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Would You Like Some Styrofoam with Your Doughnut?

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How Chain Hotels Poison Us and the Environment

This post is a bit off my usual subjects, but I’m feeling pretty strongly about it so I wanted to share. Lately I’m traveling quite a bit, staying in typical mid-range hotels. I’ve been annoyed for a while now about hotel breakfasts.

I guess years ago hotels didn’t offer any breakfast, but now that they do, I wonder if we weren’t better off before. Have you taken a good look at what’s being served to middle-class America? We get sweet rolls, sugary cereal, donuts, apple juice from a machine, cardboard waffle dough from another machine, fake butter and if we’re lucky assorted premade eggs and meat patties.

What we eat is processed and sugary without nutritional value, clogging our arteries and sending our body into insulin overdrive.

Good morning, America.

Even worse is the uncontrolled usage of Styrofoam or expanded polystyrene foam plates and cups. Last month, I attended a week-long seminar near Memphis. The garbage cans in the breakfast room were overflowing with Styrofoam and plastic utensils. The same scenario happens in thousands of hotels and restaurants across the nation every day.

Styrofoam cup with coffee and two doughnuts

By cvilletomorrow (originally posted to Flickr as Spudnuts Sampler)

Why? Because it’s cheap! Saving a buck is the name of the game in corporate America, no matter what its long-term effects to our health and that of our children.

A Word about Styrofoam

  • The EPA and cancer research suspects that styrene is carcinogenic. 57 chemical byproducts are released when it is burned.
  • During manufacturing workers who are exposed to styrene develop acute health effects, including irritation of the skin, eyes, and upper respiratory tract, and gastrointestinal effects. Chronic exposure attacks the central nervous system, causing symptoms such as depression, headache, fatigue, and weakness as well as may cause minor effects on kidney function and blood.
  • In 1986 the EPA reported that Styrofoam was considered the fifth largest contributor of hazardous waste in the U.S.
  • Toxic chemicals leach from Styrofoam, especially when heated (think about your nice hotel cup of coffee in the morning), attack your health and reproductive system.
  • The production of Styrofoam releases hydrocarbons into the air where in the presence of sunlight they combine with nitrogen oxides, forming tropospheric ozone. Ozone is a horrific air pollutant that reduces lung-function, leads to chest pain, coughing, wheezing, and pulmonary congestion. Your beloved pet dog experiences permanent structural damage to its lungs.


What You Can Do

Why don’t we all request from our political leadership and every time we visit a hotel or restaurant that this practice is changed. How difficult is it to replace Styrofoam with recycled paper-based products? How much more does it really cost.

Why don’t we ask hotels for higher quality breakfast items like fresh fruits, granola and plain yoghurt?

Not sweet enough for you? There is always a doughnut shop around the corner.



Patience and Perserverance

In March 2012 I submitted a travel story to goNomad, a pretty well-known online travel magazine. At the time I was still into writing travel stories and I’d developed a longer piece about a trip we took with our friends, two American couples, to Germany. For a good two weeks I played guide as we visited Cologne, Tuebingen, the Black Forest and bicycled around Lake Constance.

The article for goNomad described a bit of unique shopping and a hike we took in my hometown, Solingen. After I submitted I didn’t hear back, so I got busy with fiction and never looked back. Just a few days ago I received an e-mail that my story is being published. It had only taken two-and-a-half years.

Read Germany: A Local’s Guide to Solingen now.

crest city of solingen

Solingen Crest