Pluck Fastic. I don’t need (all of) it.

I almost pulled a plastic bag over a woman’s head today. Well, not really, but she did irk me a bit.

You see, I was hitting up the salad bar in my office building and I hear this woman loudly complaining that her sauce can’t touch her chicken fingers so she’s going to need two separate plastic cups with plastic lids to put in her plastic container. Is it just me, or does this seem a bit excessive since she clearly plans to dip said chicken into the sauce?

Loud lady is in line in front of me as we wait for the register and she picks up a plastic bottle of water, which she shoves into her purse next to another half-empty plastic bottle of water. She then “stocks up” on some plastic silverware, which also go into the purse and then asks the cashier for a plastic bag to put her single plastic container. Why, oh, why is that bag even necessary when she’s holding no other items?

What she was holding was similar to this:

But what I saw was this:

80 percent of this albatross' body weight was the plastic in its stomach.

Now, I’m not completely guiltless. My salad was also in a plastic container, but I saw no need to prevent my dressing from touching my salad during the short trip to the 40th floor, and I had a metal fork from home in my bag. Why was I carrying a fork around in my purse? Because lately, plastic is really getting on my nerves.

Have you ever considered the irony of plastic? It’s often thrown away in a matter of seconds — after we unwrap a piece of candy or open a package — but it lasts thousands of years. I finished my salad in about 10 minutes today, but the container it came in will be around for the next 1,000 years. This is unacceptable.

I was working on an article this week about eco-bloggers and the one-year green challenges they took on — everything from going vegan to living without a car. But there were two blogs that really got me thinking: Plastic Manners and The Clean Bin Project.

In an interview with Jen Rustemeyer of The Clean Bin Project, I asked her what advice she would give someone who was looking to become a little less wasteful and said, “Just do one thing. Once that becomes a habit, do something else.” Simple. Brilliant. World-changing.

I already reduce my carbon footprint in many ways: I don’t eat meat. (Why eating less meat helps the environment), I recycle religiously, I carry a refillable water bottle with me everywhere (I’m well hydrated), and I usually bring my reusable bags to the grocery store — but this isn’t enough. So here are my first steps to help wean myself off such plastic dependence.

1. You’ve been there for me when I needed you, plastic bags, but I’m moving on. I will always, always, always bring my reusable bags. If I forget, I guess I’m just going to have to acquire a new one at the store.

2. Goodbye, steam-in-the-bag vegetables. I’ve adored you and you’ll forever hold a place in my heart, but not in my freezer. I don’t have to purchase your toxic, disposable plastic in order to eat broccoli florets. Besides, fresher is better.

3. Our courtship is over, disposable produce bag. If I’m not steaming vegetables in the microwave, I’m certainly not going to put my apples and broccoli in you for that brief trip from produce aisle to my refrigerator. You’re no better than your checkout-bag cousins. Helloooo, reusable produce bags! *I bought these today because they’re made of cotton — many of these reusable bags are made from nylon or polyester. You know what those materials are? Plastic.

4. We’ve shared many a kiss, plastic straw, but I’m kissing you goodbye. You know the adage: A moment on the lips, forever … in the landfill.

5. Peace out, plastic bottles of juice. Yes, this means you V8 Fusion. I have a wonderful plastic-free juicer that will give me fresher juice, less sugar and zero guilt.

6. What’s that, disposable plastic silverware? You think one day I’m going to need you? I think not. It won’t kill me if I can’t eat that fruit cup one day. You, on the other hand, kill a whole lot of animals. It’s just not an acceptable trade-off.

The things I’m giving up are simply matters of convenience, and I can live without them. I interviewed Taina Uitto of Plastic Manners this week and she had this to say: “Convenience isn’t what makes life colorful.” True story.

If you need any other reason to reduce your plastic consumption, think of the Great Pacific Ocean Garbage Patch. Have you heard of it? It’s a swirling vortex of plastic bags, bottles and trash that’s as large as a continent. Plastic outnumbers plankton in some areas there by 48 to one. This garbage entangles marine life like sea turtles and is eaten by fish, birds and other animals — often killing them. Plus, sunlight can break down some of the plastic and leak toxins into the ocean that enter the food chain.

