February’s challenge: Plastic Free. Rodale.com urged the website’s readers to just say no to plastic. “I can do that,” I confidently thought to myself. How hard can it be? And my other enviro-friends seriously chatted about and praised the zero-waste family recently featured in Sunset Magazine. Secretly, I thought that it could be done if I was a stay at home mom too. Oh, but I am. I’m unemployed! Yeah, I could do this.
I’ve got the reusable cloth bag down to an art—sort of. That’s assuming that when spouse and I make our 30-mile trip to a “real” store (real being a store that sells product we can’t easily purchase in our quaint seaside village—I mean, we don’t even have fast food chains in our town) I remember to bring sufficient cloth bags for the mounds of supplies noted on my shopping list. I was in such a hurry to print coupons and organize them before we left on our shopping adventure, I spaced the cloth bags still in the dryer. Twenty miles down the road my memory clicked in and I grumbled a rather rude word. Spouse comforted, “I’ll reuse them when I clean the cat box.”
I’m glad he tackles the HAZMAT project, but this reuse of the plastic shopping bags didn’t qualify for Plastic Free February. So that was my first goal-disappointment.
As we pushed the red plastic shopping cart along the aisles, I found a few non-plastic stuffers for the upcoming Easter baskets. Woot! Woot! No plastic eggs for us.
The green websites talk about using a special bar soap for shampoo. For that I’d have to drive another 30 miles for an alternative market. Much needed shampoo and conditioners comes only in plastic. A 30-mile drive for soap would defeat the carbon footprint reduction objective. But I did buy bar soap as opposed to liquid soap in plastic.
I packed the shopping cart with powdered laundry soap in a cardboard box, along with fabric softener sheets in a box, as opposed to liquid fabric softener. Sadly, the toilet paper made from recycled paper was wrapped in plastic. TP wrapped in paper was not recycled and it just seemed wrong to use new paper for bathroom duty. I modified the no-plastic challenge to ”at-least-it’s-recycled.”
We found sparkling water in cans, which was good because the store didn’t offer any plain sparkling water in glass bottles.
I was singing, “Feeling strong now…” knowing I could find plastic-packaging alternatives if I try hard enough.
As I watched the clerk fill the plastic bags with plastic-packed product, depression melted my unplasticized idealism. “It’s impossible to do this,” I moaned while spouse loaded the car with plastic on plastic.
“Hey, you did really good with the groceries last week,” he encouraged me, knowing full-well how hard I am on myself. “You bought bread in brown bags, peanuts in glass, salami wrapped in paper, had the butcher prep your special orders and wrap them in butcher paper. And you avoided plastic produce bags—even though the oranges rolled all over the scale at check out—and you only bought milk in cartons, and margarine in paper wrapped cubes. Besides, when was the last time you bought plastic wrap? Huh?”
“It’s just that I can’t believe I don’t have ready choices anymore,” I continued whining. “The plastic industry rules consumers—even mindful ones and that just pisses me off.”
“Charmaine, I think it’s time for you to go home and find some daily good to post on your blog,” spouse suggested. “You can’t make everything right.”
While we wound our way back home, I thought about what I have done in the plastic-free quest: I quit buying cleaning sprays and use vinegar and baking soda instead. (BTW, by cleaning with vinegar, the ants that swarm my neighborhood, abandoned our house. They hate vinegar—so that was a win-win.) After hearing about a depression-era woman who never buys plastic wrap, but reuses (after cleaning) the bags that hold cereal in a box, and the plastic that one can’t escape in food packaging, I followed her lead. Now the kitchen drawer that once held all kinds of plastic wraps is half-empty, leaving only boxes of wax paper and recycled aluminum foil. I make my own granola using products packed only in boxes; I quit buying breakfast muffins packed in plastic containers and make my own muffins using left over whatever; I utilize bulk beans in our diet; and munch on fruit instead of individually wrapped treats, etc.
Still, I felt like Kermit the Frog because it’s not easy being green. But, today, after listening to the video I posted on The Daily Prism where the founder of an environmental foundation agreed that ecological purity is nearly impossible, but if everyone makes small lifestyle adjustments, a positive change is in the works. Plus, if just one person discovers a way to cease plastic use from what I write (as have I from reading what other write), then I didn’t fail.