By Bonnie Pariser
Did you see the article in the NY Times about the guy that tries to exist for one day without using any plastic at all? Not surprisingly, he had to take some extreme actions (like bringing a wooden chair to sit on when using the subway) and had to make many exceptions (like using a plastic Metrocard to get on the subway).
You can click here to read the story, but keep in mind that reading this might be a bit overwhelming. If you are considering using less plastic in your life, an eye to sustainable change is a better idea.
Going plastic-free can require some drastic and uncomfortable lifestyle changes. That level of discomfort can mean those changes might not last. You will need to consider your family, or other people you live with, the culture of your workplace, and your lifestyle in general. Think of it as steering a Celebrity cruise ship. I have never manned the turning thing in a ship like that (really, any kind of ship) but I do know it takes time to make the turn- you just can’t make a sharp turn with a large vessel like that. You need to factor in the current of the water, the current speed you are going, and respect the machinery that you are using.
It might surprise you to know that I am still using my dish soap and shampoo from Costco. I bought it a long time ago in as big a vessel as I could find (to cut down on smaller bottle use). I was so incredibly excited when 2 weeks ago we finally got through the last large bottle of shampoo! Finally I could fill it at Eco Loka. Then, something happened that I honestly never saw coming- my son ordered more of the same shampoo. He saw we were out, and in an unprecedented move, he replenished our shampoo stock. I thanked him, and then explained to him we would not be buying new stuff in plastic anymore. (Why he was surprised at that, I am not sure. He was after all the person who schlepped all the bulk liquid products onto a table for me and helped me install the pumps.) Ok, whatever, at least one more now on board. I took the now empty bottle and washed it out, figuring I would bring it to the store for someone else to use. Then it disappeared. In near panic I asked my husband what happened to the bottle. “I put it in the recycling” he told me gleefully. When I looked at him with a mixture of disbelief, surprise and apparently something else, he told me he would fish it out of the tub ASAP. Again, I did not open the refill store in secret- my whole family was watching and helping… but somehow the idea of keeping new plastic out of the house, and reusing current plastic didn’t quite sink in.
I am not completely innocent either of course. I went in person to the restaurant that my son had been ordering from for months. I was happy to know I would not need the plastic containers they send the take-out in. I had no idea that they would bring the food to the table in plastic containers and give out plastic water bottles. Sigh. Can I bring my own plates to the restaurant next time and ask them to use that for my food? I am not sure. I know I can bring my own cutlery and water bottle. Of course I can also just not go, but I would like to support this guy who is new in business and working like crazy, taking orders, cooking and serving (which is most likely why he is using plastic to serve- it is a one man show there). And on top of all of that, the food is really good.
We are all starting somewhere. Most likely we started not thinking much about all the plastic that has been worming its way into our lives. Then we might start to make choices at the store, choosing things sold in glass or paper over plastic. Then we might start to say “no” to certain items and find other things we can use that do not create plastic waste.
You can check this blog for a list of ways to either get started or continue in your plastic-less lifestyle. Do what you can and what will last, not what feels very extreme and what your family will not get onboard with. Take your time and be kind to yourself. That kindness you extend to yourself will result in kindness to the earth and everything that lives on it.
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