Capital Kitchen blog May 2014I went to a Café in a wonderful little beachside town called Kuaotunu in New Zealand recently. I ordered a coffee to have there, and it arrived in a paper cup with a plastic top. Which 99% of the population wouldn’t question. But I did. “Why don’t you serve this in a mug that isn’t thrown away afterwards”, I’d asked, trying my best not to sound aggressive? The poor girl serving me seemed most perplexed at the question. She scurried off, and a few minutes later the owner arrived at my table.

“Well we don’t have a dishwasher to wash the mugs”, she explained confidently. “So we use paper cups instead.”

“Which are thrown away along with the plastic tops”, I added. “Why don’t you install a dishwasher and do the planet a favour?”

She considered me for a few moments before replying, in a somewhat condescending manner. “Well it isn’t an issue for anyone else. You’re the first person to complain about it.”

“Well most people don’t care about the planet. They just want their coffee. And the ones that do care are mostly too polite to ever complain to you.” I don’t really want to make a scene here. I can feel all the locals staring at me now. And the lady is not alone in running her Café like this.

She went on to explain how if she had a dishwasher she might have to hire an additional person. I spent the rest of my drive that day thinking about the Café. In the end it came down to convenience and money. It was cheaper and easier for the lady to simply serve single use cups with plastic tops, than it was to use decent mugs to be washed afterwards. The loser in all this is the planet. A few more trees cut down, and a few more barrels of oil pumped out of the ground, so that we can have a cheap and convenient coffee.

The amazing thing is, as the lady said, virtually no one complains about it. She probably had a bitch to her husband that night about this arrogant prick that questioned her sound business model of serving coffee in throwaway cups. And she’d mirror the thoughts of most people I expect.

The point I am making is that individuals, companies and governments keep making decisions on our behalf that contribute to the continued degradation of our planet. Yet because they seem minor at the time we never complain about them. I’ll give you an example. The other day I was shopping for groceries. The avocados I noticed were now being served in a 3-pack, complete with plastic wrapping and polystyrene base. Now avocado are one of the best things God, Allah or whoever managed to invent. Right there behind pomegranate in fact. But now it seems even these must be plastic wrapped. I avoid using plastic as much as I can, but it seems to get harder these days, as packaging encroaches further and further into our lives. Companies keep doing it, and we keep accepting it.

I complained to the Manager about it. He said he’d look into it. I’m not sure if he ever did or not. But if we don’t bitch about stuff we only have ourselves to blame for the consequences. And bitching can eventually work. You are seeing the ban on single use plastic bags in progressive cities around the world. Local governments don’t do this out of the goodness of their hearts, but rather because some people got in their ass and complained about it.

So maybe we all need to start questioning the things we see everyday. The single use bags in our supermarket, the paper coffee cups in our café, the plastic packaging around our fruit… We don’t have to blindly accept this. The tragedy of it though is most people have and will. The hope is that a few more won’t.