Why We Do This: A Volunteer's Story

Every waking moment we make decisions about our consumption and waste. Often the easiest choices are the ones that harm our environment the most - but they don’t have to be! At Fishing for Plastic a part of our vision includes creating the infrastructure that will make it easier to be less wasteful and spreading the awareness of each person’s waste impact. One single use plastic straw can take between 200-500 years to decompose. Consider a plastic water bottle, a milk container or even a gum wrapper as is involved in the story below. One of our volunteers asked if she could share an experience she had on the FFP blog about what it’s like balancing a keen awareness of the waste issue with compassion for others lack of understanding. Thanks so much for your contribution Fee!

Today, while I was waiting for the bus, a man walked up to the stop. He reached in his pocket and pulled out a pack of Hubba Bubba. He lifted the pack to his mouth, bit down, and spit the top of the packaging on the ground. Immediately, I was furious.

I contemplated what to say. “Who do you think is going to pick that up?” Or maybe a softer approach, “I really appreciate a clean city.” The possibility of an altercation delayed action. I’m not in the business of initiating street fights, and I don’t know what kind of a guy he is. I could do nothing. A street cleaner would eventually pick it up for sure, I thought. But then the guy wouldn’t think twice about doing the same next time. He then took out his iPhone and began a conversation with his landlord about when and how much rent is due this month.

That’s when I had a change of heart.

This person has more immediate issues, and although decreasing our impact in the world is often on my mind, that’s not the case for everyone. I finally decided on the simplest option: pick the piece of garbage up myself and say nothing. He looked at me while I did so.

We got on the bus, and I sat in a seat from which I could clearly see him. He continued his phone conversation, and I saw on his wrist a familiar site. He was wearing a red allergy band; the ones I see on patients at the hospital where I work. A gentle reminder - everyone is fighting their own fight.

What I learned from this scenario is as follows: be kind to one another. Don’t assume anyone has the room in their mind or heart to share your values. Instead choose to lead by example.

A gentle reminder - everyone is fighting their own fight.
— Fee McGeer
Bill AtherholtComment