One woman’s mission to reduce disposable plastic in our lives
by Bernadette Simpson
This week marks the 20th anniversary of my high school graduation, the day I stood in the shadow of the Giza pyramids and accepted my diploma printed on papyrus paper. On that morning, I never dreamed I would be living in Egypt again, let alone in Dahab. But here I am, having called Egypt home ever since — Cairo, for many years, and now Dahab, where my husband and I have been living for the past seven years.
But no matter where I was in the world right now, I’d be writing about the same problem – trash — because it’s not just the streets and shores of Dahab that are littered with rubbish. Travel to coastal cities around the world and you’ll find many of the beaches in much the same state. Cairo and other places in Egypt are also dealing with their own problems of waste management.
There always seems to be a lot of talk about the obstacles we face in dealing with this problem: Garbage collection services provided by the city government are inefficient. Dumpsters are sparse and broken, causing the trash to be scattered along the road by the wind or hungry goats and sheep. The blame often gets laid on the people in charge of dealing with our trash; rarely do we take the blame ourselves.
Let’s stop for a moment and consider what we, as individuals,can do without the assistance of waste collection services, whether they are private or public. Because if there’s one thing we can control, it’s the amount of trash we each produce. So if each of us “throws away” less rubbish, there will be less rubbish for the wind to blow around, less rubbish for the goats to scamper through, less rubbish finding its way into our seas and deserts, and less rubbish piling up in the streets waiting for someone to clean!
If you’ve participated in a clean-up event or had a closer look at the piles of rubbish lying around, you’ve probably realized that a lot of our trash is plastic. There are a lot of environmental and health problems associated with plastic that we will discuss later, but for now, let’s just agree that we need to do something about the sheer amount of it.
Learning how to use less disposable plastic is something I’ve been working on personally for the last few years and several months ago I began the Don’t Mess with Dahab blog to share with others what I’ve discovered. Now, I’ll be contributing biweekly to the blog here on Egypt Today Magazine and I’ll be sharing ways that each of us in Egypt can reduce our use of disposable plastic. While I won’t be able to suggest specific stores, restaurants, or companies like I do on Don’t Mess with Dahab, I will be sharing ideas for alternatives to single-use plastic. As we’ll see, these strategies will not only be better for the environment, but also better for your health and oftentimes less expensive. I am no master; I have not rid my life of disposable plastic 100% — and I’m not sure if I ever will — but I do “throw away” a lot less than I did five years ago.
It is my hope that my blogs will help us all become more aware, more responsible, and more pro-active when it comes to our health and the health of our environment.
And if you’re wondering where the title of my blog, Don’t Mess with Dahab, comes from, well, that’s the Texan in my heart, who remembers with fondness the Don’t Mess with Texas anti-litter campaign. Sponsored by the Texas Department of Transportation, the campaign was quite successful and over the years the phrase ingrained itself into Texan culture. It’s a matter of pride. And while my blog is not focused on litter exactly, I called Texas home for nine years of my life and the phrase Don’t Mess with Texas just puts a smile on my face.
So let’s all be proud of our home, native or adopted, and please—Don’t Mess with Egypt.
Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle
Bernadette Simpson is the author of the field guide Wandering through Wadis: A nature-lover’s guide to the flora of South Sinai and An ABC Escapade through Egypt. To learn more about her campaign to reduce disposable plastic, visit Don’t Mess with Dahab at:
WordPress Blog: http://dontmesswithdahab.wordpress.com/