One night, I watched a documentary called "Plastic Paradise: The Great Pacific Garbage Patch." There are tons of statistics highlighting the problem of disposable plastics. For one, the average American used 167 disposable water bottles, but only recycled 38.3. (Read this article from Ban the Bottle for some interesting stats.)
I was horrified by our use and abuse of the planet's resources, but the question of my own role in this particular issue was unresolved beyond what I have already am committed to in my quite alternative lifestyle. You see, I'm a mason jar queen, refilling them at the markets with dry goods and household staples. And the bottles I once bought with new laundry detergent and shampoo are refilled during my shopping runs. I'm the type to use vinegar as my kitchen cleanser, refilled from a large multi-gallon container. I don't buy plastic materials generally and do my best to bring my own backpack/bags to the store. So, high on my efforts, I went to bed without making new commitments. How naive I was...
The next day, while food shopping for the most sustainable, ethical, healthy options at my local co-op, I took a look at my shopping cart and noticed containers- plastic, plastic, plastic! Yogurt, almond milk, hummus, the bag around the chopped kale, the wrapper around the tortillas. I was shocked! I thought I was doing such a good job! Wasn't this the most eco-friendly shopping option? Why were so many things in plastic!? Wasn't there something I could do about it? Something hit me and I decided to try not to buy or support the use of any new plastic for (at least) a month.
I ran to the front of the store and grabbed huge mason jars, then filled them with beans, peanut butter, oatmeal, and dried fruit. At least one sea-faring bird or sea turtle will be saved from my heroic efforts, right?
The past month was not without difficulty- there were things I simply didn't buy. I have not yet found a way around the yogurt issue, sadly. But maybe it's all for the best- life without animal products is my ideal. My friend, who committed to this plastic-free month with me, noticed that the caps on almond milk containers are plastic- something I had not even noticed! Plastic pops up everywhere... I have indeed gained a new awareness from this personal challenge.
It's obvious that the best bet for purchasing foods will be the local farmers markets, where I can get local, organic produce without using plastic containers. In the meantime, I stick to the produce that is not wrapped and I do not put them in plastic produce bags. But there are plenty of other foods that require packaging, so my question for the future is whether to do without them. The question is still out whether recycling produces the outcomes we expect, so I don't want to rely on that. We can agree that avoiding packaging is best. This month has led me to eat more fresh food, which is among the benefits.
My determination to reduce my use of plastic remains firm and I'll continue to do my best.
I am interested in whether others have taken notice of and modified their own use of plastics. Please join the conversation...