I want to be Earth-friendly.
I’d like to go all the way and save the Earth, but I can’t do that. I can’t even save the house plant behind my left shoulder. It knows it, and I know it, and I know it knows it. This is why we’ll never be truly close.
Still, to do my part, Earth-wise, I make these resolutions:
• I will not organize balloon releases.
I never have organized a balloon release, and I’m unlikely to want to in my, let’s face it, stub of a future. (That is, a stub compared to the quite-a-bit-longer tent pole of my past.)
Still, it’s helpful to establish firm boundaries, and that’s one of mine: no balloon releases. Hundreds of colored helium balloons do look fine against the sky, at least until the balloons start meeting with bird beaks and tree branches. The balloons snag on bushes and fence posts and, worse, get eaten by wild creatures. I might once have assumed no animal would be so incautious as to ingest natural latex rubber, polychloroprene and nylon, but then, my husband and I adopted a couple of Labrador retrievers. I know better now.
• I will decline restaurant drinking straws.
I’m working on this one. Not because I adore straws, but because I don’t think about them until one lands next to my water glass, and then it’s too late. Even if I pressed against the back of the booth and turned my head so as not to breathe on the wrapper, a straw placed in front of a restaurant customer is no longer a sanitary drinking tube. It is trash.
Speaking of restaurant water, why is it so often served in red plastic glasses large enough to hydrate a herd of Guernseys? Even diners who are positively parched won’t drink that much water.
Are the red glasses intended to evoke the Solo cups so omnipresent at college parties? Perhaps they carry a subliminal message: You’re young and carefree. Your parents are still paying your bills. Order an appetizer. Order two!
But straws litter our highways, ditches and parking lots. As a person who occasionally marches out with a garbage bag to collect trash on my rural road, I can testify to the ubiquity of straws. They’re small, sticky, germy and everywhere. Yes, I know straws once were associated with who could shoot a wrapper over the lunch monitor’s head and who could make the best gargling sounds. We’ll always have those cafeteria memories. We don’t need the straws.
• I will not launch sky lanterns.
Sky lanterns are paper globes with a fuel source. When lit, the lantern goes up, up and away to kill owls and other living things. They’re like balloons, but with a hit list.
Not that sky lanterns actually hunt down creatures like party-store predators. I’m guessing, unscientifically, that a flying object with a “fuel source” can’t help sparking trouble here and there.
As with balloons, it’s easy to understand the appeal. Lanterns glowing in the night sky are both magical and romantic. No wonder they’re popular at weddings and festivals and eighth-grade graduations.
But similar to adorable Easter-morning ducklings and chicks that become all-business adult mallards and leghorns, sky lanterns become hazardous. They start fires. They fall on power lines and the lights go out. The wire in the lanterns’ biodegradable paper doesn’t degrade quickly. It sticks around, poking animals and looking like food.
Mostly, though, sky lanterns are extra. They’re purely decorative, like a ceramic teapot with the warning “Not for Beverages.” While nothing is wrong with decorations – I like a nice metal bird with stick legs as much as the next person – I hope to focus on appreciating natural beauty rather than enhancements to that beauty.
I don’t expect to be successful right away. But if, once in a while, I remember not to release balloons, not to accept a straw and not to produce a stunning display of floating lanterns over the wild Sargasso Sea, I’ll be satisfied.
It will be something to build on.
Write to Margo Bartlett at firstname.lastname@example.org.