Saturday, April 6, 2013

Toastmasters and the Environment

Toastmasters and the Environment.

The environment is one of today's hot topics. As well it should be. There are very few things in this world that have an impact on every single person on the planet. The environment and what happens to it will effect everyone from the Arctic to the Amazon, from the carrot farmer in the Holland Marsh to the sheep herder in New Zealand.

There are two ways we can look at the environment from a Toastmasters perspective. What we say and how we react to environmental ideas in our speeches and table topics comments can have a profound impact. But I think we should talk first about the environment on a more personal and immediate level.

Next time you go to your local meeting take a look around the room. One of the things you will notice is that a lot of people will have a beverage at hand. This is not surprising since Toastmasters meetings usually involve talking and speeches. Most people will need some type of liquid to keep from becoming too parched or to dislodge that frog that sometimes sets up in our throats.

Beverages are a good and necessary thing when talking is involved but the containers that these beverages come in needs some consideration. Did you know that plastic water bottles contribute up to 2 million tons of plastic waste ever year in the US. That plastic requires around 47 million gallons of oil every year to produce. The producers of bottled water will tell us that the water bottles can be recycled – true. But the fact is that over 80% of plastic water bottles simply get thrown out eventually making their way to the landfill where they can take up to 1,000 years to bio-degrade.

Instead of grabbing that bottle of water, consider a metal water bottle filled from home. Not only will this save money, but it is also a healthier alternative.  Many plastic water bottles contain the chemical Bisphenol-A (BPA), that has been shown to be harmful to our health (Canada and US have recently banned BPA use in baby bottles). There is very little regulatory oversight concerning bottled water. Municipal tap water on the other hand is regularly inspected for bacteria and toxic chemicals. There is very little empirical evidence that suggests bottled water is any cleaner or better for you than the water that comes out of your tap at home.

Let's take a look at paper coffee and tea cups. Although made of paper a lot of coffee cups are not recyclable. The problem is most paper cups for hot beverages are laminated with a plastic resin. This process helps keep the contents hot and may stop leaking but it also prevents them from being recyclable. The average coffee drinker will throw away around 250 cups per year. In the US that works out to 58 billion cups a year. That is a lot of trash. In addition it takes 20 million trees and over 12 billion gallons of water to make those disposable cups.

There is an answer. It is not all doom and gloom. There is a way we can enjoy our favourite beverage and at the same time have a positive impact on the environment. It is called the travel mug. Travel mugs are a simple way we can bring a hot drink to a meeting and not contribute to the landfill. Available at most coffee shops, hardware and department stores, travel mugs are also insulated so they do a better job of keeping your beverage hot. So you can enjoy that tea without burning your hands.

So if you want to make a personal impact on the environment, consider bringing your travel mug or perhaps a metal water bottle to the next Toastmasters meeting. Using a metal water bottle or a travel mug is not only safer and healthier you will be making a positive, more sustainable choice for the environment.

Rick Nesbitt

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