Drat I missed Earth day for this post – better late than never though. Lent 2017 started March first this year and while I’m not catholic or even religious by any stretch of the imagination. The idea of foregoing something for a while to step back and take stock of it’s influence on your life is not a bad idea. I thought it would embrace the idea and try to abstain from single use plastics.
Single use plastics are pretty self explanatory, they’re plastic items that you use once then toss: water bottles, food wrappers, packaging, straws, cups, etc. They are the largest contributor to plastic pollution that is choking our oceans right now.
Plastic pollution is something that concerns me greatly and I think needs to be addressed. What that address would look like I don’t yet know, but I thought it would be a good thing to try for my part to avoid them for Lent, just to get started.
The first few days went pretty much as planned, no plastics. I bought and cooked raw foods avoided the more obvious plastic items, I started thinking this was going to be easy, I’m going to blow through Lent without getting anywhere near a piece of plastic.
Then it happened I decided to stop and get a cup of frozen yogurt, the cup was of made of waxed paper, good. Then I went to pay and they tried to put a plastic lid on my cup I waved them off and explained I was giving up plastics for Lent. The young girl behind the counter gave me a quizzical look then nodded her approval. She rang me up, gave me my change and immediately plunged a plastic spoon into the middle of my yogurt!
Crap Crap Crappity Crap!! I had collected my first piece of plastic. It got me thinking just how ubiquitous plastic is in our lives – people don’t even notice them. My young cashier even after hearing my reason for no plastic lid mindlessly stabbed a plastic spoon into my yogurt without realizing the error.
Okay, this is not going to be as simple as I had originally thought.. Diligence is the new watch word for the month.
Then it happened again, I bought some roast chuck from the grocery store and when I got home to cook it I realized: the beef , the little diaper, and the polystyrene tray it was sitting in (totally missed that) were all wrapped in cling wrap! Three pieces of plastic in 1 purchase how did I fail so spectacularly?!
Then came the close call, the devil tempted me but I out smarted him. First was sliced sandwich meat and cheese, I do love a good sandwich. All the sliced meats and cheeses where; you guessed it, packaged in plastic! Hey I’ll just go get a ham and slice it myself. Did you know whole hams are packed in heat shrinked plastic bags? “Oh wait, plan C”, I went to the deli counter and got the deli guy to slice me up some ham and Swiss and wrap them in butcher paper, TODD FOR THE WIN!! (yea, I know, the original meat and cheese was probably packaged in plastic before being placed in the deli case, I’m being a little cagey here)
Next up was candy. I don’t have a big sweet tooth but every now and then a bite of chocolate is what the I’m looking for. You know those bags of bite-sized candy bars? They come in one pound bags and each individual bar is then again wrapped in it’s on cocoon of plastic! Yea that’s not going to work. I did find Ghirardelli Dark chocolate with sea salt which are packaged in a cardboard box and wrapped in thin foil, once again. TODD FOR THE WIN!!!
I guess the devil decided to play dirty at this point. On another trip to the grocery store I had picked up a pint of ice cream in a waxed cardboard tub and I thought I was doing good. Ah but not all was right at the Circle-K when I got home. Those tricky ice creamers had wrapped a clear tamper proof plastic ring around the lid of the tub. Then to add insult to injury there was a plastic seal inside. Yea, the sailor language came out in full force…
One day I stopped by my favorite Taco shack, Torchy’s Tacos. Now keep in mind I don’t drink sodas, I usually drink good old fashion water, usually tap water. If you order a soda with your meal you get a standard full sized reusable cup no problem. However if you order a water, they whip out these tiny 6 oz clear plastic cups of annoyance. Totally didn’t see that coming – starting to rethink my favorite Taco joint.
Then came my crisis of faith. I’m a bit obsessed with dental hygiene. I have to brush my teeth at least two or three times a day, Floss no less than alternating days, and then there’s my favorite dental appliance of all times – the bristled tooth pick. The crisis comes with the fact that the toothpaste tube & cap, toothbrush & package, floss & box, and bristled toothpicks & box are all made of plastic. I mean the toothpaste was the only thing not made of plastic!
Unfortunately I couldn’t give up my dental regimen. I am however on the lookout for some type of non-plastic alternatives, but I’m not sure I will have much success.
This brings me to a realization, almost all medical and hygiene products come exclusively in plastics. Maybe a glass or waxed paper package every now and then, but I’m willing to wager 99.99% of all medical and hygiene products are sealed in some form of plastic and by nature are designated single use. HRUMPH!!
Finally my torment ended with Easter Sunday, Lent was over and so was my fight.
Well not so much, I’m not sure if I consider my abstinence of plastics during Lent was a success or failure. I obviously failed in avoiding them 100%, the picture above proves that in spades( probably plastic coated playing card spades >:/ )
On the other hand, my eyes have been opened to just how invasive and ubiquitous single use plastics are in the world. They are not only all over the place in plain sight, but completely hidden in the form of tamper resistance, inside of boxes of food, thrusted upon you unexpectedly at restaurants. I don’t think anyone can avoid them in a modern life.
Now I don’t want to this post to sound like a beat down on plastics. Plastics do provide a lot of benefits to the world: they’re cheap to manufacture, sanitary, durable, non-reactive, and convenient.
I think Uncle Ben said it best “With great power come great responsibility”. While plastics provide us with many benefits, we as a civilization need to get a handle on them. Making sure their life cycle is a closed loop: from production, to use, to recycling, back to reuse. This open ended: production, to use, to landfills or the ocean is not sustainable.
For me in the future I will be more diligent not only making sure I recycle any plastic that passes through my hands, but also selecting items that aren’t made of or packaged in plastic.
I’m also joining “The plastic swear jar challenge”. It’s a pretty simple idea, you swear to put x amount of money in a jar when you consume a piece of single use plastic. At the end of the year you can use the money as you see fit: donate to a cause, upgrade to a product that is plastic free. etc…
You can join as well, Below is a video about how to help. I hope my little adventure has peaked your interest in to looking into reducing your own use of plastic, being more sensitive to it’s use, and help clean up our oceans.