The sky is a hazy gray outside and the sun is still at least an hour away from rising, so the world has not found its colour yet. The houses are covered in a blanket of snow, the trees are frosted, and if I could see the mountains I’m sure they would have white, speckled peaks. I’m sitting at the desk in my office with a thick knitted sweater on and the hood pulled over my head. It’s cold in here. My cat has just come in and is scratching at the carpet while the baby sleeps in the next room. The furnace has finally just kicked on and is blowing hot air at my feet. My coffee is still hot.
Last night as I fed the baby I watched the documentary A Plastic Ocean.
This morning as I fed the baby I read a post by Lindsay from Treading my Own Path about Plastic-Free Living.
Plastic free living… I think it is probably impossible, but our habits need to change. A Plastic Ocean left me far from hopeful. Our plastic obsession is far worse than you can imagine or than you let yourself believe. In the farthest reaches of the ocean, you will find plastic. On the most remote islands, you will find plastic. The smallest creatures in the ocean have plastic in their system. Seabirds have stomachs full of microplastics. Whales have ingested plastic that block their digestive system and kills them.
The images of nature being consumed by plastic is disturbing. What have we done? This is our fault. And why was I so late to see it? I only started living consciously four years ago after watching the Clean Bin Project. But that was 2013. What about all the years before that? I have accumulated my share of plastic and put my fair share of plastic into our waterways and the earth. For some reason I was never fully aware of the problem.
And now…? Well, we have been obsessed with plastic since single-use plastics were championed like crazy in the 40s. We see how detrimental plastic is to our natural world and our own health; do some research into remote villages on islands that began importing food goods. Where are they to go with all the packaging? They literally have built their houses on piles of plastic trash. Then listen to their health stories.
We know plastic is unhealthy for us. It’s made from oil and chemicals and all sorts of unpronounceable components. Yet it is the main material for wrapping our food? Packaging and distributing our water? We have put convenience ahead of health.
Even sitting in this office right now I know that I am not living plastic-free as much as I wish. The gray sky I see? I see it through a plastic framed window. The houses across the street? Plastic is a major construction material; what do you think the material comes packaged in? The chair I sit on? Is leather, but the arms and legs are plastic. The sweater I am wearing? It’s only 60% cotton and 40% acrylic. The carpet my cat is scratching? It is probably synthetic and if I peeled it off the ground, what kind of plastics do you think I would find?
The scissors are plastic. The marker is plastic. My printer is plastic. This laptop is plastic. I just got a text from a friend who got a new phone – that’s plastic.
My point is our plastic use may not ever stop completely, but we can halt our single-use plastics. We can do a lot to just REFUSE single-use plastics, DEMAND that other material be used, and PUSH our government to classify plastic as hazardous. Because it is. And guaranteed it is in our waterways. Guaranteed it is in our earth. Guaranteed you are ingesting it. Guaranteed it is causing health problems.
Practice disciplining yourself to REFUSE. Plastic drink bottles, straws, bags at the store, to-go cups, Styrofoam take-out containers, cling-wrap, quick snacks in plastic packaging. You don’t need any of those things. Refuse them. And tell the company who makes them that you will no longer purchase from them until they change. If more of us would say NO, companies will have to change. If more of us would stop treating plastic like a disposable item, less would damage our natural world. What is stopping you?
Fortunately, we have activists. Fortunately, we have people that care. Fortunately, these people create awareness campaigns that may inspire others to take action, or at least to change their own habits; i.e. Take 3 for the Sea, All At Once, Plastic Oceans, Surfrider, and 5Gyres to name a few. Thank you to them! Thank you to you if you have changed even one plastic habit this year!
A Plastic Ocean showed us the severity of the problem.
So what are you going to do about it? Will you choose to help or to harm?