Music is a Sustainable Product

If we are all buying the future with every purchase, I’m doing my best to purchase a future filled with live music. A significant portion of my earnings are directed towards tickets for musical events. The latest being a trip to Denver, (Commerce City) for a Phish 3 day run.

This trip wouldn’t be a good example of well directed purchasing for me. Primarily because of my dependence on air travel to get there and back. I did research rail availability. While I accept working around the extended time requirements of current rail travel, when I realized it would also cost me significantly more each way, it became beyond my ability to afford to “do the right thing.”

Cultural and sporting events can be great examples of sustainable economic activity as the environmental impacts are limited and can be ameliorated. This weekend’s show at Dick’s Sporting Good’s Park wasn’t a good example of a “sustainable” event though. For one, Public Transportation access was very limited and required an extensive walk for the last leg. The venue did have a $15 per car parking fee, (per car to foster car pooling according to the promoters). Many of the venues I’m familiar with have very good Public Transportation access. Madison Square Garden and The Barclay Center are both built on top of transportation hubs, a brilliant act of city planning for efficiency and sustainability.

We are still using way too much non recyclable and indestructible packaging, and this was evident at Dick’s as well. It is great to see that there were a vegan food truck as well as a truck that served only grass fed meat products.

It’s the music we were there to experience and the reason for purchasing our tickets. The venue is a multi-purpose outdoor facility, so I would imagine that it’s ecological impact would be minimal, especially when distributed over it’s lifespan. The production equipment has a material impact, but all of it is used multiple times and is capable of being recycled at end of life. The music is in the moment, produced from the calories and muscle movements of the musicians.

Don’t buy Plastic, Buy Plastic

One of the purchasing “rules” I’ve imposed on myself is to avoid all plastic containers, and most plastic products. Vegetarianism is easy, compared to this. Plastics are everywhere, and very difficult to avoid. What makes plastics fantastic, is also its problem. The choice about how we as a society use plastics is what we can influence with our purchases. Plastics we do choose to buy, need to be recycled. Look for, and buy, recycled plastic products, as well.

Now there’s a new choice, and that is to find and buy bio-plastics. These containers can be composted and returned to the material stream.

Petroleum Plastic’s durability is the principle property that makes it so valuable to industry and consumers. It is also one of its prime deficits. Plastic can be molded into any vessel desired. Coca-Cola and other companies have been selling the world water in many forms, sugared, plain, or juiced in plastic bottles. Those empty containers have to go somewhere, and the producers take no responsibility for them. They clog our waste systems and end up throughout the environment. The oceans now have immense gyres of plastic debris. Products that have very limited shelf life have containers that are made of a material that can never be broken down to its source components. This an obviously inappropriate use of this valuable resource.

Most of the plastic we encounter comes from petroleum feedstock. We all hear advertising claiming we have plenty of petroleum reserves for 100 years, or more. Natural gas proponents tout 250 years of reserves. I find these numbers horrific. That we accept these limits as reasonable shows how brainwashed we’ve become. Human culture has been on the planet for thousands of years. Who are we to burn and waste such a precious material feedstock at the rate we are? Won’t human beings want to make useful durable objects centuries from now? Who are we to deprive the future for the sake of profit and convenance today?

So I do all I can to buy recyclable plastic for those products I do still buy. Juices and most liquid products are also available in carton containers, and I seek those out. I also buy recycled plastic products when I can. My plates and cups are made from recycled plastic. Another favorite recycled plastic product is fleece. My blankets and jackets are all recycled polyester plastic. Patagonia is a company that is dedicated to using recycled plastics in some their products. (Unfortunately they are all foreign made, but that’s another post).

The other consumer choice that is now available to us is to seek out and buy bio-plastics. I first learned of these products at Rothbury Music Festival. This festival was dedicated to using sustainable practices wherever possible, including compostable cups. They published pictures of the cups being shredded, and eventually spread on the concert fields. Anytime we have a choice to use a grown product instead of a mined product, the grown product is typically the better choice. I’m seeing more use of bio-plastics in packaging and expect to see more.

The evolution of plastic and its place in human culture is one example of how we can influence proper material utilization by industry with our purchases. The development of bio-plastics came from consumer demand.

I know humans can develop solutions that respectfully and appropriately harvest and utilize the planets resources. Consumer demand is a powerful force.

Is anything made in the USA, anymore?

I have had a couple of recent successes in the ongoing quest to “Buy American.”

First is the discovery of Bonobos. Bonobo is a a men’s clothing manufacturer selling pants and other menswear made from well sourced fabrics here in the USA. And to top that, they’re damn good pants.
I’ve known about Bonobos for quite a while, partially because of my interest in the chimps that have the same name. I was keeping up on current chimp research and came across the men’s clothing link on Google. They hooked me with something like men’s clothes for men that don’t like to shop. When I first looked at their offerings they were limited, and I felt, fairly expensive. I didn’t need, or felt I could afford, $100 pants at the time.
Last month I saw an ad for Bonobos on Facebook promoting a clearance sale, so I took a look. Their selection had increased considerably, even just considering the sale items. I found a blue denim jeans on sale for $30 and went for it. They arrived quickly in a box with all sorts of how to return if unsatisfied info jumping out at me, but there was no need. They looked and felt good in my hands. Hefty fabric, rivets, deep pockets, sturdy zipper, these felt like a good piece of work. Putting them on confirmed my feelings, they fit well, and felt very comfortable. They still do now weeks later.

My other USA purchase success was inspired by one of my least favorite experiences, a TSA search at Stapleton Airport. I have been trying to avoid plastic and “disposable” anythings, for a while and lighters are a pernicious contributor to the waste stream I wanted to avoid. I had found a mostly metal, Ronson refillable butane lighter for a very reasonable price months ago and had been happy with it. It made it to Denver with me in my checked luggage! but on the way home I left it in my carry on, along with a “one hitter” and some rolling papers.