The Day My Local River Got Choked in Plastic is the Day etee Was Born...
Kayaking flooded spring rivers is magic - until you get hit by a big sheet of ice. So one spring, while carefully dodging ice blocks I got tripped up... in plastic garbage. Next thing you know I was upside down.
It kinda killed the mood.
But what I didn’t realize, is plastic's more than ugly trash...
From the contact lenses I put in my eyes each morning to the headlamp I read with each night - plastic is everywhere.
Even my kayak is plastic...
So I went on a mission and quickly learned that of the 300 million tonnes we make each year, most is used once then thrown out, only 6% is recycled and plastic doesn’t decompose or biodegrade, it just becomes smaller and smaller plastic particles.
But - for many - the real worry is the growing evidence about the chemicals plastics leach into our bodies.
“There is abundant research that links BPA and phthalate exposure to such human health concerns as deformities of the male and female genitals; premature puberty in females; decreased sperm quality; and increases in breast and prostate cancers, infertility, miscarriages, obesity, type 2 diabetes, allergies and neurological problems, like attention deficit hyperactivity disorder.” (B Fellman. Yale's Journal of Forestry & Environmental Studies)
And BPA is just the tip of the iceberg.
"After years of campaigning, health advocates finally convinced many household product manufacturers to remove the chemical Bisphenol A, known as BPA, from items like receipts, plastic bottles and the lining of tin cans. And as a result, it's not hard to find products labeled "BPA-free." But it turns out the chemicals used to replace BPA may have nearly the exact impact on the human body — hormone disruption — as BPA, according to a new study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives." (Time Magazine)
And despite the growing evidence (check out this article from Harvard's School of Public Health) few regulations have been imposed:
"...in a situation reminiscent of the early days of the tobacco and health debate, there’s no smoking gun—no accepted cause-and-effect mechanism." (B Fellman. Yale's Journal of Forestry & Environmental Studies)
And some say Big Tobacco is to blame.
"Since the 1990s, a vast body of research has linked BPA and other chemicals found in plastics to serious health problems, ranging from cancer to infertility. But the industry—often using tactics pioneered by Big Tobacco as it sought to bury evidence about the health risks of smoking—has managed to shield these substances from federal regulation." (Mother Jones)
So without taking you too far down the rabbit hole, I'd seen enough to convince me something isn't right. But given how hard it is to escape plastic - just try to go a day without it - I wasn't sure where to start, so I didn't really do anything.
Which left me feeling a little like this guy...
Until I came across some natural preservatives
Remember King Tut? Well, turns out his Ancient Egyptian brothers used beeswax and coniferous tree resins to preserve his body for nearly 3,000 years.
“Coniferous resins, the scientists [Stephen Buckley and Richard Evershed, of the University of Bristol] explain, can slow microbial degradation, whereas beeswax has antibacterial properties and serves as a sealant.” (Scientific American)
So it wasn't long before I convinced my old friend Pj to join me in figuring out how to apply those same principals to food preservation. We set up shop in Pj's basement and started melting bees wax and experimenting with different tree resins.
And that was enough to light my fire.
The first day, when smoke started billowing out of the basement, Pj ran downstairs in a panic - apparently beeswax burns - who knew?
With that initial test out of the way, I started adding essential oils, followed by a trace amount of non-gmo soy wax and some coniferous tree resin. Next I took some organic cotton cloth and infused my mixture right into it.
After more than a year of testing, we had Developed a reusable - natural & biodegradable - way to keep food as fresh as plastic
From there the possibilities seemed endless. I started turning the wraps into sandwich and produce bags, which led me to waxing organic canvas and making lunch bags, market bags and totes to carry everyday items.
I was pumped. It was exciting.
Then one night, my wife Mandy turned to me and half jokingly said “Guess what? I’m pregnant again!”
Quick backstory. Mandy had just gone back to work after a year of maternity leave with our first born - Joe. Sure, we had ‘talked’ about having another kid... maybe, in 4 years.
"I really doubt it" she replied. "But I am a little late..."
Denial is a beautiful thing.
Jump ahead a few weeks and BAM! - we were about to have 2 kids under the age of 2, Mandy would be on mat leave again - and I would need to support us all.
You see, up to this point, I had always balanced passion and pay check.
I'm a drummer and between kayaking and music, I've toured the continent from tip to tail. Somehow I've always made it work. But with another baby on the way I wouldn't be able to continue on this part-time path, I'd either have to find a full time job or go after etee in a big way.
And I wasn't ready for either...
At which point my Dad casually noted “nothing focuses the mind like a hanging”.
Yes, but he had a point. And this particular hanging made me think of a Louis CK quote:
"Having kids, you don't escape from it. It's a big, stressful, exhilarating, real-life thing. And it's permanent. You have to grow up."
But I quickly realized that growing up is less about letting go of dreams and more about taking action to realize them. So that's what I did. And I probably wouldn't have made the leap if Huck John Reble - hadn't come along.
Thanks for taking the time to read my ramblings. If you'd like to read more, why don't you check out our blog?