EARTH DAY CAROL
(With apologies to Charles Dickens)
By Torran Anderson
It was the night before Earth Day.
Plastic Bottle Scrooge tossed and turned in his bed. “I hate April 22nd!” Scrooge yelled. “All the tree huggers telling us to love the planet. It’s a waste of time!”
He heard a horrible clanking, as if someone were dragging a mound of something into his house.
A figure came through the door.
“Who are you?” Scrooge asked.
“Who am I?” the figure said. “I’m your old companion Styrofoam. Remember how we had plans to live forever?”
“Humbug,” Scrooge said.
“Hear me!” cried the ghost. “I wear the chains of waste. I will now live forever in a landfill stuck between an old hotdog and a used diaper. I’m here to warn you that you can escape my fate. You will be haunted tonight by three spirits.”
“I’ll pass,” said Scrooge, “I need to get my beauty sleep.”
“Expect the first, when the bell chimes one.”
The Styrofoam ghost floated out of the room followed by a mountain of trash.
Scrooge tried to sleep but he kept picturing the face of his old friend surrounded by stinky trash for eternity.
The bell chimed one and a black blobby looking hand pushed the door open.
“Who are you?” Scrooge asked, hiding under the covers.
“I am the ghost of plastic past.”
“Long past?” Scrooge asked.
“No, your past.” The black blob wrapped his hand around Scrooge and they sunk through the floor. “Come with me.”
They descended deep, deep underground through layers of rock and sand.
“I know this place,” Scrooge said. “This is where I’m from.”
“That’s right,” said the ghost, “you started out as oil. It took millions of years for you to form.”
Scrooge reached his hand out to touch the black oil.
“These are but shadows of what has been; let’s see what happened to you.”
They heard a drill crash through the ceiling and the oil was sucked up and taken to an oil refinery.
Scrooge watched as he was heated, cooled, and changed until he landed on the floor of a factory as plastic pellets.
“Do you know this place?” asked the ghost.
“Yes,” Scrooge said. He could barely believe his eyes as he was taken to a manufacturing plant and molded into the shape of a plastic bottle.
“Never forget where you come from,” said the ghost. “You are from oil. It is a non-renewable resource; we must reduce how much we use.”
Images flashed before Scrooge and he remembered everything. He recalled lying with millions of other plastic containers, being bottled, and, finally, staring out of a display window at a gas station.
The black blob vanished out of the door but his words lingered with Scrooge,
Scrooge collapsed in bed and fell into a restless sleep.
The clock struck two and he sat up in his bed.
“What a nightmare,” Scrooge said.
He looked next to his bed and jumped. A giant plastic bag wafted in the air.
“Do you not know me?” the ghost asked. “I’m the ghost of plastic present.”
“Get out of my room!” Scrooge yelled.
“There are some things I need to show you,” the ghost said. “Grab onto my handle.”
They lifted into the air and shot out through the wall. They flew over the city and at the edge of town they passed over the landfill.
“I know about the landfill,” Scrooge said, “That’s where my friend Styrofoam lives.”
“That’s not where I’m taking you,” the ghost said.
Bulldozers pushed mounds of dirt over the day’s trash. Scrooge shuddered and gripped the ghost’s handle.
Out they flew for miles and miles until the first hints of daylight shone on the horizon. They raced over the ocean.
The spirit waved his hand and an enormous shape glowed in the distance.
“What’s that island?” Scrooge asked.
“That’s no island,” the ghost said. The plastic bag looked closely at Scrooge, “That is trash.”
“I don’t understand,” said Scrooge, “how can that be?”
They flew over the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, a floating island of trash twice the size of Hawaii.
“Not all of our garbage goes into landfills, it also pollutes our environment.” He pointed to bits of plastic floating under the water’s surface. “Much of this trash could have been reused, but instead someone littered.”
They hovered just above the water. A sea turtle had its neck caught in a plastic six pack ring.
