We started out Plastic Free July with a list of 50 Thoughts on Plastic. Here are a few more thoughts to round out the month’s experience.
Overwhelming Reality of Plastic
My approach to Plastic Free July this year (my first year participating) was to get a better understanding of the role plastic plays in my life. I wanted to try out some “plastic free swaps” like I talked about in my posts on A Plastic Free Period and a Plastic Free Bathroom, but I knew that eliminating all plastic for a month would be unlikely.
I knew that there was a lot of plastic in my life, but it wasn’t until I started paying close attention that I saw just HOW MUCH there really is. Looking at my bathroom alone, the number of cosmetic, vitamin, and medicine containers is shocking. Even my little essential oil bottles, which are glass, have a lid and seal that are plastic.
Krista and I talked this month about how overwhelming the problem can feel. I watched the Story of Plastic and felt like the problem was so much bigger than only me and my efforts. And that’s important to know.
The problem is a huge one. But it also shows how important it is to take an interest and make those small changes. It is that power of individuals creating change in their own lives and banding together that ultimately creates change.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”― Margaret Mead
Convenience of a Plastic Filled Life
Being conscious of my plastic use this month let me really see how plastic works its way into my life. Convenience was definitely the biggest influence for my use of plastic.
This was very apparent the week this month where my car broke down multiple times and landed three times in the mechanic shop. That week I chose to go to a convenient grocery store at the expense of being plastic free.
This brings up two thoughts for me–allowing moments of convenience like this as an act of self care and also the necessity of a “convenience audit” of sorts to check my priorities. I’m always looking for the most sustainable way to create change in my life.
My goal is not to make an extreme change that will cause me to burn out, but to make intentionally sustainable choices that will lead to long-lasting change. I’ve eaten a vegan diet for over 17 years, but still to this day eat really-bad-for-you milk chocolate. It’s a compromise I’ve made because I knew it would lead to a life-long change.
This is how I’m looking at the self-care moments. I’m not going to beat myself up for needing them, but will accept them and move on. A once in a while occasion is not going to derail a life-long journey. Now, if I started eating 10 chocolate bars a day, I’d have to check my priorities and have a serious conversation with myself, but the key is having the self-awareness to do that.
“We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.”Anne Marie Bonneau
Privilege of Zero Waste
I mentioned in my Plastic Free Bathroom post that one reason I had not switched to a bamboo toothbrush yet was due to cost. Not only do I not see bamboo toothbrushes readily available at my grocery stores, they are also 5 times more expensive. I have similar thoughts whenever I see cloth produce bags as well. I have thought about purchasing them in the past, but really need to put that money towards the actual produce instead.
Seeing many posts about plastic free alternatives and swaps this month drove home the reality that living a low waste and plastic free life does come with a certain amount of privilege. I understand there are ways to reuse items and that some sustainable choices actually do save money, but for others there are a cost and it needs to be a part of the conversation.
I don’t have the answers, but felt it an important point to acknowledge.
Krista and I have different approaches to our plastic free journeys. We will have a different approach to how you do yours. There is no better than in how we do this. We are all operating with different motivations, abilities, resources, and access. I hope we can lift each other up through these differences and use those different approaches as a way to inspire each other.
I like to envision the whole world as a jigsaw puzzle… If you look at the whole picture, it is overwhelming and terrifying, but if you work on your little part of the jigsaw and know that people all over the world are working on their little bits, that’s what will give you hope.Jane Goodall
Hope and Inspiration to Keep Going
While the reality of plastic is overwhelming, most of the conversations I’ve had with people about the topic of reducing its use have been positive. The tone seems to be that people understand something needs to change. While COVID-19 has made it harder to use reusable items in shops, it has highlighted the need to do life differently. And while there was a slight pause on changes, governments are still moving towards banning single use plastics.
There’s also evidence that on an individual level, change is happening. By July 29th, the hashtag #plasticfreejuly2020 had 18,122 posts. 2020 surpassed 2019’s posts with days left to go.
#PlasticFreeJuly2017 = 794 posts
#PlasticFreeJuly2018 = 7,356 posts
#PlasticFreeJuly2019 = 17,075 posts
#PlasticFreeJuly2020 = 18,122+ posts
Its so clear to see that this movement is growing! How hopeful and inspiring is that?!
“Once you choose hope, anything’s possible.”Christopher Reeve
How was your Plastic Free July? What did you learn from your experience reducing plastic in your life?