By Andrea Patin
A couple of years ago, I made a New Year’s resolution to stop using styrofoam . . . or at least to GREATLY reduce using it whenever I possibly can. As soon as I made this life choice, I was amazed at how many places and people use the stuff! Some of you may be fortunate enough to live in a city where its use is banned, but unfortunately it is easily found here in San Diego. As I had, San Diego and too many other cities have fallen into the habit of using it blindly because of its availability and low cost.
At times it takes will power to say no to items supplied in this product. I have turned down countless smoothies, combo meals from the taco shops, meals to go, cups of coffee, as well as electronics and household equipment. The temptation of “just this once” creeps into my mind and then one word takes over — FOREVER. Forever will this incredibly dangerous and unhealthy petroleum-based product be on this earth. This harnesses my “wants” and brings me back to the reality of healthy and eco-friendly choices I really want to make. It’s a reality that I have the right to choose what I want to consume and support. This brings me hope that my choices do make a difference and may help to shift a social norm. Dunkin Donuts coffee does not look so good and the smiley face on the to-go container’s lid does not make me want to smile. I have talked about this change in lifestyle with family, friends, waitresses and clerks with the hope that my example may trigger a little change in them and/or their business. I have turned away my business from places that use this product and I tell them why. Of course, I inform them with kindness, honesty and a smile. Sometimes the servers look at me as if I am a pain in the ass or some New Age weird-o . . . which is kind of true . . . and kind of not. And at other times I see something click for them.
I wanted a bit more drive to avoid styrofoam, so I did some research. Here is the deal. There are many studies and articles written and they all pretty much say the same thing — avoid this stuff! For simplicity’s sake, I will reference one good source, www.earthresource.org. I encourage you to check it out. They provide a great summary of studies and facts, the perfect motivation for us to say “n-o” to styrofoam. Here is a product that is non-sustainable, expected to stay on the planet for hundreds and hundreds of years, thought to be a human carcinogen and seen to leach toxic chemicals into the human body when in contact with food and beverage. In addition, the likelihood of a wild animal consuming a piece of this intestine clogging nonsense is far too great.
So in this wild world of air filled Polystyrene around every corner, how do I get what I want? First, when I eat out, I bring my own container. If I call in an order to go, I ask what type of packaging they use. If they use my enemy Sir Styro, I forgo ordering or I go in person with my own containers and order there. I turn down drinks that come only in Styrofoam cups. I can survive without that beverage (and maybe even live a longer and healthier life) and in saying no, I am motivated that much more to remember to bring my own cup next time. At BBQ’s or parties I ask for a reusable plate and mug of the host’s, and wash it along with a couple of other items in the sink. I love Mexican food and, being a Southern California resident, I am stoked to have the endless supply of family owned Mexican taco shops. The bummer — they are big users of . . . you guessed it — styrofoam. Therefore, I order only burritos that are wrapped in a piece of paper, or I bring in my own dish. I haven’t come across real deal foam peanuts in a while, thankfully. The corn-based peanuts seem to have taken over, but in those rare cases, package and shipping stores will take your unwanted peanuts. The very best way to help is to avoid it! For the past couple of years, I have been very mindful to say a big N-O to styrofoam. How and when do you say no — no to The Foam?