Thursday, June 14, 2007

Forest preservation, next to the ketchup

As a general rule, good environmental stewardship gets more and more difficult as our global economy distances and renders abstract the connections between what we consume and the natural resources from which it all comes.

For example, most people wouldn't want to dump raw sewage into the local river or harbor, but most of our cities have combined sewers (buried out of sight) that do precisely that during every rainstorm. Maybe if every shower, washing machine, and toilet had a live video feed of the underground sewer system and overflow discharge pipes (maybe something like the scene 30 seconds into this music video), people would generate less wastewater and our rivers and oceans might be cleaner.

That's probably neither feasible nor palatable, but here's a cheap idea that can save a tree's worth of paper every year: the "These Come From Trees" sticker for napkin and paper towel dispensers.

The idea behind this sticker is to help people make the connection between forestry and paper products in the moment before they grab a fistful of napkins at the fast food restaurant or coffee shop. This is great environmental activism: it's not a dogmatic "you shouldn't use these" message, nor is it a condescending "thank you for your cooperation" message.

Instead, it's sort of a field guide to North American condiment islands and washrooms that gives us the natural history of our paper products. And according to the guy who's promoting them, one of these stickers can prompt people to cut back their use of paper from a particular dispenser of copy machine by 100 pounds - roughly one tree's worth - every year.

Learn more and order your own stickers from Portland readers should be advised that I've already ordered 50 and I'm willing to share.

No comments: