Tag Archives: plastic bag


52WoLP: #10, Animal Presence Part 2

This is a bit of a riff, but bear with me, we’ll end up at Lincoln Park. I’m still buzzing about animal presence, and wanted to share some o’ that love. After the iridescent octopus at Makena on Maui, the turtle-paloosa at every beach we visited, the shave-ice colored wrasses and graceful idols, the whales, spinner dolphins, I wanted to learn about local folks helping to protect the gift of nature that Hawaii is… and one group stood out: Hawaii Wildlife Fund.

HWF was founded in 1996 by two biologists who saw the encroachment of all kinds of not-very-wild activity on an environment that depends on wild conditions. They are, as co-founder Hannah Bernard put it: “small but mighty.” They spend most of their energy actually doing things like this and this and this (poopy!). They have an awesome education and intern program (do they take 60 year olds??), outreach, and have built an impact worth supporting.

So….Lincoln Park, here’s the link up: as soon as I learned about HWF, Seal Sitters here in West Seattle came to mind. Local with an impact that belies its size, passionate and visionary…Good stuff. Some things I love about Seal Sitters: they have educated a whole city about the little seal pup on the beach, the one people may mistake for injured or worse, others may think would be a happy playmate for their dogs, and still others who might not have noticed at all. It’s neighborly, it’s profound, it’s small but mighty.

Co-Founded by author Brenda Peterson and gaining strength as Seal Sitters in 2007, the group has helped so many–kids, adults, even dogs– understand that it is up to us to protect and share the beach as part of our wildlife habitat. You see them often on Alki, but for the last couple of years, you’ll also see them at the beach in Lincoln Park, setting up a protective zone around a seal pup resting on the shore. They have a great blog (blubberblog, best. name. ever.), our beloved West Seattle Blog is a big booster, and the volunteers are more than happy to talk about what they do. The pups are still taking long sleeps on the shores so keep an eye out for that thing that Seal Sitters does so well.

Wildly, improbably, a few people saw a need and decided to do something about it. As a result, they really have changed the world–one beach at a time. I love that.

52 Weeks of Lincoln Park: week #10

Emails from the Western Front: the Pacific Garbage Patch

Over at the HuffPpost, Laurie David is chronicling Charles Moore’s exploration of the path from the California Coast to the northern waters of the Hawaiian Islands. The goal? Plastics. He’s aboard the Algalita, a research vessel dedicated to studying the impact of plastics on the environment of the world’s oceans.

He will be sending regular emails describing their findings, and Laurie David will post them on the HuffPost. I look forward to following the adventure, and hope you’ll help spread the news about this research that affects us all.

Not on my watch! A working meditation story about recycling.

The first week of April I participated in silent vipassana retreat at Spirit Rock Meditation Center in Marin county. It’s a beautiful sanctuary in the foothills east of Point Reyes National Seashore that’s been around for about 25 years.

Of course, there was sitting meditation and walking meditation, and for me the first couple of days, running meditation until I wore off some excess neurotic energy and could settle down.  There was also Working Meditation which involved the upkeep of the center, tasks cleaning up after the 80+ retreatants, and of course the kitchen work–everything involved in feeding everyone, and all in silence.

I selected what was arguably the least attractive task of all, since there were no other volunteers but the task is slated to have two do it: recycling and composting.  I did it because I was very interested to see what processes were in place to minimize the enviro impact of this large group of hopefully mindful meditators.

I inadvertently asked for more than I bargained for since the one thing they left off the title of the task was “Garbage.”  That’s right, dining room garbage collection, recycling and composting.  I was bummed the first day and certain that this level of real work would destroy any chance I had at peace of mind.  😉

As it turned out, the garbage collection part became the most intriguing.  The instructions I was given was to avoid using too many of the large plastic bags since, of course, plastic bags are forever.  I took this instruction to heart immediately, vowing secretly to myself that no more than one large plastic bag would be used per day…for well over 80 retreatants and 30 staff.  Three meals a day.

