Sunday, September 20, 2009

To Litter or Not to Litter...

During my 3 year tenure in Eugene, Oregon, I lived amongst sleek BMWs and retro VW Bugs. Amazingly enough, both lived together in respectable harmony. Neither disparaged the other; there was an overwhelming sense of individual pride and respect for each other and their home: Eugene specifically and the west coast generally.

Peace reigned and recycling was king. I was working for Albertsons at the time and during my 3 years in Eugene, I was dry. Yes ladies and gentleman, Kristyn Lier the Beer Ambassador extraordinaire was a non-drinking fool living in the heart of craft beer country. Brewpubs stretched as far as the eye could see and beyond. I knew at any given time half a dozen home-brewers and though they tempted me with their liquid gold, I stayed strong. What stood out above all else was a humble respect for Mother Earth and boisterous enthusiasm towards social responsibility, along with great beer of course. Recycling was huge, especially the abundant supply of empty craft beer vessels that one could take to the bottle and can recycling machines scattered throughout the city. These machines were a work of modern wonder, making recycling a snap and both personally and financially rewarding.

Oregon imposes a bottle deposit which was wholly redeemable at these recycling machines. Once the munching and crunching of said bottles and cans were done, you could redeem your ticket for cash. Pretty sweet, right? Self-sufficient, responsible, and a matter of pride, Euguenites reveled in their diversity of beer, food, arts, culture, and outdoor spelunking.

Despite best efforts otherwise, I have very few memories of litter defacing the streets, parking lots, campsites, trails, and so on. What few bottles and cans I saw were of the macro variety and not of the craft/import beer camp. I saw less litter there then I do here in Florida, but in general there was also less quaffing of macro beer in Eugene, Oregon. I’ve been back in Florida for almost 10 years now and in Vero Beach specifically for about 3 years. Since that time, I have watched the craft/import beer scene grow by leaps and bounds, and it’s only getting better.

As the Beer Ambassador, I have obviously forsaken the drylands for more prosperous wetter pastures, but I do so for the slow pleasures of aroma, taste, and good social company. I’d bid farewell to the days of all-night binge parties, but I fairly avoided that path as much as possible. My abstinence of quaffing but not of interest taught me that all good things come to those who are willing to wait and to appreciate all at the same time.

On the opposite end of slow appreciation is immediate indulgence, a world that macro beer perfectly inhabits and dominates. Gone is the interest of slow pleasures, welcoming in the fast, faster, and fastest route to inebriated moronity. Drinking in the fast and tasteless lane deems the drinker far too bothered to pause for just one moment along their road to inebriation to consider recycling their bottle or can. At the very least, to properly dispose of it in a garbage receptacle somewhere.

Nope. No can do.

This stark contrast between the craft/import beer drinker and the macro beer drinker is evidenced by every single bottle and can of malt liquor and beer I see carelessly tossed aside. It would require far more time than I have in any given day to scour my hometown and properly dispose of their waste. After all, why should the macro drinker have to clean up after themselves? That’s neither their job nor their concern. Environmental and social responsibility is for lame-o wussies, pansies, and koala huggers. The macro drinker is obviously far too important to accept such simple selfless responsibility.

What sounds extreme really isn’t that far from the truth, though even the greatest truths include dashes of fiction. In Oregon, Florida, and any state inbetween where I have observed in one social sphere both the craft/import culture and the macro beer culture, time and time again the main culprit of littering and general disregard for their environment are the macro drinkers. Sometimes I even stumble across empty cardboard cases.

Enter my question in point:
Why do craft/import beer drinkers choose environmental and social responsibility while macro drinkers choose to blatantly disregard, ignore, and even scoff at it?

Ultimately, it boils down to the individual; while generalizations and demographics are just that, there is also truth to be found within. The average craft/import beer imbiber is a person of various social standings, and what they have in common is a greater appreciation for the craft of real beer which leads to a greater sense of social, economical, and environmental responsibility. Our world is the world of our children, our children’s children, and our children’s children’s children. The decisions we make today, tomorrow, and beyond hold a greater value than the temporal immediacy of right here, right now. Of course, right here and right now is enjoyably pertinent, but there is a burgeoning appreciation for the long picture. Embracing craft/import beer ultimately leads to a deeper sense of gratification and responsibility that inevitably works its way into the very fiber of your being.

Craft/import beer and the people who drink it choose to be consciously aware of where our daily needs come from and where they are taking us. Recognizing that careless detachment from life’s responsibilities and pleasures is not a healthy sustainable path. The Slow Food Movement is an excellent example of this, along with the continual growth and popularity of tapas style foods, slider portions, and natural products.

Less is more.

For those who are willfully active in the world of macro beer, there is no larger picture, just a larger case to down faster. Empties and trash are nothing more than sidewalk decorations and toys for nature’s animals to play with. More is better, no matter if the more is of such little standing and standards they bear little resemblance to their namesake.

No matter how many times I stop and look, it will always be a macro bottle or can I see lying stranded somewhere other than the recycling bin or, at the very least, the garbage. Each time I stop and look (and properly dispose of) the macro litter, I ponder this puzzling contrast between the craft/import quaffers who accept their responsibilities and the macro beer drinkers who dismiss them. While this isn’t meant as a missive for the macro beer drinker to abandon their beer of choice, it is a reasonable request for the macro beer drinker (and brewers) to share their burden of responsibility.

(original written work by Kristyn Lier. plagiarism is not tolerated)

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