seriously, I ain't perfect! I am only doing my best within my capacity in helping to green the island. And I am not a green person either. I am part of the society contributing to carbon footprint and burning fossil fuel. As much as I can, I will pick a day once a week or fortnightly as a car free day. Yet, I ain't perfect because I have to use electricity to work on computers to blog, to facebook, to snack on my favorite potato Chipster chips, to chill my favorite Vitagen drink (plastic there!) and listening to my radio! It is only on the day I die that I stop contributing to carbon footprint and then I may become perfect green person six feet under?

1 comment:

  1. Just do what you can. Be careful when you reuse the plastic bags for your tapau food. I read somewhere there are bacteria in those preused bags. Maybe better to use tupperwares or very good containers that can lock in liquid (like when u ta pau noodle soup). Don't reuse plastic bags that has been used to pack raw meat. To save space when u carry out yr tupperwares maybe you should look for those tupperwares/ containers that can stacked into each other so it will be less bulky.

    I like to take plastic bags at the supermkts too so I can use it to pack the rubbish.



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