A Tale of Two Companies
I am on a mission—nay, a crusade—to rid the world of evil in the form of single-use plastics (SUPs). Up until now, my efforts have been focused mostly on eliminating SUPs from my own life, and lecturing anyone within earshot. Usually, when I inform someone I see using SUPs of the detriment they pose to our environment and human health, I get one of two responses: 1) "Oh Barbara, you're such a hippie!" Or, 2) "Well I hardly ever use SUPs so it's ok in this instance." I'm pretty sure both of these responses are why this emoji exists:
My response to number one: what does that even mean? Are you trying to tease me for being Earth conscious? Ouch (but not really). If that makes me a hippie, so be it... your grandchildren and great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren will thank me some day; that is, if they are not already living in some Wall-E type universe brought on by the devastations of SUPs. My response to number 2: I suppose that's all good and fine if your use of SUPs is minimal, but the fact that less than half of SUPs are actually recycled (and humans throw away enough plastic each year to circle the Earth FOUR times) leads me to believe that despite feeling good about your “minimal use” you are still contributing to the problem.
If there is anything I have learned in the past few weeks it is that using my voice for the greater good is not only within my power, but it is my responsibility as a citizen and as an inhabitant of this planet. Apathy and complacency just aren't going to work anymore—in fact, I'm pretty sure they never did. This should matter to you because it concerns the future of this one planet on which you are able to live. And there IS something you can do about it. I am writing today to tell you about my experience with two very different organizations regarding the use of SUPs and their responses to my outreach.
Let's start with company #1: The Chicago Cubs (and the operations teams at Wrigley Field). My hubby and I went to our first Cubs game together at Wrigley Field toward the end of the 2016 season. What a day! It was a blast. I am nothing if not a people-observer, and my lord, do you Cubs fans love your beer?! No judgement- summertime day drinking will forever be one of my own favorite pastimes. What actually caught my surprise more than the drinking was the fact that nearly every single beverage purchased at Wrigley Field was poured into a single-use plastic cup. I'm not just talking beer here- I watched the concessions sales teams walk through the stands and every time a beverage was purchased- from water to soda to beer- it was poured into a super-spirited Cubs single-use plastic cup. To make matters worse, when I was done with my own beverage I scoured the stadium in search of a friendly recycling bin. I was unsuccessful. Finally, I asked an attendant where such a bin could be found, only to be informed that Wrigley Field does not recycle! Here's this face again:
Seriously, the thought of an entire baseball stadium using and NOT recycling SUPs on a daily basis nearly ruined my entire vacation. A couple months later, I couldn't take it anymore and I sent this email to the Cubs Fan Services:
To the Cubs Organization:
I would like to start by sending you a heartfelt congratulations on your World Series win. I think the whole world was rooting for you.
Now it's time to root for the world.
My husband and I visited Wrigley Field for our first Cubs game in the 2016 season; as an avid baseball enthusiast, I was enthralled by the experience your ballpark and ball club offered to a couple of visiting San Francisco Giants fans. It was a great day and a great game!
There is one thing that left me shocked and a bit dismayed: I noticed that essentially every single beverage purchased at Wrigley Field gets poured into a single-use plastic cup. Not ideal. To add insult to injury, when I asked a stadium attendant where I could recycle my cup, he informed me that Wrigley Field does not recycle. My jaw dropped nearly to the floor. I can only imagine the amount of single-use plastic you go through in a day. Is it true that it is not being recycled?
Perhaps you are not aware of the detriment of single use plastics to our environment? I will keep it brief by explaining that it takes plastics about 500 years to degrade in a landfill; even then, plastics do not completely degrade, but rather breakdown to microplastics that absorb toxins which pollute the environment and all its inhabitants. Plastics are also well-known to be endocrine disrupters, especially affecting the adrenals in not only humans, but the many animals that are inadvertently exposed to plastics. The ever-rising statistics of plastic-related deaths in marine life is both alarming and quite dangerous for the sustainability our entire ecosystem.
Some great sources for further peer-reviewed science-based facts on this topic are the Plastic Pollution Coalition (plasticpollutioncoalition.org) and the Center for Biological Diversity (biologicaldiversity.org).
Now, more than ever, it is imperative to care for our Earth. I think you have an incredible opportunity to become a leader, not just in baseball but in conservation of this great planet.
I hope you will take this note to heart and reconsider your use of single-use plastics at Wrigley Field, as well as the importance of a recycling program. You have a voice much louder than mine and I would love to see you use it for the good of generations of Cubs fans to come.
Barbara Jean Fitzgerald
Within a day (kudos for timeliness!) I had already received a response, which looked like this:
Thank you so much for reaching out to the Chicago Cubs. We appreciate your congrats to us regarding our World Series win.
WE FINALLY DID IT!
Regarding your concerns about Wrigley Field recycling, we as the Cubs Organization understand the importance of being environmentally friendly. They don’t call us the friendly confines just for our fans and team! Wrigley Field does recycle as well as the front office where we can. With our 1060 Restoration project, we are working even harder to be as sustainable as possible. I have added the link below to our many examples as to how we are doing our best to be as sustainable as we can.
We thank you for your suggestion and will strongly consider it as you have stated, it is time to root for the World now.
Again thank you for reaching out and Go Cubs!
