A few years ago I decided to stop buying ziplock bags to use in my kids' lunches. We invested in some sturdy re-useable containers and also started rinsing out and saving bags when purchased items happened to come packaged in them in case we needed them. In comparison to Beth Terry's declaration in 2007 to not allow any new plastic to come into her household, our decision seems rather small. But as I read her book Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too I learned a plastic free life is only attainable through small steps like ours.
Even though the goal of this book seems daunting, Terry's story is very encouraging. Prior to 2007 she led a very disposable and plastic lifestyle: eating take-out daily, drinking multiple cups of coffee a day - all from styrofoam cups with plastic lids, and accumulating CDs, DVDs, craft supplies, and sporting goods manufactured from plastic. If she got to plastic-free from that, surely our somewhat conscientious family can make this journey, too!
By tackling the various areas of our lives most infused with plastic (food packaging, personal hygiene products, cleaning products) in different chapters of the book and providing feasible solutions and resources for each, Terry does make this goal seem attainable. Packed with references to other books and websites, as well as, profiles of Plastic Free Heroes the reader will find the answer to any situation that involves plastic.
Since reading this book, I have of course, become more aware of the pervasiveness of plastic in our lives. And although we have been using stainless water bottles for years and buying most of our items secondhand and even baking bagels from scratch for packed lunches (which means we don't bring in a new plastic bag every week from the grocery store) our family still has a long way to go to eliminate bringing new plastic items into our household.
My goal is to focus on one area each month and eliminate that source of plastic. After doing it consistently it should become a habit and allow me to move onto a new area. An easy goal for October will be a consistent commitment to re-using plastic bags for produce rather than using the ones that are provided in the grocery store. We already use cloth bags for our grocery shopping, and I just need to devise a system that makes it easier to store and take bags for produce to the store. It is something I have been saying I will do for months, and it will feel good to finally do it. Trickier goals will definitely be making other perishable items from scratch weekly that contribute to our ever growing collection of plastic food containers stored in the cabinet to the left of our dishwasher: yogurt, cream cheese, salsa, hummus, etc. You can bet I will look at recipes and choose the easiest first!
I know this will be a process for our family, and even Terry admits she gets in tough situations where it seems like plastic is unavoidable. Right now, I am sure there are areas we can easily improve and whatever habits we incorporate will be better than how we are doing things currently. Throughout her book Terry frequently reminds the reader she is not perfect and that this is a journey, I am just thankful she blazed the trail and we can use her experience as our own road map. What are some ways you avoid/reduce plastic in your life?