Gross. And unacceptable.

If this disgusts you, make one change. When it becomes a habit, make another. You may not think recycling that bottle cap — or just saying no to that bottle of water or soda to begin with — will make a difference, but it’ll make a HUGE difference to that bird or turtle that could have ingested it.

For more information:

Pluck Fastic: No, I’m not clever enough or vulgar enough to have made that up on my own.

Plastic Manners: Taina has TONS of helpful tips on her site. Plus, her story is just inspiring.

The Clean Bin Project: Very cool. Very inspiring. Just check out this documentary trailer.

Photos: eflon/Flickr, PlasticManners.com, Cesarharada/Flickr

12 thoughts on “Pluck Fastic. I don’t need (all of) it.

  1. I’m already in love with Plastic Manners. Thanks to your tweet earlier in the week I spent a few minutes browsing and intend in going back to read page to page, top to bottom. I despise plastic myself, but need to make more of a concerted effort to cut it out from my life. I very rarely use new bags from the store, and from now on, if I ain’t got a bag on me then you’ll see me waddling down the street struggling to carry everything. My main hate is margarine tubs and meat packaging (which of course u don’t have a problem with). I need to cut these out of my life too….somehow!

  2. I hear ya! I love my glass water bottles (Voss!!)/reusable containers (Pyrex!). I also have a Klean Kanteen stainless steel water bottle, and enjoy my tiffin “to-go ware”. I would love to be able to do more and can’t wait to investigate into “plastic manners” further.
    PS
    the picture of that bird was extremely disturbing *yuck*

  3. Good practical details to challenge me. I don’t know why I don’t keep a set of silverware in my work bag. And I love those produce bags you got. I need to get better about my plastic-dependance. Thanks for getting me thinking of the little details that absolutely add up to horrific proportions.

  4. Yeah, the bird was disturbing. I typically try to refrain from posting such images, but when I found that and it affected me so much I was hoping maybe it would make people realize how important this is. *Sorry, guys!*

    I’m so glad you’re doing something about this, Liza. And, as I told Geoff, definitely check out The Clean Bin Project, too. It’s ridiculously inspiring. Since reading it, I’ve realized all these other places I can cut back. I don’t want to live a life of convenience when I could make small changes that really make a difference.

    Thanks to both of you guys for caring enough to make a change!

    Pluck fastic!!

  5. I’m glad to have brought it to your attention, Kristy! I need to do A LOT better myself. But it’s baby steps for now. I’m already coming up with lots of new ideas, but I’m trying not to overwhelm myself. I’ll make these new things a habit and then start creating some new habits. ;)

  6. Aside from plastic as needless pollution, I endeavor to reduce my plastic use simply for the “health” aspect of it: tons of BPAs, phthalates, outgas-ing in general…unnecessary overload to your endocrine (and whatever else) system. (Let alone what it does to the environment.)
    i think more people need to be more deliberate and think through the consequences of their actions. I would like to think that, given the choice, people would WANT to make a positive impact in this world. They just need to be educated; and sharing links (and pictures!) are a great way to do so!

  7. That would bug me too. It’s just so unnecessary. I try to bring my own mug, water bottles and silverware when possible.

  8. Congrats on reducing your plastic consumption. This is something I’ve been trying to work on as well. One of the things I’d love to know is why we don’t make biodegradable plastic for the items that will be thrown away almost instantly. Some pretty amazing things are being accomplished through bio-engineering and it certainly would help.

  9. It’s so great to see that everyone is doing something to help!!

    I just learned yesterday that even BPA-free plastics can leak BPA-like chemicals! Scary, huh? http://www.mnn.com/health/fitness-well-being/blogs/study-bpa-free-plastics-leak-bpa-like-chemicals

    And I recently came across this site that really enlightened me about how recycling more isn’t the problem since plastics are actually “downcycled.” On top of that, bioplastics might not be the answer quite yet, but they could be in the future: http://plasticpollutioncoalition.org/learn/common-misconceptions/

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