Plastic-free January: my personal adventure
Well, that was a wonderful learning experience! I knew it would be a challenge to stay away from ALL things plastic for one month, but I truly had no idea how many times a day it plays a part in our lives. Sure, we can get a bamboo toothbrush, an aluminum water bottle, and fabric shopping totes — but there’s so much more to it! Though at times it was admittedly difficult, it was overall so rewarding, and – as I reflect – I think the learning it provided breaks down into three major categories:
1) Plastic runs our lives. Who remembers that famous line in The Graduate, when Ben’s prospective father-in-law takes him out by the pool and says, “I just want to say one word to you….just one word. Are you listening? Plastics. There’s a great future in plastics.” A funny scene at the time, but tragically prophetic! It’s everywhere. And it does not go away. Ever. It’s clogging our landfills, polluting our oceans, killing our sea life, and leeching into our bodies. I passed up beautiful blackberries packaged in clamshells, heads of cauliflower shrink-wrapped in cellophane. Is this really necessary? Shampoo bottles, dental floss, newspapers whose articles bemoan the climate crisis, slapping into the driveway – millions of driveways – snuggled into plastic sleeves. Like an alcoholic at a New Year’s Eve party watching everyone else drink, I truly clocked how many times a day a plastic-free lifestyle would change my habitual thinking — and it was a dramatic wake-up call.
2) The experiment gets people talking. As I began the month, I had a bit of trepidation that people would find me a real pain in the ass — sorry, can you please use a coffee mug for my tea? I can’t drink from plastic. Thanks for thinking to bring me that water for our hike, but I can’t drink it out of that bottle. Do you have metal cutlery? When checkers would ask if I found everything I needed, I would tell them not really, because most of what I wanted to purchase was entombed in unnecessary layers of plastic. Contrary to people getting irritated, I found that just about everyone thought trying to make this shift was a great idea, and wanted to learn more. Several suggested possible solutions. I met people in grocery lines who were living the same lifestyle, and we happily preached the plastic-free gospel to each other and to anyone else who would listen. It’s a conversation that needs to be happening, and I was pleased to realize that it is; like anything, once you begin to take notice, you start seeing it everywhere, and this gave me a lot of hope.
3) I don’t want to stop. Though there are some things we just can’t avoid purchasing in plastic containers (most shampoo, dish soap, etc.), the reality is that if you look, there is typically a bamboo, cardboard, or other compostable/recyclable alternative. I love my mesh produce bags, and even my kitchen garbage bags are 100% compostable and at least as strong as their every-lasting plastic counterparts. I may get sideways glances now and then for carrying a bamboo cutlery set in my purse, but I truly believe that the more we live with the conscious, immediate knowledge that we must make a shift in our material mentality, such things will become the new norm. And until then, I will continue to wave my mesh produce bags like flags of hope in our wilderness of over-consumption.
Sometimes the “sea change” necessary to turn the tide of climate change, top-down corruption, and corporate control seems overwhelming (sometimes?); that said, making small changes not only takes steps in the right direction and mitigates further damage, but it creates – and I can attest to this – a butterfly effect of raised consciousness that we desperately need right now. Change always starts with individual voices, and we invite you to add yours to the conversation! If you tried plastic-free January and would like to share your experience, or have any other throughs and ideas you’d like to chat about, please fill out the “get in touch” form below.