I was so excited last week when I went to the grocery store! No, not because they still have senior hour in the morning! But because FINALLY we are allowed to bring our own shopping bags into the store! YIPEE! I finally feel like a morally upright person again when I buy food! It really feels like a tiny little win in the battle I have been having with myself about plastic use ever since the lockdown began in March.
But as I was doing my little happy dance on the way out of the store, I remembered something I read a while ago. Sadly, where I read it is gone along with the hard drive of my computer. But basically the author claimed that we as Americans have been the victims of a very long term campaign by the packaging industry to make us (consumers) feel that we have the ultimate responsibility for waste management – and here I am thinking predominantly of plastic.
Remember Iron Eyes Cody, that beautiful Native American man who was in the commercials for Keep America Beautiful? That single tear rolling down his face as he picked up trash by the side of the highway – what a powerful image.
The message was clear – it’s up to us to keep things clean and avoid waste. This totally ties in with the American ethos of personal responsibility in all things, personal freedom, etc. But is that really true? Yes, we can certainly not throw trash out the window of our cars – please. That’s just common courtesy! (My kids thought the back seat of our car was actually a trash can for years!) And yes, we can do our best not to buy plastic. But it’s impossible to be perfect with that endeavor. I have tried and tried, but no matter what we do around here, plastic sneaks in. Whether it’s containers for take out food, plastic film on a food item, or the packaging from food we ordered online during the pandemic peak…it’s hard to be a no-plastic purist.
I just took a peek at a movie called “The Story of Plastic” at www.storyofstuff.org. This was a fascinating view of the whole lifecycle of plastic – beginning to end. And my take away was this: Yes, absolutely we have to STOP BUYING PLASTIC PACKAGING to the fullest extent possible. And yes, where possible (and it is not very effective) we have to recycle the plastic we use (more writing on this soon). But there need to be changes at the level of manufacturing to curtail the amount of plastic being made. And it will probably take government intervention to get that to happen. And that intervention will need to be at the local, state and federal level.
I am not a political person. But what I have learned as we have strived in our household to live in a more environmentally sound way, is that lifestyle change is just not going to be enough. So I am compiling resources so that I can learn how to keep abreast of what’s going on in government with respect to environmental legislation. And I plan to start speaking up. Stay tuned; I’ll share what I learn!