Tuesday, November 19, 2019

Of Dubious Ecological Benefit

As I've mentioned before, one of my jobs in the library is to manage the lost & found. I usually try to keep an eye on items abandoned there and, if they're labeled with students' names, I contact the kids and try to reunite them with their property. Unfortunately, most stuff is anonymous and winds up sitting for ages until we throw it out or donate it to charity.

There's always an incredible quantity of unclaimed lost property in our school -- bins full of jackets, pairs of gym shoes, lunchboxes containing moldering food. It astonishes me. I wonder if kids are trying to get rid of jackets they don't like or lunches they don't want to eat?

I am especially frustrated by water bottles. So many kids (and possibly adults) lose their bottles and never find them again. I mean, these bottles are supposed to be an ecological benefit, eliminating the need for single-use plastic -- right? But that benefit seems wasted when the bottles themselves go unclaimed and eventually wind up in the trash or recycling.

At the moment, we only have five in the library...

...but here's the lost & found in the Middle School. You can't really tell from the picture, but there are nineteen water bottles/coffee travel cups/thermoses in and around that basket.

(See the one labeled "Dylan" at upper right? I realized right after I took this picture that I knew whose bottle it was. I took it back to my desk and sent the kid an e-mail yesterday. More proof that labeling works!)

Anyway, I posted this recent New Yorker cartoon beneath our lost-water-bottle shelf:


Frances said...

I am surprised that I have lasted so long without carrying and drinking water all the time!! 4 or 5 cups of tea seem to see me through a day quite nicely. Oh... and the odd bottle of wine !

Yorkshire Pudding said...

The Fuhrer (your library boss) certainly picked the right member of staff to deal with lost property! The same kids who mislay water bottles and other items probably claim to care about the environment, recycling and the future of the planet. Quite ironic really.

Ms. Moon said...

We are, let's face it-going to drown in a sea of plastic. That's all there is to it. I try to keep the perfectly fine small containers that yogurt and cottage cheese and things like that come in to keep leftovers in but there's no keeping up with it. I wash them and stash them and occasionally go through and sort them but so many end up in the plastic recycle bin and I don't think they even recycle them.
I have a shelf full of old reusable water bottles and there they sit, taking up space.
We use our Yeti's for water now and they may last a lifetime. Who knows?
But the bottom line is- we live in a disposable society and who cares?
We should all care.

The Bug said...

I'm on the green committee at work & we have a new initiative to not use single use plastic bottles of water at any of our meals. Instead, we purchased & asked people to donate their extra water bottles that can be cleaned in the dishwasher. We even had a blessing of the water bottles - ha! I got yet ANOTHER bottle in a swag bag at an event last week. They're insidious!

The Bug said...

I meant CHURCH - we did not bless water bottles at work. Hahahaha!

Catalyst said...

With the plethora of water bottles, seemingly multiplying by the minute, I wonder if they are really serving the purpose for which they were intended.

Red said...

My middle school had the same pattern for lost and found. The nature of the beast for looking after their property at that time in their lives seems to be disfunctional .

Anonymous said...

I was thinking I should just copy and paste Ms Moon's comment here. She said it all. We are drowning in our own waste. I have a fantasy about stores selling everything in bulk so we can reuse all of the plastic we have cleaned and saved.

Sharon said...

It's funny, I had a similar thought about ecological benefits yesterday when I had to drive 25 miles through heavy traffic to get to the emissions testing site to have my car tested.
As someone who keeps close track of all my property, it amazes me when people leave things like this and make no effort to find them.

Beth Reed said...

I have given up on trying to tame the amount of plastic in our household. Instead I am just committed to recycling/composting and give away stashes. It works but the water bottles have just about done me in lol.

I love the labeling and it really does make a difference. I would hope that the kids and adults take advantage and claim their belongings.

Have a awesome day!

Edna B said...

I am amazed too at how many folks never keep checking the lost and found area for their lost items. I wonder if an updated photo on the bulletin board might help? Just a thought. You have a wonderful day, hugs, Edna B.

jenny_o said...

The lost and found looked the same at my kids' elementary school back in the 90s. Winter jackets! Sports clothing! Boots and shoes and sneakers! Lunch boxes! The school would arrange to have it all spread out for parent/teacher visitation and even that didn't move much of it out. I can understand to some extent the kids at an elementary school forgetting or losing things, but their parents? To just ignore that their child's winter clothing is missing, and not even inquire? Blows my mind :)

Reusable water bottles, ah yes . . . this is an issue I foresaw long ago (not to brag, and yet I leave the phrase intact, lol) and now it's coming true. And there are many kinds of bottles that aren't recyclable, in whole or in part, whereas the one-use bottles are included in most recycling systems. I don't know what the answer to single-use-plastic-anything is, but I do know the first "answers" that are usually grasped tend not to be well-thought out. In my opinion, we have the same problem looming with the banning of single-use shopping bags. People are advised to use the cloth or heavier plastic reusable bags instead - but there are costs associated with those, too - greater manufacturing and transportation costs, water pollution cost when they are washed, no easy way to recycle them at the end of their life. Etc.

Okay, I'll stop now. Don't want to scare the children and pets :D

Beatrice P. Boyd said...

Hi Steve, I just dropped in from Miss Edna's Place. It is amazing how many unclaimed items there are in schools. last year we attended a function at a middle school and there were also bins with name-brand jackets and such. This is New England, so how do kids not know they've misplaced these clothing items?

Steve Reed said...

Frances: I know! I never carry water, even when I go on long walks, and I don't seem to suffer.

YP: OK, in case my boss is reading this, I want to point out that YOU called her "The Fuhrer" and I do not. LOL!

Ms Moon: It really is insane. I have the same problem with plastic take-out food containers. When we order Chinese it comes in a perfectly good plastic box, and I can't bring myself to throw them out -- and now we must have a hundred of them. We re-use about ten of them and the rest are in a bag in the closet.

Bug: They ARE insidious. How many water bottles does a person need?! I wonder if we should be emphasizing that it's just not essential to carry water everywhere. I mean, back in the '60s and '70s nobody did, and we all survived just fine.

Catalyst: No!

Red: It's just so funny that the students don't miss these items, many of which seem pretty important: textbooks, notebooks, winter jackets...

Robin: Some of it gets incinerated, I think, but of course that carries its own environmental costs.

Sharon: Exactly! When I rinse our recycling I think, here I am using all this water, and the energy to heat it (if it's warm), and is that REALLY doing anything good for the planet?

Beth: If I could send one message to parents it would be, put name tags in your kids' clothes!

Edna: I've tried so many things. I've put articles in the student newspaper, and laid out everything so it's highly visible. I really think some kids purposely dump stuff they don't like in the lost & found!

Jenny: The only real answer is to reduce the amount we consume in the first place. And that's hard when our whole economy is geared toward providing more and more stuff at less and less cost. (At least, less MONETARY cost.)

Beatrice: Welcome! And yes, that blows my mind too. If it's cold enough to wear a jacket to school, wouldn't you MISS that jacket when you go home? Wouldn't you look for it? I think so many people have so much stuff that they just don't bother. It's not that they're wealthy -- they're just drowning in belongings.

ellen abbott said...

every kid who comes in the library should be made to look through the lost and found before leaving. though the jackets can be donated to the homeless.