I was enjoying a friendly swim in the ocean when I suddenly came upon the “island of plastic” that’s bigger than the state of Texas. Plastic bottles and containers of all kinds engulfed me. I couldn’t find my way. I struggled, terrified that I wouldn’t be able to breathe or get out alive …
I had that dream (nightmare?) in 2009. Still shaken, I knew that the “plastic patch” in the ocean would continue to grow unless we did something about it. What could I do?
Although plastics are recyclable where I live, I don’t have any control over where the plastics go once they leave my curb. What I have control over is what I buy. So what if I made a pledge not to bring any more plastics #1 through #7 into my life? What would that look like? Well, it turned out better than I thought … and it’s continuing …
No store-bought salsa, cottage cheese, hummus, ricotta cheese, yogurt, pesto, etc., for us. If we want to eat something that comes only in hard plastic, we need to make it from scratch or find a resource that will package it in glass (usually through the farmers’ market, which has been fun to do, actually). I thought I would miss not having the convenience of store-bought food at my fingertips … but what happened is I realized that I didn’t need all of those food items in my life simultaneously. We make salsa, pesto, yogurt, and hummus when we want them, and usually one item at a time. We might appreciate them more?
No plastic bottles of laundry detergent, shampoo, lotion, vinegar, etc. I refill shampoo and lotion containers from the bulk section at my health food store. I buy household cleaners and other products in cardboard or glass packaging, or I make my own (the Internet is an amazing resource). The challenge will be when I run out of products that come only in plastic or that I can’t make myself, but I suspect I will find substitutes or go without whatever it is (oh no!).
Part of the problem that I had with the no-hard-plastics pledge was remembering I had taken the pledge. I was so used to buying whatever I wanted in whatever packaging it came in (all I had to do then was make sure I could recycle it at the curb, not thinking that it might end up in the ocean or as trash by the side of the road). I’m happy to report that not buying hard plastic has indeed become a habit over time.
But the next step is even harder: not bringing any plastic into my life.
We now buy quite a few food products packaged in plastic bags (bread, rice cakes, etc.) or other soft plastic (tofu, veggie burgers, chips, dried fruit, nuts, and more). Some of this stuff we can make ourselves or find wrapped in paper or glass. For some, we might consider substitutes, or if only plastic packaging is available, do without the item (!) … but in stages … not cold turkey!
Do you think it is possible to live modern lives without buying items in plastic packaging? Is it worth a try?