It seems so simple. We’re out of creamer. On your way in to work, please pick up some Horizon organic half and half for the coffee drinkers at the Green Garage who like their cup of java blonde. But why does it need to be organic (not dealing with that here)? Why half and half (not this either)? What is the other half (I was just wondering)? And, for me, the most important question: What are we going to do with the container when it’s empty? ??
The first store I tried didn’t have any coffee creamer at all. Granted, it was more a convenience outlet associated with a gas station, but still I thought that would have SOMETHING. The next store I tried was more of a party store, and they did have a section tagged for coffee creamer but it was empty. Unwilling to burn the fossil fuel for a single item to go to a bigger but out-of-the-way store, and now running late for work, I continued on to the Green Garage. How much extra fuel did I burn to shut off the car twice and restart it? What was the emotional toll from being late for work and empty-handed?
Once at work, I set about making coffee and opening up the building for the day. One of my colleagues, assisting with the start-up activities, poured herself a cup and then reached into the fridge for the creamer. BUSTED! I ran across the street to the Thistle Coffee House with our little cream pitcher. Brenda, the owner, saved my butt. I knew she would, and she didn’t even charge me for it. But then it hit me. Is this organic? Is it half and half? Does anyone else care, and will they notice? How much did I spill in my haste to get back to work?
Brenda’s salvation lasted all that day and part of the next. It bought me enough time to get ALMOST the right stuff, which I brought in the following morning. I say almost because while what I finally found at the big store that night was organic, it was half and half, and it was unflavored, but it was not Horizon brand. No one complained. Only two other people in the world knew about my failure, and now you, too. So far, so good.
For the first month or so, we only had a couple of cartons a week to worry about. Now that more and more people are occupying the building, the empty cartons are starting to add up. Horizon organic and most other organic brands of creamer come in waxed paper cartons that you either have to peel open like you did when you were a kid at the lunch table, or they have a little plastic screw cap on the top side. Sloan made me aware that RecycleHere actually does accept the cartons for recycling. Helen has a plan for plastic caps. The problem we’re having is, we don’t have a place to put the cartons until it’s time to take them for recycling, and they can smell bad if you don’t clean them out well (water use implications if you do, ickiness if you don’t). Complicating the matter even further is the fact that we only have so much space in the fridge, and the creamer needs to fit into the top rack so that we’re not wasting energy by digging around every time we open it. Really, everything can be recycled. But how many bins can you line up in a small shared kitchen? We think we’ve hit our limit. So the cartons go to the incinerator. At least there’s the waste-to-energy component. Our creamer cartons are heating someone’s building.