Can Plastic be Fantastic?
Plastic is everywhere. And while it’s ugly and sometimes scary when we see it littering the ground and damaging wildlife, there are times when plastic is…fantastic. There are times when plastic is lifesaving. Growing up, one of my siblings was on dialysis for years. It involves bags and bags of fluid and some single use plastic! It helped keep him alive for years. I am so thankful. When natural disasters strike and water supplies take a turn for the worse, bottled water keeps people going. I am so thankful. In the last few decades of gas
powered vehicles plastic has reduced the weight of cars resulting in less fuel burned. Something that was unheard of before the invention of plastic. And I am thankful. “Plastic free” and “Zero Waste” are catchy slogans but they aren’t realistic for many people…including my family! These are fantastic hashtags to follow and inspiring in many ways but they can also make people feel they aren’t good enough or excluded and that’s the opposite of what we want. We call ourselves a “Low-Waste Shop” for a reason, and that’s because we want to communicate that we aren’t perfect and you don’t have to be either to make a difference!
Of course, our hope for the future is that we can move AWAY from harmful petroleum based plastic entirely and TOWARD truly sustainable plant based “plastic” that can be used for all these things, and sustainably return to the earth without harming it. But where does that leave us in the meantime? We think that leaves us with a couple of things on our To-Do list:
- Look honestly at our own routines and buying patterns and eliminate the UNNECESSARY plastic. (this means making realistic switches where you CAN and not guilting yourself for switches you CAN’T make yet)
- Being gentle with people around us. Not everyone has access to plastic free options and everyone’s participation is unique! No one wants to be a part of a mission that makes them feel ashamed of plastic they can’t help, and you never know what’s going on in someone’s life on any given day. Being gentle and celebrating the little things is a win-win!
- SUPPORT COMPANIES AND GROUPS THAT ARE WORKING TOWARD SUSTAINABLE PACKAGING. Sometimes that means plastic! We don’t have a perfect plastic alternative at the moment but as consumers, we signal to companies what there is a market for. We know this can be tricky, and I’m not saying you have to purchase everything that says “bio-plastic” on the label, but it’s worth digging in to see what that company is doing behind the scenes and supporting it with surveys, feedback, reviews etc. If there’s no interest in these alternatives there wont be motivation to solve the puzzle or change!
- Re-use re-use re-use! Having beautiful glass and bamboo containers is great, but you know what else is great? Reusing takeout or yogurt containers to refill bulk food! Reusing a grocery bag a zillion times at the farmers market! Washing out your zip-lock bags and reusing disposable cutlery if possible! These options aren’t always aesthetic or cute but they are a part of keeping harmful plastics OUT of the waste stream!
There is so much more to say about this issue and I could go on for days but I will close with this. Reducing plastic on a global level is a complicated conversation. It’s important, it’s necessary in so many areas of our life, and we have a LOT of work to do. With that being said, sometimes the “plastic free” and “zero waste” movements can be extreme and feel exclusive and we NEVER want ANYONE to feel like they can’t be a part of keeping this earth clean. Even if you use plastic EVERY DAY you can still be a part of the solution. You are still A WASTE NOT WARRIOR!