Sunday, February 15, 2009

Somewhere Al Gore is weeping

"Be careful the environment you choose for it will shape you; be careful the friends you choose for you will become like them." William Stone

In late 2007, I decided that my 2008 New Year's resolution would be to try and live a more green lifestyle. I'm not a hard-core environmentalist by any stretch of the imagination. But, I drive a piece of shit Saturn that gets great gas mileage. We have energy efficient bulbs in all of our lamps. We risk a drowning and bathe all of our kids together when possible. I have reusable grocery sacks that I forget in the piece of shit Saturn often, and I reuse the plastic grocery bags that I do accumulate. We give our used ink cartridges and batteries to a volunteer group as a means of fundraising. And, I am happy to say, I started to recycle all of our bottles and cans.
There are still plenty of things I could be doing (or not doing) to help our Earth, and I'm working on that. Then there are those things that I am not working on. My disposable diaper consumption is probably the most blatant, shameful example of my disregard for the planet. For the twins, we use approximately 14 diapers a day. Add to that Will's 7 diapers per day, factor in for the goal of potty training at 2 1/2, and that's almost 20,000 disposable diapers that my family will have deposited in landfills. Pretty awful, but I am unwilling to make the switch to cloth.
In Massachusetts, I sometimes felt like nearly everyone was doing more for the environment than me. Not the case in Pennsylvania. The Mennonites live off the land, which is not to say that they respect the earth. When we first arrived, Brett and I were more than just a little bit shocked to hear that our household trash would be disposed of by burning. That's right. Fill up a bag, and into the furnace it goes. Shit diapers. Cardboard. Leftovers. I couldn't believe it. the only things we don't burn are metal, glass, and extra thick plastic that would take too long to burn. You know what happens with this stuff? They burn it outside later.
I'm not going to lie and claim to know exactly what happens to my household trash after we bring it to the dump in Hudson. Maybe it's incinerated. Maybe not. But something about throwing a huge plastic bag into a fire feels wrong to me. We expressed our concerns to Wayne, to which he responded, "What else would you do with it?". This is how they handle trash around here. The other day I drove by a fire. They had a metal chain link fence in it. What the fuck?
They also don't dispose of their hazardous materials in any sort of safe or environmentally friendly way. Brett happened upon a 55 gallon drum of motor oil which was partially destroyed, leaving the oil leaking into the ground. Which feeds our well. Which provides our water for cooking and drinking. He tried to explain to Wayne that there are probably better ways to handle used motor oil, and that he would maybe get in trouble for dumping it that way. "If anyone finds out" was Wayne's answer for that one. Okay, sure. Maybe he won't be targeted by the EPA and declared a Superfund site, but isn't he concerned about the effect it could have on the food grown right near it? Or the animals that graze on the same property? Or the fish pulled out of the nearby streams?
No, apparently not. The Amish that we've come to know have a sort of above the law, holier than thou attitude when it comes to things like laws, taxes, and municipal regulations.
From what I can gather by the haphazard placement of farms, houses, retail, and industrial properties, there are either no laws or no enforcement regarding zoning. Wayne and his family do not pull permits for ANYTHING. They operate a full fledged business in what is technically a residential and farm area, as do most of his neighbors. I am almost positive that the spray booth is not vented properly. But I can't control him or them. I can't worry about what everyone in Lancaster County is doing. I am here to train a few people and get the fuck out. Back to liberal, tree hugging Massachusetts.
But, my burgeoning environmentalist heart did break a little bit when Wayne told me he had burnt the tire I was going to reuse for Will's swing.

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