Quest: One week without disposable plastic

Can you go a week without acquiring/using any new disposable plastic items?

plastic-trashHow many disposable plastic bags, bottles, cups and utensils do you use in a day, a week, a year?

After watching a video by Jeff Bridges (I’ve embedded it below for you) I was inspired to take the challenge of starting with just one week – just one week – of not adding any new disposable plastic items into my world.

Sounds fairly simple, yes?  That’s what I thought!  I’m a reasonably planet-conscious person who recycles and prefers ‘real’ to ‘artificial’…  Should be a snap.  MAN, was I WRONG!

Here’s the video – watch this first and then I’ll tell you about my week of NO DISPOSABLE PLASTIC…

When did we become a plastic society?

Posted by Jeff Bridges on Monday, March 28, 2016

 

Day One – I didn’t go out of the house so day one was a success (kinda feels like cheating, but a success, nonetheless)

Day Two – A challenge was that I forgot to take water with me so called into a pharmacy to buy some – only to find the only water came in DISPOSABLE PLASTIC! So, I ended up buying a juice in a glass container… Then I was going to pick up some chicken on my way home but realized they would be putting the meat into DISPOSABLE PLASTIC bags… This whole challenge is actually more ‘challenging’ than I first anticipated!

Day Three – Decided to have breakfast on my way out this morning and called into a very cute-looking little cafe.  Ordered a yummy breakfast and an orange juice – only to have the breakfast delivered on a PLASTIC plate with PLASTIC knife and PLASTIC fork, and the orange juice served in a PLASTIC bottle.  It was all very tasty, but did rather dampen my enthusiasm for thinking I would be doing the right thing eating at a cafe that would have ‘real’ plates, cutlery and glassware.

Then on to the movies and I took my empty glass juice container from day 2 for them to fill with water – since they don’t like you bringing your own.  Unfortunately, while the only water they could offer me came in PLASTIC bottles, they were kind enough to fill my glass container with diet-soda (OK, so I know I wasn’t going to have any more soda while on my Kilimanjaro quest – but I felt like I would rather give up and have that one soda than buy a PLASTIC bottle during my one-week challenge.

Next, I called in to pick up some groceries and still baffled about how I was going to buy chicken and/or steak to cook at home without using any plastic, I asked to speak to the butcher.  After telling him about my quest, he said there was no possible way in any store he knew of where I could purchase meat without the use of plastic as even if I brought in my own container to put it in after he had weighed it, he would still need to put a plastic bag or sheet on the scales in order to do so.

SO, not one to be deterred, I went home meat-less.

Makes me think that vegans seem to be much less plastic-culprits simply by the very nature of the packaging of their food choices!

Am now home for the rest of the day…  Will see what tomorrow brings…

Day Four – I was home all day so no risk of adding to the plastic collection… however, I’m still baffled by many elements on this journey – mostly how it’s even possible to purchase the most basic of items without adding more plastics to the world…

Day Five – What a challenge…  Rather than purchase groceries that come in plastic packaging, I decided to forego breakfast, had a quick omelette for lunch (thankfully eggs come in paper-based packaging ALTHOUGH the cage-free eggs were ALL PLASTIC), and went out for dinner.

Day Six – Apart from an errand, decided to pick up some Chinese food – not something I normally eat but at least I knew their boxes were cardboard – so that I had enough take-out to last the final two days of my challenge…

Day Seven – after eating leftovers for breakfast, I hopped into my car and headed for Philadelphia to attend a conference,, foregoing lunch and having a delicious dinner at one of my favorite restaurants, the Moshulu (a turn of the century four-masted tall ship), knowing they would not be offering plastic!  🙂

What did I take away from this challenge?

In my experience, it is impossible to obtain what today we call ‘normal’ groceries without adding disposable plastic to the world.  It’s that simple.  It’s not a matter of purchasing at a different local store for this or that…  It’s simply not possible.  For instance, there were zero alternatives available to me in anywhere within a 50 mile radius (and yes, I went hunting) for me to purchase meats that were not packaged in disposable plastic.  Yes, I could purchase fruits and vegetables plastic-free, but that was largely where the quest ended.

So, unless I wish to exist on only fruit and vegetables at home and dining out for every other form of food – and to forego toothpaste, shampoo… the list goes on…

Even purchasing eggs – in the supermarket in the town where I am, the free-range (my preference) were all in plastic and only the eggs produced in ‘chicken-factories’ (that I tend to avoid) were in paper-based packaging.

I find it fascinating to look at the lives of people such as writer, Sarah Crisman – she, along with her husband, has chosen to largely immerse herself in the late 1800s – right down to everyday items.  As they state on their website, “We are NOT actors playing dress-up to portray “great men/women”, but just ordinary people choosing to insert as much of history into our present as we can, and using our experiences to teach others.  Sarah wears a corset 24/7, 365 days a year.  All of Gabriel’s current glasses date from the nineteenth century, from his 1850’s green sunglasses, to his everyday gold-rimmed spectacles, to his pince-nez for reading.  We don’t have cell phones, or watch television; Sarah doesn’t even have a driver’s license.  This is who we are.”

I believe it is only people such as the Crismans who are so removed from the 21st century who could possibly come close to a non-disposable-plastic existence.  For the rest of us…  I feel the best we can do is do the best we can to minimize the impact.

Quest technically over – yet I feel I have accomplished nothing…  Food for thought…

Leigh St John

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