As my city of Portland, Oregon begins its move towards plastic reduction by banning plastic grocery bags this week, I’m taking some time to assess where I am in my own household’s plastic-free journey. It’s been perfect timing for perusing our trash actually, since I’ve been collecting plastic “art supplies” for my Square Affair piece (how is yours coming along?).
As I get farther down the road with my appraisal, I’m a bit perplexed as to why the last painstakingly slow half mile of my recent climb up Mt. St. Helens keeps coming to mind. Is it because I could only go one step forward, before sliding a half step back? Coordinating the environmentally friendly home life of five people, one dog and two cats certainly has its challenges.
I like to believe that I’m a step ahead in the plastics reduction game. I’m pretty aware of the environmental issues and can make a good case for why plastic reduction is important. I try to be smart about the products I buy and how they are packaged. I’m dedicated to checking the bulk bins first before making any purchase of packaged products. I teach my children about how much more product they can buy when less packaging is involved, and we save and re-use plastic containers from the few prepared products we buy.
So now I’m wondering, since my city is now doing a great job at recycling or composting just about everything currently possible to compost or recycle, why at the end of every week is our trash compactor still annoyingly full of plastic? The produce bags that the grapes come in, paper dog food bags lined in plastic, those pesky plastic lids that jam the recycling equipment, the take-out containers that I succumb to because my favorite Ethiopian place can’t afford paper containers, and my age-old arch-nemesis, the clamshell container, that way too many lower cost items still come packed in. I’m no genius, but I believe that these are yesterday’s conveniences that we can no longer afford to have in our landfills….things that smarter minds than mine should be figuring out how to do differently, and at a cost we can all accept.
Are you doing better than we are at figuring all of this out at your house?
At Create Plenty, we dream about buying all kinds of products without packaging, far beyond the usual dry goods and few liquid bulk items we now see for sale at the co-op. And we consider how much money people can be saving by bring their own containers to fill up again and again. We imagine a world where people with limited means actually have choices about where they shop, the products they buy and how they are packaged. We imagine nearly every product and how it can potentially be sold in a very different way than we see now.
Someday, it will be so satisfying to pull out a faded plastic hummus container and tell my grandchildren that I’ve been re-using it since my kids were their age. In the meantime, I’m looking for more ways to use less plastic. Your creative ideas are always welcome and encouraged!
Cheryl Franceschi is a board member of Create Plenty.