Thursday, January 20, 2011

Come On Baby, Light My Fire

I came across something unexpected while doing yardwork at a rental recently.  Well, okay, I was standing in the rain watching my husband do the yardwork, but that's not really the point. 

It had been raining buckets for a few days here and we had a little flooding problem going on in the yard so my dear husband was digging a shallow trench along the fence line of the property.  That doesn't sound like an activity that would necessarily bring about the unexpected, and yet it did.  There, about a foot down, was a bright red disposable lighter.  Now, it's been awhile since any smokers have lived at this place and, even so, finding this lighter a foot down means that it's been there quite awhile.  Despite that, it was perfectly intact.

Disposable lighters first hit the scene in 1972.  Over the last 39 years, they've spread across the world, are available in retail stores from Target to Safeway to your corner Quik-E Mart, and are found in nearly every home in America.  Whether you're a smoker or not, you likely have some kind of disposable lighter in your home for lighting fires, candles, or your gas grill, right?  I'll admit it, I have at least two in the house right now.  But, when I saw that bright red lighter dislodged from the mud the other day, it got me thinking... How many more of those things are laying around in landfills across the world or even buried in our yards?  The ugly truth is that somewhere around 1.5 billion of them end up there... each yearBegin doing the math and the number becomes even more startling.

Of course, this all got me thinking about how to make more mindful choices, and I came up with three that are just so easy to make a part of our lives that it's a little embarrassing to me that I haven't done any of them myself...yet!

First is the good choice.  Use a refillable lighter.  Kind of the same concept as using a reusable coffee mug or water bottle.  The downside to this option is that you're still purchasing the butane fuel that you'll be refilling it with and much of the material used to make that lighter is plastic; both petroleum based products.  The upside, though, is that you still get the advantage of having a child safety feature when it comes to dealing with fire, you still have that long handle that keeps your hand away from the flame, and you're only buying one instead of several in a year's time. 

Next is the better choice, which is, of course, matches.  When it comes to matches, I like those sturdy stick kind.  They just seem so...well, sturdy.  They come in a long variety, too, that are great to use if you're lighting a fire.  It's also a great alternative to trying to wedge your hand down into a deep glass container to light a votive!  The only "issue" is that these sturdy little guys are sturdy because they're made out of wood and generally not recycled wood at that.

Finally, the best choice is cardboard matches; you know, the ones that come in a little matchbook?  Most are made from recycled paper, they're super inexpensive, and they're environmental impact is far less than their wood counterparts.  In fact, it's been said that, if all the cigarettes smoked around the world were lit with cardboard matches instead of wood, it would save over 5 billion trees each year!
So, as I've said before, when you commit to making more mindful choices for your life, you don't have to make the very best choice each time if it doesn't fit your lifestyle.  Any of the options above are a step in the right direction.  Personally, I'll probably end up using a combination of wood and cardboard matches.  For you the choice might be different, and that's okay.  Just find the one that makes sense for you and your family and, of course, live mindfully.

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