Friday, October 3, 2008

...Which they ate with a runcible spoon

The setting: It was an evening meeting of my city’s environment commission to review zoning changes. This was one of those grueling three-hour meetings that you just have to power-through, but at least the city provided us with some dinner from a local restaurant.
The players: Environmental activists, all. Two LEED-certified architects. A former environmental engineer and an environmental lawyer. Two green business gurus, a GIS expert, and one E.R. Dunhill.
The problem: As I looked around the table I noticed that we were all using plastic forks and knives, the ubiquitous accoutrements of carry-out cuisine. By the end of the evening, we would generate a heap of plastic and Styrofoam waste. There was no need for this and it just didn’t seem right.

The solution: I’d love to be able to write that the next day I happened to be leaving on a backpacking trip, and just happened upon the thing. Or perhaps I could recount that it was handed down from heaven, like Jean d’Arc’s sword. Instead, the mundane truth (the one that fits with things like three-hour zoning meetings) is that the image of my Ka-Bar Hobo Set simply appeared in my mind the moment I saw the plastic fork problem. I’ve carried the thing to every dinner meeting we’ve had since, not to mention a number of other occasions that would have otherwise produced more plastic.
For those unfamiliar with this marvel of technology, it’s essentially a pocket knife that includes a detachable folding fork and spoon. Campers have used them for eons, and something like them has been standard issue in armies from here to Timbuktu. It’s portable, reusable, and many models will go right into your dishwasher. Most importantly, it doesn’t produce recurring plastic trash.
It’s also not alone in the pantheon of quirky cutlery. We all remember the humble spork from elementary school. As it happens, Brunton makes a titanium version for grown-up backpackers, but there’s no reason that it can't follow you to work or campus. A friend of mine who taught in Australia for a while also tells of the Splayd, which is simply a Down Under variation on this theme. (You don’t have to turn upside-down to use it.)
If you’re not sure about carrying some weird piece of cutlery, if you’re just not ready to help me pretend that this is normal, you can always bring a plain old fork or spoon (or both) with you. The goal here is simply to reduce waste, particularly plastics, which are made from petroleum and don’t biodegrade for many human lifetimes. There’s no need to produce all of this trash when there are easy alternatives. Be the solution.

Author’s note: E.R. Dunhill is aware that “runcible” is a nonsense word and does not constitute orthodox nomenclature for sporks, splayds, or other hybrid utensils. However, since “spork” and “splayd” aren’t exactly the King’s English, the author doesn’t really care.
Also, E.R. Dunhill’s city government now primarily uses disposable cutlery made from potato starch, which is compostable. More on that in the future.

Image sources:
E.R. Dunhill
Brunton

2 comments:

truewonder said...

Love your thoughts, your awareness...how you are made to feel uncomfortable by your own admissions that something is not right with plastic...so instead of raising hell...you raised your own glass, well- your own dinnerware. Good for you and runcible is wonderful, thanks. I love to read others who explore common language by way of unexplored words. Huh?! Oh well, I know what I mean...
Take care.

E. R. Dunhill said...

truewonder,
Thanks for reading and commenting. I posted this and all of the posts in the my ongoing Be the solution series in response to friends, family, and acquaintances who expressed frustration about trying to reduce their impacts on the environment. BIA contributors and other readers have explored these tips a little further to make it clearer when they're a good idea, and when they're not.
I'm glad I've struck a chord with "runcible". I'm a word-lover myself. Stop-by any time.