My Plastics Pledge
Simeon, Emerson and Zhou Zhen, the characters in my novel Burying My Dead, seemed to survive without plastic. Why can’t I?
Humanity’s imagination and ability to innovate have brought sweeping progress over the centuries. But inventions that become can’t-live-without-it marvels often have unintended consequences. Consider our love affair with automobiles, for instance, or social media. Or plastics.
Decades and decades ago, I decided to quit smoking. I tried privately a few times, too afraid to voice my intentions for fear of failure. But, finally, I made the declaration public, in hopes of gathering support and inspiring others to do the same. I succeeded. This year, I am making a different pledge – one that will be much harder to achieve. I am going to do my best to give up plastics.
I am not naïve. I know my meager action will not make a dent, but at least I will have a clearer conscience. I am not going to throw statistics at you, or show you the plethora of gut-wrenching photos of animals and birds dying, or the garbage dump island of plastic floating in our Pacific Ocean. Instead, I’m going to convey solutions when I find them. I hope you get fired up, too, and share your creative ways to avoid plastic when you can. It’s not easy.
Here are a few easy steps for you to consider:
• How many plastic produce bags can you use? We use some for our cat’s waste, but that’s it. My husband, Pat, and I now package our veggies and fruit in small paper bags that we later use to line our compost bowl.
• Do you buy some food items in bulk? For us, walnuts and oatmeal are staples. We bring back the same plastic bags (complete with numbers already marked!) and fill them up each week.
• Replace shampoo in a plastic bottle with a shampoo bar. It lathers like shampoo, and its only packaging is a small cardboard sleeve. (I find mine at New Seasons.) As an alternative, you can buy bulk shampoo at stores like New Seasons and People’s Coop and bring your own container.
• Conditioner and liquid handsoap (if you must have it) are also available at New Seasons and other stores.
• In lieu of dishwashing liquid in a plastic bottle, I now use bar soap in a mesh that was left over from an elephant garlic before I swore off more plastic.
• Start washing your Ziploc bags – and your aluminum foil, too. I’ve been using and reusing the ones I’ve purchased or inherited for a decade now. (A vinegar rinse eliminates odor.) Face it: plastic doesn’t just dissolve; that’s the problem. If you already have it, reuse it until you really can’t. Then look for an alternative.
• What about all those yummy deli items or fresh seafood that get packaged in plastic tubs? If you bring your own clean glass or plastic container to a grocery store, the staff can weigh the item and print a sticker. If you then hold the container, they may be able to place it in your container or you can do it yourself. There are FDA rules that say reusable containers are a no-no, so you may get mixed responses, but we’ve worked it through with a number of stores.
• Buy produce without packaging. If you shop at Trader Joe’s, you know how frustrating it can be. The company has made some progress because they heard from customers like us. Check out their new sustainability goals at https://www.traderjoes.com/announcement/packaging-improvements and encourage them to continue.
• And, just in case you’re not there yet, please rethink ever buying water or sparkling water in plastic bottles. And, if you attend an event that serves you water in bottles, encourage the planners to do better next time.
That’s enough for one day. Digest. Be conscious. Avoid plastic when you can. And let me know if you find a place that sells cauliflower without plastic wrap!