Like many writers who will converge on Minneapolis in April for the annual Association of Writers and Writing Programs (AWP) Conference, I’ve been perusing the immense schedule and planning my trip. (Last year, a friend suggested that before sitting down at the computer to select from the 20+ events in each time slot, I should pour a glass of wine and fortify myself against FoMO (fear of missing out), realizing that I can’t be in more than one place at a time, and I must pace myself during the potentially overwhelming weekend conference. This was wonderful and necessary advice.)
So many choices to make! One thing is sure: I’ll bring along the reusable water bottle that I bought before last year’s conference.
A couple months ago, I wrote this email to the AWP:
Dear AWP,I brought a collapsible refillable plastic water bottle to last year’s conference. I am curious whether AWP would take a lead in decreasing plastic waste by encouraging this year’s attendees to do the same. Maybe this is already a plan, but I thought it would be great if the organization would make an overt recommendation to save on some plastic waste. Thinking of the many thousands of water bottles it might save, it seems worth considering. Maybe you could even offer BPA-free AWP bottles for sale! Here’s the one I have:
Thanks, and happy new year!
I didn’t get a reply from AWP, but I imagine that 1) this one query would easily lost in a sea of emails as they plan this colossal event—I think there were an estimated 12,000-15,000 people at the Seattle Convention Center last year; and 2) AWP might not be willing to endorse this notion, because it would lead to site vendors making less money, selling fewer bottles. Financial relationships can be complicated, and compromising.
I don’t want to think about how many plastic bottles went into trash and recycling bins at the Seattle conference. (Here’s a helpful post about the problem with plastic bottles.) Recycling is good, but eliminating the waste in the first place by reusing is much sexier and more gorgeous for our earth, and for all living and sentient beings. (Let me be clear: I am not accusing AWP of ignoring how we are trashing the planet. And I understand they would need more than three months to arrange for reusable AWP-swag bottles.)
Meanwhile, let’s go guerilla-style. Let’s make this idea go viral. As I see it, if you are human, and thirsty, and will be attending AWP (or going anywhere that’s not near a source of potable water), you have these options:
- Avoid drinking any water. (Some writers might want to perpetuate the stereotype that all we do is sit around and drink coffee, or booze!)
- Drink water only from fountains. (Caution: You might get thirsty walking around looking for water.)
- Buy a plastic bottle at the airport or convention center, and refill it at a water fountain.
- Buy a reusable bottle and use it. (The Vapur bottle I have is really useful. True, it’s plastic, but it’s lightweight, BPA-free, and collapsible. It’s easy to pack it empty, pass through airport security, and then fill it at a water fountain. It even folds up into a cute little package. Random benefit: Last year, my friends and I, so eager to catch up at AWP that we were talking all over each other, used the water bottle as a talking stick at the dinner table!)
Wouldn’t it be cool if AWP were to sell BPA-free water bottles in LA in 2016? Meanwhile, in Minneapolis, let’s party like it’s 1999 and celebrate the purple Prince, but not forget to be green!