Could it be done?  Indeed it could.  I aggregated everything I could, without putting back messy bags for reuse.  How?  Well, the retreatants became very adept at and willing to scrape their plates clean into the composting buckets, and as the week wore on, they seemed to take no more than they would actually eat, making even less compost, and certainly very little garbage.  Therefore, the only thing that went into the garbage were things like unrecyclable tea containers, plastic wrappers (not many of those), and other kitchen packaging that couldn’t be recycled.  The recycling was very thorough, boxes broken down and picked up en masse, and one large container for most everything else.

The composting consisted of rotating buckets with lids that were picked up daily and taken to a cycle of seven large bins with contents in varying states of vermiculture.  The end product is then worked into the gardens and grounds for a lush environment.

In other words, there wasn’t much garbage.  Hard to imagine in our throw away society, right?

So, I was able to keep to my vow of no more than one large hefty-style bag of garbage per day for a retreat of over 100 people.  I’m skimping a little here, because I know the kitchen had its own process that I didn’t participate in, but basically, the process was enviably efficient and effective. And quiet.

I learned to truly enjoy my work meditation.

Plastic: the beginning.

My grandmother had what seemed from to me, a funny habit with plastic bags.  But first, let’s back up.


When I was a little kid, we had wax paper.  We had wax paper for sandwiches and wax paper for covering bowls in the fridge, wax paper for all the uses where plastic is used now.  Plastic obviously took the whole storage and freshness question to new heights, it was a boon, a valuable invention.

So back to my grandmother.  When plastic bags started replacing wax paper, she saved and re-used the plastic bags–which were, as I mentioned, seen as valuable and not yet ubiquitous–for all kinds of things.  She thought they were a miracle invention–precious almost.

plastic bags

As my grandmother aged, and I alongside her, I noticed a growing abundance of plastic bags in her house.  In drawers, jammed in with the pots and pans, stored in grocery bags.  She still felt they were precious and besides, they were still good–and she was from a generation that used things until they were worn out.  Nowadays we only plan on using things until the marketing arm of various companies tell us to dump the old thing for the new thing.

My grandmother hadn’t made the change in her mind–she never made it, in fact.  She never quite got over the value of plastic bags, never saw them as disposable, because they were still good.  In fact, back in the 70’s, I recall various contraptions people designed to help re-use plastic bags.  They were in vogue for about a new york minute since people largely can’t be bothered with so much effort to re-use the thing we can throw away and get so many more of in the same new york minute.

plastic bag dryer

So when she became too old to be in her home and had to move to a care center, at the ripe old age of 94 (she lived to 101), we had to clean out her house to put it on the market.  As you can probably guess, there were stashes of plastic bags everywhere–and I mean everywhere.  She continued to re-use them but who can possibly re-use as many as are coming in?  It was a phenomenal sight–bags of plastic bags in the cupboards, in the drawers, in the hall closet, everywhere.

Plastic bad landfill

And I think back now to this now with a larger frame in mind.  I think of my grandmother’s unwitting demonstration of how many plastic bags one can collect, use, and dispose of one’s lifetime. She was a living experiment–she actually kept most of the plastic bags that came into her possession and it was an unbelievable sight. The amount of plastic bags we collect is, honestly, phenomenal and unthinkable.

Changing my own plastic bag habitz

I’ve started on my new habit changing project and we’re doing pretty well with it, as a household.  Plastic bags we use and can re-use go right back in the canvas bags for use at the store in the coming week.

Plastic bags that are manufactured to hold things with zip lock tops–like raisins, nuts, what have you–are cleaned and used for sandwiches and fridge storage.  Sure, they have branding all over them, but hey.  You get used to it.

I’m already seeing a big reduction in the plastic recycling bag we keep under the sink.  It used to be brimming most of the time with bags, but it’s pretty lame and empty right now–a good sign.  So, how will I measure success?  Haven’t figured it out yet, but so far, the switch to being conscious about plastic is going well.

Except for the depressing realization that plastic is everywhere all the time, and the gnawing question about where all that plastic goes…but I’ll leave that for another day.