The Climate Crisis — It’s asking us to cut out our dependency on fossil fuels. Not only the extraction, transportation and combustion of these fuels, but also our dependency on all the stuff made from fossil fuels — think plastics, especially single use plastics such as the ubiquitous water bottle.

Last week, when I went to the scheduled meeting of the Philadelphia City Council, I was met with the security team insisting I empty my refillable water bottle. This is something I carry to all public meetings. One, because I like staying hydrated. Two, because I don’t believe in paying for water. Three, because our waterways are clogged with the remnants of our single use plastic addiction. And four, to encourage conversation on the subject.

Settling into a seat at Council chambers with my now-empty container, I noticed other visitors sipping their coffee from styrofoam cups, and drinking water from single use water bottles. Why was I singled out? Not as a role model, but as a trouble-maker who couldn’t read the “No Food or Drink” sign? A sign that no one present was able to explain the reasoning for.

photo: Meenal Raval

Yes, there was a water station inside Council chambers, but beside this were, again, single use plastic cups. Cups which I, and many others, will not drink from because they’re made from plastic.  Indeed, the local Sierra Club is forming a no-plastics committee to ban single use plastics in Philadelphia. The Weavers Way Environment Committee has a Plastic Reduction Task Force; see here, here and here about what they’re up to, plus their petition to the co-op’s main supplier to switch to reusable pallet wrap. The Trash Academy, a project of Mural Arts Philadelphia, is working on a plastic bag ban in Philadelphia, in collaboration with Clean Water Action and the City of Philadelphia’s Zero Waste & Litter Cabinet.  

Outside Philadelphia, there’s Narberth making some news:

And in West Chester, the mayor pitches plan to limit use of plastic bags at checkout. Across the pond, the European Parliament votes for ban on single-use plastic.

Our PHL Council could start by

  1. photo: Meenal Raval, location: 18th Floor, 1515 Arch St, Philadelphia

    Replacing plastic cups with paper cups at the water cooler inside Council chambers. 

  2. Replace the water cooler with a water bottle refilling station, like at most schools and libraries, which would be connected to city water instead of needing 5 gallon water jugs to be trucked in.
  3. Encourage the security team to block single use bottles from entering the Council chambers.
  4. Have each Councilmember sport a refillable water container, building on the effect of appropriate role modeling, showing how easy this could be. 

Want to help with this effort? Contact me!