Wednesday, June 17, 2009

My Plastic Life

We watched a documentary over the weekend about plastic bags. For the most part, I'd like to think I'm a responsible shopper -- I tote around a canvas bag wherever I go, we use those giant recycled plastic ones at the grocery store, and we attempt to recycle everything we possibly can. And yet, the facts from that one-hour doc were so upsetting that I've been thinking about it for days. Canadians use 6 billion plastic bags a year, and less than 1% of these are recycled or reused. The rest go into landfills. And this got me thinking about My Plastic Life, how much of the stuff I use on a daily basis and make a list to see where I can cut back and/or down:

1. Plastic bottles for shampoo, conditioner and body wash. Last year Zesty took me to Costco around this time and I bought a MASSIVE bottle of shampoo that I used for about ten straight months. Considering that's one bottle versus many smaller bottles, maybe I'll have to see if I can tag along again.

2. Plastic water bottle: this is already reusable, so I think I'm okay there.

3. Plastic wrap for all of the fruit & veggies from the grocery store, the farmer's market, and from Whole Foods. Everything I pack a lunch in is plastic, but reusable, so that's something, but still -- I haven't even gotten on my bike yet and I've already used plastic every step of the way.

4. Water bottles and plastic bags all strewn on the side of the road (when I started this post the garbage strike hadn't even begun; now it's even worse). None of these are directly my fault but I'd never really LOOKED before. Now I notice them everywhere.

5. Plastic hair clip.

6. I'm sure there's plastic in my keyboard. What else is it made out of?

7. My phone too.

8. Plastic water glasses and container (both made in China) for drinking water at work. Again, I use these everyday and have stopped buying water bottles altogether. Do I get a pat on the back for that at least?

9. Whew. Wax paper for my bagel and a brown paper bag. Both of which can go in my green bin.

10. Plastic pens.

11. Wait. My glasses are also plastic.

12. And so on...

I'm not even at 11 AM and I've already used plastic in every single inch of my daily life. Where do I start? And how do I make a change? The #1 thing I'm going to do is start taking containers to the farmer's market instead of just bringing my cloth shopping bags. But that's such a small change -- and I'm afraid it simply won't make any difference whatsoever.

Anyone else have suggestions? How do you work on cutting excess plastic out of your life?


Captain Underpants said...

It always matters when someone starts making changes to old habits! That less-then-%1 of bag recyclers get press because they count, good for you for joining the ranks.

Things that I do to cut down on plastic waste uually boil down to learning new habits.

1. If you are going out to dinner, get used to bringing a container for take-home

2. Use glass for lunches and food storage (mason jars are great)

3. line non-wet garbages (office, bathroom, kitchen if you compost) with newspaper instead of plastic bags. It works fine.

4. Go bulk. My sister sewed me nylong bulk food bags and helped me eliminate the thin plastic bags commonly used.

5. Include how much plastic and packaging is used in weighing a purchase. It is important to me, like price and so on, so it gets considered.

It is very difficult to eliminate all plastics from our lives while still participating in society, so try not to feel discouraged. Big change needs time and starting to think about the details of what you use is the most important thing!

jem said...

Regarding your fruit/veggie at the grocery store item, don't put those in the plastic bags. You're only going to put that in another, likely your canvas, bag after they are rung in at the checkout, and when you get home you have to take them out to wash them. As far as I can see these produce dept bags are only for the convenience of the cashier in corralling items with the same price code onto the scale. However, saving the planet might not be convenient.

Today's Globe and Mail has a feature on 3 roommates who've gone a year barely producing any garbage. Some tips there too.

Jonita said...

What a great post! I posted a similar topic on a message board that I frequent and it got some controversial replies!

I like to think that I'm doing my part for the environment, however after reading this post it seems like I can do more! I guess that all we can do is to continue to make small changes, which will add up for the greater good. Great post, got me thinking!

Jenn said...

It's hard, for sure. Actually, plastic is health-wise a very poor choice for drinking containers and food storage. Last year I started using those Pyrex dishes that come with a lid (plastic, of course) in varying sizes to cart stuff to work for lunches. The main benefit is that when food is put warm into the container or microwaved later, there is no concern about bisphenol A leeching into my food. Plus, if you are trying to cut down on plastic, you can buy larger sizes of yogurt, etc. and portion it yourself for lunches. Really loved this post - small changes seem futile to me too, but everything starts somewhere, right?