Saturday, September 05, 2009

Plastics Lament

Ever since I began this bed & breakfast, we have offered guests 100% natural amenities, including Trilllium Organics, “Better for Your Skin, Better for Our Planet.” No parabens or phthalates, sodium-sulfate-free, synthetic fragrance-free. Unfortunately, the bottles are made of plastic.

What household doesn’t use plastic? None I know of. I have become very conscious of plastics recently and seek to eliminate them from my life. Not an easy task! Plastic is everywhere. I pick up the telephone: plastic. I type words on the computer keyboard: plastic. I brush my teeth with a toothbrush: plastic. I floss … yes, floss, too, is made of plastic (Teflon, just like that old discarded frying pan.) Not to mention running a B&B without plastic bags. The Manufacturing Chemists Association did such a snow job that Americans came to believe they could not live well without plastic. The irony is people cannot live well with plastic, especially plastic that comes in contact with the mouth. (And, full disclosure, one of the writers creating their PR in an office on K Street was my mom, who worked at MCA to pay for my education!)

The Environmental Working Group has put together a nifty list of recommendations on how to pick plastics with care. May I quote the first sentence? “The toxicity of plastics is not fully understood or adequately tested.” (Repeat after me: the toxicity of plastics is not fully understood or adequately tested.) Apparently it’s the chemical additives of which one should really beware: BPA, phthalates. These nasty chemicals have a way of getting into our bodies. What's more, we have no idea what all these plastics are doing to the environment. Think possible endocrine-disruptors, carcinogens.

At registration, I have guests fill out a short questionnaire. One of the questions is, “How important to you is our being “green”?” There’s a choice of 1 through 4, with 4 being "very." Not everyone circles 4, but 3 is frequent. We hardly get any 2s anymore. This question provides the opportunity to discuss the importance of going green to people who have not. (Judging from my informal survey, our guests from the UK are way ahead as they all circle 4!)

The European Union has banned the use of DEHP, the most widely used plasticizer in PVC. Water pipes are now made of PVC in the USA. Which brings us to the topic – ahem! – of water. Here at Chez Sven we filter our drinking water, but I always wonder whether traces of chemicals get through. Last summer Chicago found DEET in its drinking water. You don’t believe me? Read about it here. This story describes a campaign to stop flushing meds down the toilet into the water supply. Since we drink ground water in Wellfleet, better watch what goes into the ground, don't you think? Toxic chemicals like Accord, Arsenal, Escort, Garlon 4, Kreinite should not be allowed. (Green Cape offers a description of these toxic herbicides.) Accord is Glyphosate, also sold as Round-Up, created by chemical giant Monsanto. From the Web site, "Because all herbicides are pesticides, Round-Up is a pesticide as defined by the EPA." Ugh! It's going to be a tough learning curve, but that's what NStar execs are counting on. Let's prove them wrong, citizens of Cyberspace. Sometimes I wish I had paid more attention in eighth-grade chemistry class ….

Noon Update: My sister-in-law just called to tell me about Clean Water Action MA. Check out the Web site for The Alliance for a Healthy Tomorrow, which I intend to contact right now.