“Spirit,” Scrooge said, “tell me if the sea turtle will live. Say he will be spared.”
The ghost did not respond. He blew away in the wind but he heard the spirit’s voice in the breeze,
The chimes rang.
A solemn phantom, draped and hooded in a black garbage bag, stood before Scrooge.
The plastic bottle froze in terror.
“You must be the ghost of plastic future,” Scrooge said. “Of all the spirits, I fear you the most. I don’t want to see what will happen.”
The spirit didn’t answer but simply pointed with its boney hand.
The phantom led him to a factory where he saw a plastic bottle laying on a conveyer belt.
“Is that me?” Scrooge asked. “What’s happening to me?”
The spirit pointed as the plastic bottle was chopped into thousands of pieces and boiled up with other plastic.
“No, Spirit!” screamed Scrooge, crying. “I don’t want to end up like this. I will honor Earth Day in my heart and keep it all the year. I will live in the past, present, and future. The spirits of all three will live within me. Tell me I don’t end up like this.”
He didn’t want to see what was happening but he couldn’t look away.
Scrooge watched as he was turned into a fine thread and spun into a synthetic fleece.
“I don’t believe it!” Scrooge yelled. “I don’t have to live in the landfill. I don’t have to be litter. I can be made into something new.”
The ghost of plastic future did not speak. He turned from Scrooge and walked away. On the back of his cloak were three words,
Scrooge blinked his eyes and he was again in his own bed. He ran to the window and flung it open,
“What day is it today?”
“It’s Earth Day,” replied a girl.
“I didn’t miss it!” yelled Scrooge. “We can live differently. We can take care of the planet.”
He ran out the front door and sang at the top of his lungs. His words echoed down the street long after he passed.
A Note About Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Plastic is an amazing light weight material that can be made into all sorts of things. But when we use plastic items once and then throw them out, it creates a huge amount of waste. Every year in America we throw away 250 million tons of garbage! That is enough garbage to cover the state of Texas entirely with trash—twice. On average, each person in America makes 4.5 pounds of trash a day.
Just like Plastic Bottle Scrooge, each of us can make a difference in what we buy and how we throw it away. When we reduce, reuse, and recycle we:
- Save natural resources
- Save space in our landfills
- Save energy
- Reduce pollution
- Save money
The word reduce means to make something smaller. When we talk about reducing our waste, it means to make a smaller amount of garbage. Reducing can be as simple as using less paper napkins at a fast food restaurant. Buying products with less packaging helps us reduce the amount of waste we are creating. Rethinking if we really need everything we buy helps reduce how much we are consuming. Reduce is listed first in the three R’s because it is the most important one. When we reduce, we keep waste from happening in the first place. It is the most effective way to help us conserve our natural resources.
Often we use something once and then get rid of it. When we reuse something, we find ways of using it again. Our old clothes, books, and toys could be given away to friends or second hand stores. Some people are working to upcycle things that used to be thrown in the trash. Upcycling is when you use old materials to turn them into something new and even better. An old sheet of bubble wrap could be turned into a purse or a pile of old license plates could be made into a lunchbox. Instead of throwing something away we can find fun and creative ways of using it again.
Recycling is just one small part of rethinking how we use our natural resources. Almost half of the things we throw in the landfill could be recycled. Recycling is when we take something old and make it into something new. Materials, like paper, aluminum, glass, and plastic, are broken down and built back up to make new products. Some of these materials are recycled into the same material (glass is made into more glass) others are made into something different (plastic bottles can be turned into carpet, Frisbees, and synthetic fleece). When we make items from recycled materials we use less energy and natural resources than making things from scratch. Making products from recycled materials also reduces the amount of air and water pollution we create.
Earth Day was started in 1970 to set aside a day to appreciate and become aware of the environment. We don’t have to wait until April 22nd to celebrate the Earth. Each day we can reduce, reuse, and recycle.