Fighting Reality in the 'War' on Plastic

6 years ago

About a year ago, I stumbled across Beth Terry's blog and started making some radical changes in the way we consume goods at my house.  The change was a long time coming, and the process was FAR more arduous than I anticipated, but I think we've come as far as we're going to get.

I stopped buying shampoo, toner, medicated acne pads, tampons, panty-liners, overnight pads, canned tomatoes, most individually packaged snack foods, flour tortillas, pita breads, barbecue sauce, and a frighteningly long list of the other products that were literally filling up my house.  We are still Costco shoppers.  We just go a hell of a lot less often.  (Can I get a hallelujah!)

My goal was to eliminate all new plastic purchases, eliminate all household plastic waste, and reduce our garbage output by 90%.  Did I get there?

Um, no.

Image: Barkdog via Flickr

We've bought new plastic toys as gifts for the kids in our lives, took home a ridiculous quantity of those little plastic garment-tag-holder-thingies because my kids grow in 3" spurts every few months and show no signs of slowing down.  We have bought a few DVD's, family sized bags of chips and nachoes, family sized packages of cookies, a few individually packaged chocolate bars.  And family sized bags of M&M's, which works out to about a single-serving size for me.  (I know they're bad for me.  I know.  They just taste so good!)  We've brought home I-don't-know-how-many take-out soft drink cups and lids, some straws, a bunch of family-sized tubs of condiments and so many other things.  (You can check out my 30 Days of Plastic post, if you want a detailed run-down.)

We've reduced our household garbage output by about 75%.  And I'm awfully damn proud of us.

Living this change was a political decision, in part based on how much blood is shed over the paltry 10% Africa's oil-producers contribute to the global pool.  10% of all the world's oil, and so much horror.  I didn't want to be a part of that.  I don't want to be a part of that.  Realizing that there is a real limit to how much I'm willing to do about it, though, was sobering for me.

What it came down to, as always, was time.  I don't have time to make from scratch all of our meals and snacks all of the time.  Not if I want to play with my kids, do any kind of activities with my extra kids, relax with my husband, or train for races.  I can't do it.  And my kids don't deserve dealing with the tired, grouchy, over-stretched, over-worked mama they get when I try.

So, we will continue to buy our zero-packaging pastas, grains, cleaning products, bokashi brans, skin care products, bars soaps, and so on, from earth friendly local suppliers.  We're not going to go back to buying plastic bottles of personal care products, chemically enhanced cleaners and detergents, or any of the other toxic goods we bought and used for years and years.  We will not go back to using plastic grocery bags.

I am not, however, ever washing a Ziploc bag ever again in my life.  Ever.

I'm just going to stop feeling guilty about how much farther I'd planned to take us.

Over the weekend, I'm going to update my War on Plastic page and declare my "war" officially over.  Accepting that plastic – and oil – will be a part of my life until there are viable, inexpensive alternatives is what it is.  Guilt won't change it.  Advocating for the responsible disposal of those petrochemicals is another fight, entirely.

I'm ready.

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