Lent. 40 Plastic-free Days

C. Coimbra photo

The next 40 days of the Christian season of Lent is a time when we sacrifice guilty pleasures like sweets, alcohol, television, shopping and social media. But, in fact, giving up these guilty pleasures is not really that painful of a sacrifice because it actually benefits us in the long run. Right?

Might I suggest something to give up for the next 40 days that is not easy, requires sacrifice and thought, and benefits the planet in the long run? This Lent, give up plastic.

(Excuse me a minute while I grab the plastic tube of lip moisturizer and freshen my dry lips. Alternative: Raw Cocoa Balm at from Rex Organics)

I know, I’ve harped on plastics since the dawning of the blog and social media. And I know exactly how challenging it is to walk away from plastics. As a matter of fact, I find myself slipping into the plastic habit because sometimes it seems like my pleas wind up in the landfill of unread words.

But I am a realist. And like many, reminders will regenerate those brain cells that will help lead me away from wasteful habits that revolve around plastics.

Why? While plastics were once the dream products for consumers, who knew that plastics would become Planet Earth’s toxic nightmare? The ubiquitous plastic bottle, for example, is something that Americans use 2.5 million every hour. And we throw away 35 billion plastic water bottles every year. Or how about the plastic baggy? We use 540 baggies or 0.84 lbs. of plastic baggies per year.

(Excuse me a minute while I mark off those statistics with my plastic pen. Alternative: Use pencils.)

Plastic grocery bags have become such visual nuisances and costly to city and county waste facilities, that many regions have banned the single-use plastic grocery bag.

Unfortunately, the effort to regionally ban single-use plastics like grocery bags has been banned in Michigan and other states. As you know, plastics are a by-product of the petroleum industry, and a highly profitable by-product. Might I dare suggest that the industry consider giving up their lobbying efforts to ban the bans for Lent?

Why? Consider that in America the average person throws away approximately 185 pounds of plastic per year. Consider that it takes between 500 to 1,000 years for the plastic to degrade, compounded by worldwide plastic waste, compounded by the fact that “plastic chemicals can be absorbed by the body—93 percent of Americans age six or older test positive for BPA (a plastic chemical),” and that “some of these compounds found in plastic have been found to alter hormones or have other potential human health effects,” compounded by the fact that “in the Los Angeles area alone, 10 metric tons of plastic fragments—like grocery bags, straws and soda bottles—are carried into the Pacific Ocean every day,” compounded worldwide and by the fact that “one million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans, and 44 percent of all seabird species, 22 percent of cetaceans, all sea turtle species and a growing list of fish species have been documented with plastic in or around their bodies,” it would seem to me to be the perfect corporate sacrifice for Lent.

But I know that jobs are more important, even if we are killing off ourselves and nature.

(Excuse me while I grab a plastic clippy to pull back my hair. Alternative: Use a cotton headband.)

If I’ve guilted you into giving up single use plastic for Lent, here are some ways I’ve learned to lessen single-use plastics in my life:

  • Buy condiments like mustard and ketchup in glass containers.
  • Use wax paper to wrap sandwiches. There are also biodegradable and compostable sandwich bags and food wraps available on the market, such as from EcoProducts.
  • Purchase deli products from the deli counter and request that they wrap your purchase in butcher paper.
  • Ask your market’s butcher to wrap your meat order in butcher paper.
  • Not all fruits and vegetables need to be plopped into plastic bags to purchase. Consider not bagging bananas, single fruit or vegetable items, celery, etc.
  • Purchase bread products wrapped in paper. (The benefit here is those breads are much more fresh and yummy than plastic wrapped breads.)
  • Purchase milk in paper cartons.
  • Clean and reuse what you can. (My favorite comes from “grandma El” who cleaned every wax bag from cereal cartons and reused them to pack sandwiches.)

Let’s sacrifice for our own good and the planet that gives us life. Your Lenten sacrifice may benefit you in ways you couldn’t imagine.


Center for Climate and Energy Solutions
Worldwatch Institute
Eco Lunch Boxes
TerraCycle Inc.

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