Monday, April 18, 2011

A Dreamer and Doer for Earth Day

I have received the best present.

It's not my birthday and clearly it's not Christmas (though it's been chilly enough).

It's for Earth Day.

Earth Day is this Friday. In its 41st year, it's promoting "A Billion Acts of Green".

I knew that my Earth Day celebration would include heading over to Grand Central Station where there are many events going on, but in my wildest dreams, I didn't imagine that I'd be getting such a gift.

My sister called the other day. My nephew Robert came to her and told her he wanted to enter the Disney Dreamers and Doers contest. Central Florida children in grades K-12 can nominate themselves.  It is Disney's way of recognizing those "who demonstrate excellence in their schools and communities."

The children are judged on an essay so Melissa asked him what he wanted to write about.

Here is what he wrote:

"When I go to the beach, I walk with my sister and my aunt and we clean up all of the trash that people leave.  We sort and make a trash and recycle pile.  It is fun and other families walk by and say good job.  It also helps the Earth."

I had no idea the day I took him and his sister Theresa for a walk on the beach to collect seashells would turn into a beach clean-up - and that it would make such an impact on him.

Robert is one of three finalists in his school, but it doesn't matter to me whether he wins the contest.

He's already won.

And so have I.

And best of all - so has the Earth!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Eating With The Enemy

One of the saddest days of my life was when my boss's daughter quit Girl Scouts.

I'm sorry to say I wasn't sad because she was no longer earning patches, but because I would miss the coveted cookies.

Every spring, my boss would come in with that giant piece of paper.  You know the one...with all the colored rows where you check off that green box for Thin Mints.  (Of course in my house, it's never just one box of Thin Mints.  It's more like four . . . or eight. . . or ten.  Plus boxes and boxes of Tagalongs (now renamed Peanut Butter Patties).

Then that day would arrive when she'd walk in with her supersized duffle bag and start handing out the greatest cookies ever made.

They went straight home and into the freezer.  Because everyone knows that a Girl Scout cookie is best when frozen.  There's nothing like that first bite of the Tagalong...separating the peanut butter top from the cookie bottom in your mouth, letting the flavors mix together and...OK...I'll stop now.

John and I would savor each one and make them last for months.

Wait...who am I kidding?  John could polish off a box in a night!

Clearly, the cookies are not good for my waistline and I didn't kid myself they used any organic ingredients.  But I figured it's a once-a-year indulgence that brings me back to my childhood, when my sister and I sold them.  My mom would be up all night grouping the boxes for easy delivery. 

Unfortunately, there's another reason why I need to be worried about my cookies.


Orangutans are in danger.  And it's the Thin Mint's fault.

Apparently, the morsels of goodness are made with palm oil.

Most oil palm plantations are in Indonesia where deforestation, forest fires and hunters are the main cause of the decrease in organutans population.

But ironically, it's Girls Scouts to the rescue!

Madison Vorva and Rhiannon Tomtishen are two young Girl Scouts who are taking a stand against this.  They have been awarded the titles of Rainforest Heros by the Rainforest Action Network.  These two heroes are committee to convincing Girl Scouts USA to stop using palm oil in their cookies, via letter writing campaigns and presentations.

Girls Scouts USA claim that they can't make a cookie without the enemy.  But I won't eat a cookie with the enemy.

It's good that that famous order sheet won't be making its rounds in my office anymore.

And I won't go hunting for the sheet until the orangutans, not the palm oil, are protected.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Code Green...Dr. Earth to the Trash Room - Stat!

Last month, I said good-bye to a part of me.

An important part.  A part that had been with me my whole life.

It wasn't a sad good-bye, but one that I knew would be good for me and make my life better.

I said good-bye to my gall bladder.

For 20 years whenever I had stomach pains I thought I had a corn allergy, when, in fact, it was those nasty gall stones.

My hospital stay was only about seven hours.  But even in that short time-span -- and being heavily sedated -- I still managed to be on green patrol.

I was hooked up to monitors with disposable electric sticky pads, had various IV tubes stuck in my hand (including one that the anesthesiologist took out and replaced because he didn't like the nurse's "attachment style") and sported more band-aids than I could keep track of.  I watched in amazement as the nurses continuously reached for the trash can.

As the doctor administered the anesthesia and I began to drift off (while alerting him every few seconds that I was still awake and it wasn't time to start cutting), I worried about the disposable items that were being used on me to make me feel better.

Wait!  Isn't that how our whole lives are tailored these days?  How much disposable stuff do we use to make our lives easier which in turn makes us feel better?

Why did I think the hospital would be any different?

I wondered, where does all that red bucket waste go?  Is there a separate landfill?

It turns out that hospitals alone generate over two million tons of medical waste annually, of which about 90% is incinerated, generating all sorts of horrible gases into the atmosphere.

Before I knew it, I was back in the recovery room telling anyone who would listen that "it hurt."

They gave me another disposable plastic bag full of saline (I was really potent saline!) and I tried hard to keep my eyes open so I could go home.

John came by to visit me, but the doctor assured him that it would be a while longer.  He told me later that I said something he didn't understand about "recycled styrofoam cups."

As my stupor began to wear off, I overheard three residents sitting at the desk across from my bed.

Here is the conversation as I remember it:

(Lots of laughter)

"Oh! You're the one!"

"Yes...she's the one that's all paper conscious and sh*t."

"Wow.  Wait till she sees the OR and what they throw away in there!  You better get over your 'green' thing fast!"

(More laughter as the female resident hit the "green thing" resident with a folder.)

So the good news was there was a fellow greenie on the staff.  The bad news was they had to have a conversation about it.  How much waste was generated on account of my stupid gall stones?

With infections on the rise, I realize that everything has to be pre-packaged and sterile. I'm all for that.  But there must be a better way to dispose of medical waste.

A hospital's primary function is to serve the health of the people - which includes the health of the planet.

Now when someone says to me, "You mean to say you have the gall to tell me we should worry about hospital waste, too?"  I'll say, "No, I don't have any gall at all."

After all, I said good-bye to it.