Sal Azam | Chicago Cubs | SEP Representative Wrigley Field | 1060 W. Addison St. | Chicago, IL 60613 w: 773-388-8271
Ok. Not the response I was hoping for, but a good start. Mostly, I appreciated that his response to me was personalized and that he acknowledged that he actually read my email. I looked over the link he sent me and was glad to see that Wrigley Field is working towards sustainability, but there was nothing on there about moving away from the use of SUPs, nor how the ones they are using are being recycled. I voiced this concern in my response. He very politically "dealt" with me because just one squeaky nail doesn't require a ton of attention. Can you imagine the impact we could create if every single one of you reading this reached out? If every single person I saw on Facebook excited about the Cubs World Series win asked the stadium to recycle? Seriously... feel free to copy and paste my own email. His contact info is above. There is strength in numbers.
In 2009 AT&T park, home of my own San Francisco Giants, diverted 1,750 tons of throwaways from landfills, bringing our stadium’s recycling rate to 75%. By 2020, they hope to be a completely waste-free facility, and they are well on their way to achieving it. So, the lesson here is that the San Francisco Giants are practically perfect in every way. But in all seriousness, this is proof that it can be done.
And why stop here? I'm not singling out the Cubs out of some personal vendetta, but because I was there to witness with my own eyes. Do a little research about your own baseball stadiums; hell, why stop there? Research your football, basketball, hockey stadiums while you're at it! Get in touch with them and demand better. You are their fans. They should aim to please you. Again, feel free to copy and paste my own email. I understand that completely eliminating SUPs from sports stadiums may not be entirely feasible but there is absolutely no excuse for not recycling.
Which brings me to company #2: Nordstrom. Has anyone ever had better customer service in retail?! Seriously, they are the best. Which makes the story I am about to tell all the more heartbreaking.
Over the past weekend, I was in Southern California for the absolute cutest girl in the world (my niece)’s 4th birthday. She received a treasure trove of gifts, including what seemed like an entire new wardrobe, mostly from Nordstrom.com. As these gifts were shipping from out of town relatives, they were all still in their original shipping packaging. When that cutie opened them, I noticed that every single item shipped from Nordstrom.com was individually wrapped in a single-use plastic bag. <Insert confounded emoji face here> When I commented on that, someone actually said “it’s so the clothes stay protected.” I graduated to this face:
Is keeping a shirt that my niece will probably wear three times before she outgrows it “protected” more important than protecting this planet we’re on, which we’re expecting to live for the next few lifetimes?! So as not to lose my fairy-godmother-in-good-standing stature, I zipped my expletive-filled mouth shut and immediately came home to write another email.
Basically, I reworked my email to the Cubs to make it fit; I told Nordstrom how much I admire and appreciate their dedication to customer service, which is truly unparalleled in my retail experience (you always set them up with praise first, right?). And then I told them how I noticed every item ordered from their website was wrapped in plastic. I gave them my most brief spiel on the dangers of SUPs and how seldom they are actually recycled. The stats on plastics being recycled (or not) is already abysmal, in my opinion; it’s even worse when looking specifically at single use plastic bags. It is estimated that a mere 1% (ONE PERCENT) of these bags are actually being recycled. I asked them how they planned to do better. This was the response I received:
| Dear Ms. Fitzgerald, |
Thank you for taking the time to reach out to us. Nordstrom is constantly working to make improvements in all areas of business to provide the best experience possible. I have passed along your feedback to the appropriate team for further consideration.
Sarah B. | Customer Care | Nordstrom.com | 888.282.6060
So, basically, I got a form letter back from them. This response didn’t even assure me that they read my email, let alone took it seriously. I felt so betrayed! Here is a company I have been loyal to pretty much my entire life (have you met my mother?) and they didn’t have anything more to say?
I’m generally not a one and done type of girl; if you didn’t already gather, I believe in the rules of baseball and three strikes are usually what I’m willing to give. Ok, Nordstrom. Strike one. I responded how disappointed I was in their “form letter” and their supposed lack of attention on this matter. I am still waiting for a second response.
Again, I am asking you to get involved. Send them emails demanding better. Nordstrom exists because people like you and me shop there. This means that our opinions MATTER. I’m not calling for an all-out boycott (yet); I’m asking you to light a little flame under their bottoms. Get them to wake up and see that environmental conservation is, and always will be, the height of fashion. Ok, maybe it’s not, but I for one am determined to make it so! Click here to send Nordstrom your own letter, asking them to reconsider the use of single-use plastics on practically every item that ships from their website. If after that, they still don’t change their shipping methods, it may be time for me to say goodbye to my first and only retail love-affair.
If the reasons why single-use plastics make me so enraged are still not clear to you, I am going to assume you’ve been living under a rock for the last few years (decades). May I suggest you spend a little time on a website called google? This rant is already well over 2,000 words and I actually have work to get back to. There is a bevy of fact-based (not to be confused with alternative-facts) information out there and you should familiarize yourself with it; not just for the good of our planet but for the good of your own health and your family’s.
These things matter. And its high time we all start speaking up for the things that matter. There is no action towards betterment that is too small. What matters to you is worth fighting for. Writing emails is so, so simple. I’ve provided you with all the contact information you need if you feel so inclined to reach out to the Cubs or to Nordstrom. But don’t stop there. It is so easy to research how to get in touch with a company who you think overuses SUPs and could be doing better. Don’t wait for me, or anyone else, to do it for you. BE THE LEADER YOU WISH TO SEE IN THE WORLD!
All my love,