Why “Green” Organizations Still Have a Ways to Go

For the past four years (this being my fifth) I’ve worked concessions at my home state’s MLB games. The stadium I work in is always hyping themselves up about how environmentally friendly they are, and I do agree that they’ve taken huge steps to reduce their waste.

  • There’s no roof, so rainwater is collected to be used for watering the field
  • The toilets have different flush settings for liquid and solid waste
  • Paper towels go to organics recycling
  • Plastic cups can be recycled along with bottles and cans
  • The cooked food leftover at the end of the game is donated to a homeless shelter nearby

While this is definitely major progress, there’s still one area that needs improvement: Soft plastic. Just about everything that comes into the concession stands is packaged in a plastic bag or sleeve. I’m now kind of known by my coworkers as the weird girl who brings the plastic home because I would rather it sit in my house while I figure out a use for it than see it go to a landfill. I’d snag just about any plastic I could get my hands on that wasn’t contaminated by gross stuff.

You can imagine my excitement when I heard that this year the stadium would be recycling the plastic sleeves. That excitement dissipated immediately upon working my first game of the year, when I learned that it was really all talk and not much had been implemented. There was one informational flier posted where not many people could see, nowhere specific to put the plastic for disposal, and no instructions given to do anything other than what we always have. In essence nothing has changed, and so I still bring the plastic home with me. This year I’ve mainly had access to the packaging for the small plastic baseball helmets we put ice cream in.

In addition to the bags they come in, the helmets are separated by 6×9″ sheets of plastic. This is the most wasteful practice I’ve ever seen. It wastes so many materials and resources to make them, the workers time to remove them, and space in landfills, all for the sake of keeping the SMOOTH plastic helmets from scratching each other in transit. Just in the last nine games I’ve brought home 682 of those slips. Yes, I counted them. Now I just need to figure out what I can make with them.

The main message I’m trying to convey here is that we should definitely celebrate the steps that have been taken, but only for a short time before we ask “What can we improve on next?”


Being Less Wasteful at Work

Currently I’m working as a janitor in one of the academic halls. Glamorous right?   Anyway, one of my tasks is to wipe down tables in the classrooms, which for a long time we were doing with the crappy poster towels like those in  public restrooms. A couple weeks ago I realized, why am I using so much of this when I could be using washable towels?
That Thursday and Friday I brought in my own hand towels (which I got from a hotel I had worked at, who couldn’t use them due to stains or tears) and used them instead. I was curious to know how much paper I’d be saving by doing this, so I did some math. I estimated that I was using about 3 times my height per day, which is 16.5 feet. That adds up to 82.5 feet per week. From the first full week I started using washable towels to the end of the semester, I will have saved 1237.5 feet of paper towels.