As we trod through the myriad stalls of Borough Market, my energetic enthusiasm for the culinary delights was counterbalanced by the weight of the Kappacasein grilled cheese, the Gujarati chana pakoda, the Shuk shawarma, and not a small ration of cider. To remain in forward, upright motion, I required a heavy dose of caffeine. Fortuitously, the Monmouth Coffee Company was proximate. Even more compelling, the shop was running a reusable coffee cup program that intrigued Violet with its environmentally friendly intentions. With a cappuccino and literature in hand, we strode back into the fray, stimulated and inspired.
While my generation assumes the reins of power, obtaining control and influence over the shaky trajectory of our civilization, our time is limited and perhaps is already beginning to wane. Surrounded by Violet and her compadres, I am heartened to see their curiosity, their creativity, and most of all their understanding that it is their mandate to effectuate change. Already, as they intuitively foster inclusivity, as they automatically recycle, as they embody strategies for strong mental and physical health, I can feel the axis of the Earth tilting in a favorable direction.
Violet has long been disturbed by the sheer enormity of waste produced even in our little townhouse complex. Extrapolated across the Valley, the state, the country, the world, the problem seems intractable, attacking it an impossible task for a young woman that just crossed the threshold into her eleventh year. Parental insight yields the strategy of breaking the issue down into smaller constituent parts, into more manageable morsels. But fatherly advice can only be absorbed so far due to a preteen’s natural inclination for “sighrolling” (a portmanteau of sighing and eye-rolling that we recently coined). It is external inputs that allow the lesson to take roost.
Monmouth’s strategy for reducing plastic waste was novel to us. A large percentage of its customer base orders drinks for takeaway, which normally would be in single-use containers, plastic or otherwise. Under its new plan, to-go drinks are served in reusable coffee cups made entirely out of plant material, with the lids and sleeves made out of oxygen and sand (otherwise known as silicone). Customers pay a five-pound deposit on top of their normal beverage charge to obtain one of these drinking vessels. If the customer chooses to keep the cup, as we did as a souvenir of our London sojourn, the deposit is forfeited. If the cup is returned in good condition, the deposit is returned, transaction neutral.
Violet immediately realized the potential of this small shift to make a much larger difference in waste produced and, even more importantly, in customer consciousness and behavior. Especially because this trip involved missing a decent amount of school, it was excellent that Monmouth’s exemplar program served as the foundation for Violet’s project in her Humane Education class. The students were tasked with identifying a societal problem and then formulating and describing a solution thereto. Capitalizing on her firsthand experience and her discussion with Monmouth’s proprietress, Violet was able to further research not only the depths of the plastic pollution crisis, but to counteract the depression of that information with a productive and feasible resolution.
Grateful for the educational community in which Violet is entrenched, I am not surprised that the project does not end at the theoretical. The pupils are being challenged to take the solutions and implement them in practical reality. Empowering these fifth graders to take a leadership role in their hometown is a perfect precursor to the impact that they shall leave upon the larger world as they age.
In a Valley blessed with a plethora of excellent coffee shops and baristas, Violet’s next step is to see if any or all will assume the mantle of environmental stewardship by adopting the reusable beverage container program. Interfacing with business owners, talking through the roadblocks and benefits, and advocating for her position will be invaluable experience for my not-so-little Goose. Do not hesitate to reach out to me if you or your business would like to take a meeting with my burgeoning entrepreneur and activist.