I truly believe that it is possible to learn something from everyone you meet. It might not always be something positive, but you can learn something none the less. I try to keep an open mind when I have a conversation with someone, and I realize that I don't always know the best way to do something. (Unless I'm talking to my husband, in which case I am always right.)
I wish the US would take this approach and look at the way other countries resolve some issues. I think that any time someone (or something, as a country), thinks that their way is the only way, and that they know better than everyone else, you start to lose something. Now before you start throwing daggers at me, I know that there are a lot of things we do well here, things that are worthy of emulation. And I also know that places like the UK have some issues that I'm glad we don't have to deal with here. These are just the things I think we could change in the US and be better off for it.
The entire 10 days we were in Scotland, I think I went into two bathrooms that had paper towels. All of the others had hand dryers. Now before you say it, I hate those things too. In fact, I've stopped using them since they never get my hands dry. Lately when I am in an airport restroom, or any other restroom for that matter, I've been noticing the mountain of trash we create by using paper towels. We use an enormous amount of landfill, not to mention trees, to dry our hands, when they air dry (or dry on our jeans) just as well. I'll admit, when it's 10 degrees outside it's not very comfortable to go outside with wet hands. And it is annoying when it's cold and flu season and I'm trying not to touch the doorknob to get out of the restroom. I've started to look at these as minor inconveniences compared to how much waste is generated using towels.
Another one of my personal pet peeves is our use of plastic bags for groceries. In the UK the majority of people I watched go into the supermarket had a reusable bag. In the US it's just the opposite. Sometimes when I hand the clerk my cloth bag, they put something in a plastic bag and then put it in the cloth. It wouldn't be so bad if the plastic bags weren't paper thin, because then the bag boy wouldn't feel the need to give me 6 bags for the 8 items I've purchased. If I forget to take my cloth bags and ask them to pack it heavy to use less bags, they just double bag it.
My sister in law was telling me that there has been a major "anti plastic bag" campaign the last year in the UK. They have managed to cut the number of plastic bags used in half, I can't remember the exact numbers but it was in the millions. Every shop I went into, they asked if I needed a bag before they just mindlessly shoved my chewing gum into a bag I didn't need.
Contrast that to the states, where the plastic bag industry just spent millions to successfully stop an anti plastic bag law in California. Do I think it should be a law that you can't use plastic, probably not. But unfortunately, some people need it to be mandated to do the right thing.
I was listening to a radio show last year, and the host was talking about the island of plastic waste floating in the Pacific that is twice the size of Texas. In the next sentence he said something to the effect of, how dare they tell me I can't use plastic bags, I'll use as many as I want. This is the attitude that drives me crazy. What's best for me is not always what's best for humanity. Like I said earlier, you can learn something from everyone you come into contact with. Even if that something is just a reminder to be a little less selfish and a little more open minded to change.