I don’t know why I should feel like keeping this recent practice of mine secret, since I should be proud of it. It’s no different from how I bring a bag with me when I go shopping so I don’t need a new bag, which pollutes. I wondered why stores make such an effort of giving you bags — the checkout people seem like they have to pamper you and giving you a bag is how they do it. Expensive stores do it more — they give giant bags, with extra paper wrapping your clothes, as if to protect them and keep them as safe as you might keep a baby. Maybe stores want to appear generous to you so you feel generous back to them and buy more stuff.
All I can think of is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and how taking that bag makes me contribute to it. What’s the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? According to Wikipedia:
The Great Pacific garbage patch, also described as the Pacific trash vortex, is a gyre of increased marine debris particles in the central North Pacific Ocean located roughly between 135°W to 155°W and 35°N and 42°N. The patch extends over an indeterminate area, with estimates ranging very widely depending on the degree of plastic concentration used to define the affected area.
The patch is characterized by exceptionally high concentrations of pelagic plastics, chemical sludge and other debris that have been trapped by the currents of the North Pacific Gyre.
It also makes me think of images like this — where else does that come from but people like you and me polluting?
If I didn’t see images like that, I wouldn’t have believed we polluted the planet so much. But plastic lasts a long time. Anyway, I noticed restaurants do the same thing with napkins. They keep giving you napkins when you don’t need them, I think to make you feel like they’re generous and taking care of you.
So my big secret is that when I finish a meal and unused paper napkins remain, I take them with me to use at home. I think I keep it secret because I think people might think I’m doing it to be cheap. I’m doing it to reduce pollution. I don’t ask for extra napkins. Actually, I try to refuse them, but they give them out too quick a lot of the time, they come under the bowl on the needless plate when they bring soup, they put it under your glass for a drink, and things like that. And I don’t take dirty napkins home. At self-serve restaurants where you get your own napkin I don’t get extra. Usually they give you a few with your order and I don’t use all of those.
The point is that before reusing something someone gives me, I do my best to reduce consumption. I don’t try to create the situation. I try to avoid it. When I see what could be used about to be thrown away, why not reuse it?
I don’t think that reusing a few napkins will save the planet, but at least I’ll pollute less. Actually, I usually end up with too many napkins at home than I know what to do with, even with me trying to refuse extra napkins. You’d be surprised how many they try to give you when you end up with them in your cabinet. Same with plastic bags. Even trying to refuse them as often as I can, I still end up swimming in them at home. People bring stuff over in them and then leave them with me. Stuff like that. They accumulate.
I think that when you pay attention to details like that, you end up also caring about the bigger things too.
Anyway, that’s my secret silly confession: I take unused paper napkins home to reuse.
Here’s another image on the garbage in the Pacific I found while searching for the images above and felt compelled to share (click on it to see it full size).
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