I feel like nobody cares about Earth Day. I went out to get some breakfast this morning, and when the barista gave me my large coffee and my bacon egg and cheese, instead of saying just, “Thanks,” I said, “Thanks. Happy Earth Day.” And he kind or just looked at me for a second, he couldn’t process what I’d just said to him, like it was clear that I was definitely the first person that had wished him a happy Earth Day, that he didn’t know how to respond. So I waited there for an awkward second, and then he took an extra one of those cardboard sleeves and put it around my coffee, even though it already had one. Now it had two.
Was that his way of telling me that he didn’t care about Earth Day? Like, for every happy Earth Day, he’ll go ahead and waste another coffee sleeve? I thought about getting into it with him, starting a whole, “What the hell man?” back and forth, like, “Are you wasting that sleeve just because I said happy Earth Day?” Like, was he just trying to show off how little regard he had for the planet, for waste, for unnecessary trash?
But before I had a chance to open my mouth, I thought, well, maybe he was just trying to be nice, in his own way. Because aren’t those sleeves made out of mostly post-consumer recycled waste? I think they are. At least, the ones at Starbucks are. This was a much smaller coffee shop. It wasn’t even a coffee shop, not really, more like a corner deli, the kind of deli that sells everything, coffee, sandwiches, cigarettes, toilet paper. I guess calling that guy a barista was a little much.
And these sleeves, they weren’t the cool eco-friendly rustic, brown, ragged-edged sleeves you see at most of the hip coffee shops downtown. No, these were glossy, and they advertised Stride chewing gum. So I was wondering if maybe the people at Stride were just giving them away to random bodegas around the city. “Here you go! Free sleeves! Free advertising!” A real win-win.
But, even a sleeve made out of non-recycled pre-consumer material, I guess that’s still much better than the old fashioned Styrofoam coffee cups you used to see everywhere. So maybe this guy, giving me an extra sleeve, that was his own way of expressing solidarity, like, “Yeah man, happy Earth Day to you too. Look how far we’ve come, as a society, as deli workers. You don’t see nearly as many non-biodegradable cups as you used to. All thanks to small changes, like these sleeves. Here, have an extra. Happy Earth Day.”
Of course, he was just kind of staring at me blankly, and so his response was mostly up to my interpretation. Still, in the spirit of Earth Day, I decided to give him the benefit of the doubt, I’d take his gesture as a friendly one, as an eco-friendly one. I thanked him again and went home.
But sitting there in my kitchen, I couldn’t get the extra sleeve out of my head, regardless of the potential positive intentions. It was just such a waste. I didn’t need it. Here I was, going around to random delis, trying to spread some Earth Day cheer, and I was just contributing to the lack of respect for Mother Earth.
I went outside and I tried to make a tiny little potted plant out of the sleeve. I filled it with dirt and planted an heirloom seed I bought on the Internet. Later that day, it started raining, and the sleeve basically disintegrated after being thoroughly soaked. All of the ink from the advertisement leaked out, and I could hear the planet softly weeping, “Rob! Why would you do this to me? All of those inks, those chemicals, what did I do to deserve any of this? And on Earth Day? Really?”
So yeah, I just, I can’t, every year I try to make Earth Day something special, and every year it’s a total bust.