by Steven Feuerstein, co-founder of fabe
Plastic is very convenient. Plastic makes all sorts of things possible in what we like to think of as “modern civilization.”
Oh, and plastic kills.
It kills things in the process of being made. Just think about factories where there used to be forests, factories containing vats full of toxic chemicals.
And it kills things after it is thrown away and starts poisoning our world and living creatures.
That’s what the science tells us and I believe it.
Consequently, I go to great lengths to minimize the amount of plastic in my life. One way I do that is to minimize the amount of, well, anything new in my life. I try really hard to never buy anything unless I actually need it. Also, I try not to buy things with single use plastic if it is at all possible. Following simple rules like this can have a big impact on your life. It sure did in mine, and others.keeping
For me one of the biggest side effects of eliminating plastic in my diet is that I discovered how much I love to cook. I now make my own bread, ketchup, hummus….basically I only buy whole foods. So much better for the planet and for my health. A win-win.– Vincent Morneau, co-founder, fabe
And since my mind (the mind of a software developer) tends towards the systematic, I’ve formalized a five-step plan to push back against Plastic Death:
Step 1. Say no to single use plastic.
It’s the very worst of the worst. Use it once, throw it away, kill some more life. It’s a pain sometimes to not buy things and not use things with single use plastic. But it’s not really all that difficult. I’ve done it. I can show you what I’ve done.
Step 2. Avoid buying anything new with plastic.
On the one hand, the Internet has been a total disaster when it comes to climate change. Massive energy consumption and reduced “friction” for buying stuff. But it also means that you can almost always find a product that meets your needs that does not use plastic. Great example: phone cases. You no longer have to encase your phone in plastic. There are many non-plastic options to choose from. Another example, you don’t have to buy plastic containers to store food in your fridge. There are plenty of glass and wood alternatives, though it’s still a challenge to find lids that are not made of plastic.
Step 3. Buy whatever has the least amount of plastic.
OK, fine, we are not going to be able to avoid plastic completely. So minimize it. Always choose the option with the least amount of plastic. That’s why the ongoing debate about paper vs plastic bags is a non-debate for me. Sure, they both consume energy, water, etc. to produce. But one is plastic and one is not. End of conversation.
Step 4. Reuse as much plastic as possible, and for as long as possible.
I don’t know about you, but I’ve got lots of plastic bags and containers in my house. In other words, I’ve got a “sunken investment” in those horrors. But they are still useful. So I am not going to get rid of them. I’m going to use them. I’m going to do a plastics inventory, get all that stuff organized, and figure out how to get the most out of them, now that I’ve got them.
I’m pretty sure these steps are very familiar to you.
I expect you follow these steps, and, like me, you probably also manage to mess up on these steps now and then. Removing plastic from our lives entirely is tough. But I remind myself that it’s not about being pure or some kind of saint. It’s about doing my best every day and planning to do better tomorrow.
“But wait a minute,” you might be thinking, “You said five steps. That’s only four.”
Right. Yes. About that fifth step. It’s new for me, and it’s not something I’ve heard about others doing. I feel like it makes a lot of sense, but it’s also kind of intimidating. “What is it?” you now are really wondering. It is:
Step 5: Stop throwing away or even trying to recycle plastic.
“What? Stop throwing away plastic? Then what I am going to do with all that plastic? And why wouldn’t I recycle it or let my town at least take it to the landfill?”
There are some very good reasons.
First of all, only a very small percentage (like 6%) of all the plastic ever made has actually been recycled. And now even that small amount isn’t going to be recycled anymore. The recycling program has broken down worldwide. Countries that used to accept our trash have closed their doors. They no longer want to, or can afford to be, our toxic waste dumps.
Our landfills were already filling up. Now they’ll fill up even faster, with chemicals leaching away from the plastic into the soil. Or the plastic will end in a river then the ocean then the stomach of a whale. I don’t know about you, but the thought that my careless purchase of a head of lettuce wrapped in plastic might contribute to the death of a whale is horrifying – and also deeply motivating.
It motivates me to do better, do even more than I’ve been doing with steps 1 through 4. I figure if I don’t throw away or try to recycle that plastic wrap for the lettuce, then it can’t possibly leach into the soil. It can’t possibly reach the ocean. And it sure could not harm a whale or turtle or anything else.
That sounds really good.
So I am going to adopt the following viewpoint regarding any plastic I consume (bring home):
Once I consume it, I own it. It’s now my responsibility. And I will treat it like the poison it is. I will sequester it and put it where it can do no harm.
Honestly, I am not sure how this is going to work out. I am pretty sure it will serve as a strong incentive to avoid consuming more plastic, since I’ll have to ask myself: where am I going to put it? And I need to figure out how to store it so that my wife doesn’t have a very justifiable fit.
So some challenges lie ahead, but I know that this feels so true to me:
When I throw away plastic, I kill a little bit more of my planet.
And I know that this feels right to me:
Storing my plastic is a small price to pay to help keep whales and turtles and birds and people alive.
So I’ll give it a try and report back now and then on how I am doing, the challenges I encounter and how, hopefully, I met them. And all the times that I violate my five-part plan for plastic? I’ll report on that, too. It’s sure to happen and I’ll try not to be too hard on myself. I’ll just concentrate on doing better tomorrow.
And you? Does this sound interesting to you? Are you thinking maybe you’d like to try it, too, but seriously doubt whether you could avoid throwing away all your plastic? Then I offer the following suggestions:
Keep as much plastic as you can. Depending on your home and property, that could be a lot or a little. Just remind yourself: This is not an all or nothing situation. Every single piece of plastic you do not throw away helps save lives. So just keep as much plastic as you can.
Or don’t keep any of it. Recycle as much as you can and hope that the right things happen. But also as you shop, remind yourself that any plastic you do buy could end up killing an animal that is a member of a species that is threatened with extinction. Perhaps that will help you buy less plastic.
I’m going to use the hashtag #KeepingMyPlastic as I report on my progress on my @tree_rescuer Twitter account (I also am obsessed about saving trees threatened by invasive species like wisteria). If you decide to try keeping your plastic, please use the same hashtag when you report on your successes and challenges.
It’s time to stop the killing and start the healing.