Saturday, June 28, 2008

A Day Without Plastic

A very foggy morning-can't even see 200 yards beyond the first row of trees. Almost feels like being blind. I'm guessing and extremely muggy June day.

A nice young man I work with is an enthusiastic idealistic environmentalist. Because we deal with so many green products ironically wrapped in gobs of plastic, he has developed an abhorance to the petroleum by product. His, Jonathan's, latest lifestyle alteration is to go without plastic where ever and when ever possible. And it ain't easy.

Just doing the basics in life, clothing and eating is monumental. Jonathan has the clothing part down pretty well-organic clothing, old clothing, and hemp, but even socks and shoes are hard deal with and go without. The hardest part is the eating-buying and storing food. How do you buy bread not wrapped in plastic? Luckily we have this amazing bakery in town (the owner is European) and so a loaf of bread is served in a paper bag. Viola! But there's more to life than bread.

Buying in bulk is a great way to avoid packaging BUT the big roll of plastic is right there by the bulk items. The simple solution is to bring in your glass containers and have them pre-weighed, put in your bulk items and weigh again at the check out counter. Sounds good so far. But when you want to buy many things in bulk AND your transportation happens to be a bicycle, avoiding plastic becomes another challenge. There are very cool netted and solid organic cotton produce bags that you can use for many items but it is a bit awkward for rice and granola, but doable for the idealist. Liquid bulk requires glass. At our local COOP they do sell milk in glass but unfortunately our local hero Stonyfield Farm Yogurt comes in plastic. This is not so easy.

Now try going home and using your kitchen without plastic. In an effort for Americans to go unbreakable, we got in the habit of plastic everything. Utensils, plates,and of particular difficulty is storage containers. Jonathan has pretty much a plastic free kitchen but not one that would win any awards by home type magazines. Many items come from the local Goodwill-just the basics in glass and metal. He reuses glass jars with lids for storing items and bringing food to work. He has some glass storage containers with glass lids for larger items and for freezing and baking. I must say he is doing a really good job with the basics and his simple lifestyle, but it is a challenge.

But as life gets more complicated, so does living without plastic. What about toiletries? Shampoo in a glass bottle? No where to be found. Toilet paper not wrapped in plastic? Good luck. Toothbrushes, combs, medicine bottles: just about all in plastic. (Gosh, it might break in the bathroom) Appliances, computers, cars, vinyl siding and suddenly we are wrapped in plastic.

What on earth did they do only 100 years ago before all this plastic? They were living well, right? They got by, didn't they? Much food for thought. So I challenge you - try a day without plastic. It will open your eyes.

No comments: