When I travel, I bring my coffee mug and a water bottle because I feel guilty about contributing to another town’s landfills. And after my fork hunt in Arizona, I brought my bamboo utensil set to the conference. One person opting not to use disposable utensils is often just a drop in the bucket, I accept that. But I was not prepared for the degree of wastefulness surrounding me at this casino.
There is styrofoam EVERYWHERE.
Pizza, chowder, and a heaping side of styrofoam
The casino offers free non-alcoholic beverages for its guests on the casino floor, served in large styrofoam cups. My lunch today (admittedly at the cheap, fast food stand) was: pizza on a styrofoam plate and soup in a styrofoam cup on top of a styrofoam “saucer” that served no other purpose. I kept thinking about the dead albatross babies with stomachs full of garbage as I ate my meal. And when I was done, into the trash it went.
The only “eco” food containers I have seen are the compostable paper coffee cups from the gourmet coffee stand. But let’s be honest, most of my archaeology colleagues are taking advantage of the FREE coffee in the conference area, which is served in styrofoam cups.
It hurts my head to calculate the amount of eating-related garbage this conference is producing. Last night at the conference welcome reception we all filled up our plastic plates with food, and then threw away the plates, the plastic drink cups, and glass beer bottles into the same garbage cans. There were no recycling options that I could see. The only recycling bin that I have seen this week was located in the Tribal Headquarters office building.
Full garbage cans at the welcome reception
I would like to see figures for the energy and money costs of having to wash durable reusable ceramic dishes for a group of 300, because I am sure this is a money decision. The sit-down restaurants all use real utensils and plates, and I am fairly certain that the banquet dinner tonight will also. The casino has the infrastructure to wash dishes.
I am just frustrated.
Many of us work for environmental resource consulting firms, state parks, and federal agencies (BLM, Forest Service, NPS, and Fish and Wildlife). I have seen most of these people recycle before. We are willing to preserve natural resources, if only the venue would provide us the opportunity.
Next year this conference will be in Portland, Oregon—a city with a well established reputation and infrastructure of sustinability. I will be curious to see how the garbage situation compares.