Thursday, May 21, 2015

Plastic-Free? Nope, Not Me.

Not today, anyways. I tried. I did. Not sure whether it's funny or sad how I failed - maybe a little bit of both. Either way, it seemed worth sharing. I was doing so well up until the corn.

I haven't been making a big deal of this on social media or anywhere else, it's just been sort of a personal thing, but since I've gotten involved with the NYC welcoming committee for the Hōkūle'a when she stops here during the East Coast leg of her amazing Mālama Honua voyage, I've set myself a small personal challenge. Mālama Honua means "Care for the Earth" (well, it's a little more complex than that, but for the purpose of this post, the simplest translation will suffice) and I figured that if I was going to be involved with the effort, I should do something of my own to honor that.

I think that as Americans go (big qualifier there, of course), I'm not too bad. I've never owned a car; I mostly use public transportation or my feet to get from here to there; I don't fly a whole lot; except for my clock radio, I turn my electrical stuff all the way off when I leave home; NYC has done a good job of training people who live here to at least pretend we're recycling (I don't think they're anywhere close to actually re-using all of that stuff that we carefully sort and deposit in green or blue bins, but I think the idea is that eventually better use will be made of the stuff, and when that happens, the supply will already be firmly in place); I compost my veggie scraps at the club; and I mostly only drink tap water (and when I buy a bottled beverage I usually reuse the bottle as a water bottle numerous times - I know people freak about re-using but really, how much leaching is going to happen if you fill the bottle with water and then drink it over the next few hours?). I don't make a fetish of any of this, these are just things that are pretty easy to do when you live in NYC.

However, there's been one front on which I have been pretty lazy, and that is plastic use, so that's what I decided to work on for my own private little m
ālama honua. Biggest thing I've done is lunch-related; we have a pretty good cafeteria at the Really Big Children's Publishing House, and I get lunch up there pretty regularly. I usually have lunch at my desk, and I used to always bring the food down in one of those disposable plastic clamshells. These days, I've begun bringing a clean reusable container up and asking to have my food put in that. I felt a little weird doing that at first but the cafeteria folks don't seem to have any problem with it at all. Nice. I did get in BIG trouble at the Duke's Cafe deli on Broadway one time when I tried to use the same container at their salad bar - I don't know how walking up to the salad bar and filling a container that's actually slightly heavier than the clamshells they use could possibly be a problem, but evidently it was, I had to beg the cashiers to sell me the food I'd put in it just this once ("No, please, I promise I won't do it again!") instead of throwing it (and my container) in the garbage - they were THAT freaked out. Ah well, win some lose some, it was worth a try at least. 

I've also been stricter with myself about grocery shopping when I don't have a bag. I've done this in a halfway fashion for a long time, bringing bags if I was planning on shopping, but if I ended up shopping unexpectedly, I would take the proffered plastic. Since most of my spontaneous shopping ends up happening in the four blocks between the subway station and home, that's just plain lazy, it's so easy to go home and get a bag, so that's what I've been having myself do. I have this apparently inexhaustible bag of bags under the sink so I'm using those more, plus I find myself carrying a bookbag (one that can serve as a grocery bag if the groceries aren't messy) a lot more since I started in on this.

I've been doing this for a while. Again, I'm not making a big thing out of it, I haven't got the heart of a purist, but I am trying to be more thoughtful about these little throwaway plastic thingummies that are so ubiquitous in our lives. Today, though, after a banana for breakfast (skin will go to compost) and a lunch in my reusable tray, and knowing that I had leftovers in the fridge at home, it began to dawn on me that I might actually pull off a day where I neither purchased nor disposed of any plastic, which I thought would be pretty neat. It ended up being a late night at work, I had to fight off the temptations of all the plastic-wrapped snacks and goodies in the vending machines at work and the bodegas on the way home, but I made it all the way home (woohoo!) where I went straight to the fridge and pulled out the leftovers. Spare ribs and rice. I decided I needed some veggies too and all of the sudden -- OH NO! --there I was holding an empty plastic bag in my hand.

So much for my no-plastic day - it was trickier than I thought! I'll have to try again sometime. Stupid corn. 

(ok, I wasn't THIS upset)


Jennifer Connolly said...

Tough to do. Tupper ware out too I guess? It's plastic

bonnie said...

I think cutting out plastic entirely is unrealistic for most of us. What I've been trying to do is just cut down on the disposables that so often end up out in the world - so using tupperware (or Chinese takeout containers that I already have) instead of the throw-away plastic food containers I used to use. This turned out to be so simple, I'm kicking myself for not doing it years ago. I've been thinking I should do it for years - just took a little inspiration to put it into action.

My self-imposed rules for this particular day were just that I was trying to get through the day without either getting any new plastic (including food packaging), or throwing any old plastic away (including food packaging). That was all, and I couldn't do it!

clairesgarden said...

its amazing what we all get used to , but slowly more and more people and trying to use less.. it all helps.

bonnie said...

That's my hope. This was something of an interesting eye-opener on the utter ubiquity of plastic packaging, though!