Today was predicted to be a rainy one -- and was -- so I headed out earlier today to Greensboro to get a couple of volunteer hours in at Deep Roots, a health food co-op of which I'm a life member (to let you know how truly dedicated to this healthful lifestyle I am, right now I'm sipping on a beer and last night had an anchovie pizza for dinner). I try to get four or more hours of volunteer time there each month under my belt. I help out and still get a 10% discount on things, to boot.
Today I got another glimpse, at a basic level, of how much Americans waste. Deep Roots has an arrangement in which we are all encouraged to bring our own shopping bags. I'm very good on that part, using a reusable cloth bag with handles (Orlando Futon Show, 2000). For those who don't have a bag, the Deep Roots clerk will sell them an old disposable plastic bag, inherited from supermarkets, etc., for 10 cents each. We all donate in our old bags, collected from regular shopping gigs where we don't think to provide our own bags (Target, etc).
Today my job was to sort through the hundreds of donated plastic bags with little handles ("would you like paper or plastic?"from various supermarkets) and pick out the best ones (without holes in the bottom, torn, "icky," etc.) this was a truly revealing experience, as the donations came from individuals or families in which these plastic bags were collected in large, yard-waste-size plastic bags. So I was dealing with maybe 100 per load. I spend two hours inspecting them and turning them inside-out. That lets the clerk know I've inspected them. Then I put them into an inside-bag and tie it up. That lets the clerks know each stuffed bag is ready to be placed by the cash register and used. The bad bags can be put in a recyling bin a couple of miles away, according to a Greensboro friend more familiar with the inner workings of Greensboro recycling than I am.
Deep Roots uses about 500 of the old bags per day, so they collect 10 cents a bag, which helps the co-op. But the "making an old plastic bag reusable" is a time-consuming, space-consuming inconvenience, overall, for Deep Roots, so the co-op is going to phase out the old bag arrangement and start offering and charging for new bags -- while stepping up the effort to encourage people to use their reusable cloth bags. A sign campaign to promote reusable bags is in the works.
I spent probably 45 minutes going through one bag trash bag, sorting out the good shopping plastic bags. And this was from one family. Imagine how many families there are out there, either collecting these bags or simply throwing them away into a landfill. I'll bet we use billions of these disposable plastic bags a year. That's a lot of wasted petroleum.
One perk to being a volunteer at this co-op is that I can occasionally get some free food --- produce or baked goods that have passed their expiration date or are too "ripe" to be on the shelves for customers, but might still be good if I froze it quickly for future use. That's what I did today. I got a loaf of expired wheat bread, which I immediately put in the freezer at home. I'll pull out a slice at a time and nuke it, as needed.
Deep Roots attracts a young, "unrooted" roster of employees, for the most part, except for the geezers like me. They may be 21-25, recently out of college or finishing up, and will work there as they prepare for their next chapter of life. So, I'm always hearing of interesting music or authors or trends that are popular with this demographic. They eventually move-on to places like Durango, Colo., Portland, Oregon, or San Francisco. Today while sorting through plastic bags, a mind-numbing exercise if there ever was one, I read postcards on the wall from these people. One card was from "Laura and Kevin" now living at 10 7th St, Arcata, Calif. I've been to Arcata. It's a nice little college town on the rocky northern Calif coast near the southern Oregon coast and Eureka and McKinleyville, Calif. You'll be happy to know that Laura and Kevin are doing fine.
My next step was to UNC-Greensboro's Weatherspoon Art Museum, of which I'm a member. It's free to get in and wander around. On a rainy Sunday afternoon, it satisfies my artistic desires and gets me out of the house (so I don't have to clean it). What I like is that every time I visit, there's something new cooking.
Today I stumbled across a real trove of Picasso "pochoir" works (colorful stencils). About 58 years ago, sisters Etta and Claribel Cone, part of the Cone textile dynasty (big in Greeensboro and makers of denim for blue jeans) donated 16 pictures from Picasso to the Women's College in Greensboro (now called UNC-Greensboro) and 200 works from a variety of artists. The Weatherspoon handles these works. The Cone sisters met Picasso and a bunch of others in Paris during 1916-? period of art activity over there.
Many of those Picassos were on display today. These stencils and drawings came from around 1916-1919 period and were derived from Picasso's work on the "Ballet Russes" or Russian Ballet. During that period, the head guy (I didn't jot down his name) enlisted Picasso to create the sets and costumes for this ballet. Erik Satie was in charge of the music; Jean Cocteau, poet, wrote the story line. These are big names, so, between those three alone, this was probably quite a production. The works at the Weatherspoon featured themes dealing with the Harlequin character (clown), Pulcinella (the ancestor of the Punch character) and several abstract "guitar on table with musical score" renditions.
The Weatherspoon is free, so I consider it a really good resource.
Next Friday is a lecture by Lucas Gray, the storyboard illustrator for "The Simpsons" cartoon series.
This coming Tuesday is a lecture by a Prof. Headington of UNC-Greensboro who will discuss Michael Pollen's book "The Omnivore's Dilemma," which deals with the sources of our food. Pollen's book brought to our attention that our fruits and veggies are being shipped thousands of miles to us. This revelation has really kindled an interest in the Italian-originated "slow food" movement (buying locally, as opposed to 'fast food'). Prof. Headington is a big proponent of slow food.
After Weatherspoon, I hit the local REI co-op (Recreational Equipment Inc.), of which I'm a member. They were having a big sale, and I'm trying to gradually replace my polyester-based wardrobe with more natural fibers, like linen and cotton. I'm sure people in India and elsewhere would get a chuckle out of that, as that's what they've been doing for centuries. I did pick up a nice linen/hemp shirt for our steamy summers.
- Deep Roots and Picasso