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Jerry Seinfeld Would Laugh at that Box

Have you ever heard Jerry Seinfeld perform his bit about the fact that light bulbs are sold with barely any packaging around them while other far less fragile items are sold with much more packaging than they need?  As always, this Seinfeld joke is hysterical when he delivers it.  It is also so true.  If light bulbs can survive with that thin cardboard and two open ends, why must so many other items be drowning in packaging?

box1This very week, I was astonished at the unnecessary amount of packaging on two boxes that I received.  They are both pictured here.   These photos were taken after I opened the boxes and before I removed the contents.  As you can see, they are both small items that arrived in large boxes with much padding.
First I received the box you see with the smaller box inside, which was delivered by a mail service.  The item being shipped to me was not even breakable.   The smaller box could have been shipped completely on its own and the item inside of it would have been fine.

box2

My cat wanted to provide you with some scale to approximate the size of the box. She is a very helpful assistant.

Yesterday, I received the second box, which contained only a plastic cup filled with chocolate covered pretzels that I had ordered from a fundraiser at my child’s school.  This box was handed to my son at school to carry home.  An unfortunate side effect of this distribution method is the lesson all the children involved have learned, which is that extra packaging doesn’t matter.

Waste prevention DOES matter – a lot!  Extra packaging wastes resources and creates trash.  Even if you recycle the packaging, the recycling process has an unnecessary environmental impact by using energy and water and creating emissions.   Now that I’m stuck with the extra packaging from the two boxes, the best thing I can do is to try to reuse it.  Perhaps even more important is that I showed my children and spoke with them about how and why the unnecessary waste could have been avoided.

 

Don’t Throw it All Away

I just completed 5 long months on a jury.  I’m glad to have my time back, but that’s a whole other story.  On one of my last days at the courthouse, I was down the hall and I watched from a distance as the other jurors filed from the hallway into the courtroom after a break.  There was a garbage can in the hall right at the doorway and, unfortunately, no recycling bin in site although I know they are elsewhere in the building.  I saw several jurors throw empty plastic bottles into the garbage can as they passed it on their way in.  I cringed as I watched each bottle get pushed through the flap on the can.

Image from climatekids.nasa.gov

Image from climatekids.nasa.gov

I can’t know for sure, but by the looks of things, I don’t think it bothered these people at all that they were throwing their plastic bottles away instead of recycling them.    If they had not finished their drinks, they would have held onto their bottles and even brought them home if they still had some drink left.   So why do they throw their bottles into the trash when they are empty instead of holding them until they can be recycled?

If it was more widely understood the amount of resources that go into making a plastic bottle, including oil, would they have thrown their bottles into the trash?  If they knew that every piece of plastic that has ever been created still exists because plastic lasts forever, would they have thrown their bottles into the trash? If our state had a bottle bill and they could have gotten some change for saving the bottles and returning them, would they have thrown their bottles into the trash?

After 5 months on a jury together, you get a sense of people’s character.   I think all of those people chucking their plastic bottles out so freely would say that they care about the environment.  This is purely an example of everyone needing to know and act on the fact that we all must consider the environment as we conduct our daily activities and know that every small action we take matters.  Collectively and over time, we can make a difference for the earth.

In my estimation, to make the physical bottles tossed out by the jurors in that moment took about 6 liters of water and close to a cup of oil.   Recycling plastic bottles into another useful product helps to reduce the amount of resources consumed.