My week without plastic did not have a strong start.
I started with what I called research, but it was really just bumming myself out by reading about dead whales and sea turtles who had mistaken plastic for food. Next, I went out to buy groceries while simultaneously avoiding all plastic and then…realized I forgot my reusable bags. But it didn't matter anyway, because I then realized my reusable bags are made out of plastic. I returned home and really opened my eyes to my apartment, realizing that almost everything I own is plastic.
I like to think of myself as an environmentalist. I care about my impact on the world. But I had been blind to exactly how much plastic I was using: my toothbrush, my phone charger, my TV, my shower curtain and a hundred other things in my apartment were all made out of plastic.
But I’m not going to throw it all in the recycling and start fresh. That would be a waste of resources. Rather, I’ll use what I have while I have it, and then use the time in-between to find non-plastic replacements.
I have multiple reasons for not wanting to use plastic and I’ll list them here for you:
- The environmental impact. Plastic doesn’t break down and go away, but rather just…stays the same. It may break down into smaller pieces, but it never truly breaks down to get recirculated into the system like organic waste does. It’s killing our animals.
- Plastic is not that recyclable. I’m sure you, like me, feel good about putting your plastics in the recycling. But do you know where it goes after that? A lot of it ends up in landfills outside of Canada. The high quality, clean plastic may be recycled into something new, but most of it is not. Additionally, the plastic is often reworked into something that isn’t recyclable the next time around—toys being a common one. So all that recycling unfortunately doesn’t have the impact we really want.
- Health impacts. There is research being done into the impact prolonged contact with plastics has on our health. A lot of research needs to be done, but for now we know that prolonged BPA contact isn’t good for us.
Personally, I am mainly focused on reasons one and two. I love living in Vancouver, but knowing our shorelines are so pristine simply because we can afford to ship our garbage somewhere else doesn’t sit well with me. So I decided to reduce.
My week without plastic
I was not totally successful in taking a week off of plastic. It sneaks into places where you are not expecting it. However, I definitely reduced, and it wasn’t too difficult, most of the time.
The first step was the grocery store. I had a strong start in the fruit and vegetable aisle. Plastic bags are offered to carry all your items, but I bypassed those and simply threw them into my cart in a jumble to be sorted out with the cashier—I was just going to wash them when I got home anyway.
Past this section, grocery shopping was a lot more difficult. So many foods are wrapped in plastic. I ended up having to bypass some of my favourite snacks and left with only my fruits and veggies.
The important thing about my first trip to the grocery store is that it helped me prepare for the second trip. That time, I remembered to bring my own bags and glass containers. Suddenly deli items and bulk nuts were mine for the taking once more! At the end of my second trip, a lot of what I had previously thought of as necessary packaging had suddenly been eliminated from my life.
The next step to overcome was eating out. In the restaurant I went to, I didn’t see much plastic. The only action I took there was requesting that I don’t get a straw in my water glass. However, on another day when I went to pick up a meal I had ordered, it was a bit more difficult. I ordered sushi and brought my own glass containers for the staff to put the rolls in. They were not impressed with me at all, but sometimes a girl needs to relax in front of her TV with an avocado roll.
An interesting effect from trying to live a week without plastic was realizing how many surprise encounters with disposable plastic I had throughout the week. I wanted to use paper clips, but they had plastic covers. My favourite snack was brought into the office, but it was wrapped in plastic so I couldn’t eat it. And there were also the items that left me confused. Was tape plastic? (Unfun fact: It is). What had happened to all the felt markers I used throughout my life? And I didn’t want to think about what would happen when my toothpaste and deodorant ran out.
I firmly believe that reducing the amount of plastic we use is the best chance we have to create a cleaner environment. But it does take more time, research and patience to find plastic-free alternative items. That is not to say that the alternatives are perfect either, but we’ll take this one step at a time. At lease by reducing, we are lessening our plastic footprint on the earth.
Want to try out a week without plastic of your own? There are loads of great resources online that can get you started.
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