Tag Archives: plastic free july

It’s Plastic Free July and I’m ashamed of myself

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It’s Plastic Free July and I’m ashamed of myself
Plastic is chokes oceans, creates awful living conditions, and uses enormous amount of oil to produce

Plastic chokes oceans, creates awful living conditions, and uses enormous amount of oil to produce

As many of you know, last year I attempted the Plastic Free July challenge… with dismal results. I started out the challenge feeling confident that I will rock it because there are so many lifestyle changes that we’ve made already to reduce our plastic use – I always use my trusty S’well bottle and Joco cup, I don’t use straws, and I bring a canvas bag when I go shopping. So I thought, for sure the top 4 offenders have already been eradicated from my daily use. However, once I started, and actually counted how many pieces of plastic sneak into my life on a daily basis, I realized I wasn’t working hard enough. I also realized how many challenges there are for an individual who is trying to do this without a community of support.

So the shameful part that I have to now admit, is that after the challenge I not only didn’t try harder, but I also backslid. And now a year has gone by and the challenge has started again, and I haven’t even said a word. I told myself that I will try it again, but I made no effort to prepare. I haven’t discussed it with my partner. And then Canada Day rolled around and I didn’t start it. And I still haven’t.

One hurdle this summer is that because I have to work on my dissertation, I don’t have any trips planned to get out of the city and into nature. It’s easy in Windsor to lose the connection to the wild. There is no where here that I get that overwhelming feeling of awe, love, and joy for nature as I do in BC, for example. There is no where I can go and spend the day surrounded by old growth forests, or natural and pristine beaches, or the ocean. Southern Ontario is so thoroughly stripped of that kind of joy, and day to day tasks make it difficult to get away long enough to find it. And research confirms the disconnect I am feeling. Studies find that spending time in nature brings a deep sense of happiness and connection, and that people feel a vague sense of unhappiness in man-made environments.

But you can't take the forest out of the monkey, amirite?

But you can’t take the forest out of the monkey, amirite?

As my graduate education is slowly coming to an end, I also find myself more stressed out, eating worse due to lack of time for cooking, and producing a lot of garbage as a result. Last summer, I tried a local grocery delivery, which forced me to eat a variety of great local produce and cook on a regular basis. But we butted heads because they unnecessarily put all the produce in plastic bags, and even though I am very happy to hear that many of my friends signed up for the service this summer, I did not because their packaging practices have not changed. While I still have enough options for good quality local produce with less plastic, the fact that I have to go get it, mixed with stress and lack of time, means I default to going to one of Walkerville’s many delicious restaurants and cafe’s much more frequently than I’d like.

My dissertation (and in part, the challenge itself) also made me think about whether individuals trying to change their behaviour can really have the kind of impact that is needed to avert the worst of climate change. It feels futile, especially when you see things like assholes who are “Rolling coal” as a fuck you to environmentalists, or the fact that the People’s Climate March, the largest ever act of activism on climate to date was slammed for leaving piles of trash afterwards. Why should I bother with all the daily effort and mental thought that is required to build more sustainable habits? What is the point?

Marchers make their way across Central Park South during the People's Climate March on September 21 2014, in New York. PHOTO/ TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

Marchers make their way across Central Park South during the People’s Climate March on September 21 2014, in New York. PHOTO/ TIMOTHY A. CLARY/AFP/Getty Images)

In thinking this way, I fall into the same psychological trap that I’ve been reading about: the classic commons dilemma, the failure of cooperation, the insidious impact of capitalist culture on the psyche: If I do it but no one else does it, I waste the effort and deprive myself, while everyone else can still live with all the comforts and conveniences of our throwaway culture. Knowing that this is a psychological trap, as it turns out, doesn’t make it any easier to overcome. It comes with guilt, shame, exasperation, sometimes despair, but mostly… indifference. Sometimes I rationalize it by telling myself that I am contributing to progress through knowledge creation, and that is my place, and that is enough because I can’t do everything. My research on the impact of culture on unsustainable behaviour also makes me ambivalent about focusing on individual behaviour change, when it is systemic change that will have the most impact. All this uncertainty allows me to remain complacent but also ashamed because I know I can do more. And when there is shame, that’s when the conversation dies, because if you don’t talk about it then you can pretend it’s not there.

In writing about it on the blog I hope to puncture through that barrier, to bring it out in the open and shine light on what I’m sure is a common experience of paralysis.

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In related news:

~ 10,000 people marched in Toronto today for Jobs, Justice, & Climate

~ If you are in Windsor, and want to join a group, check out the Windsor chapter of the Blue Dot movement

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Plastic Free July Update

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Plastic Free July Update

Well, it’s almost two weeks into my one-week Plastic-Free July challenge 😉

The biggest lesson I learned from taking the challenge (for the first time) is that it will take several tries.

Mostly, I think the value of doing the challenge is to help yourself see areas of your life where you use a lot of plastic, and where you may already have solutions but are maybe putting off implementing them. One thing that was majorly noticeable for me was that a) there is so much plastic that I don’t consciously bring into my life but sneaks in anyway. Like the fact that I thought I never use straws, but over the course of the week counted several in my drinks. I also noticed that we use way more plastic bags than I was consciously aware of. In the plastic bag case, I know what the solution to a big part of the problem is: bring a container to the store for meats, cheeses, strawberries, or whatever. I have super nice glass containers, I wouldn’t feel super awkward whipping them out, and yet I have not yet gotten over the hump of bringing them to the store. There are other things that I don’t foresee I will solve very soon, such as: bags for kitty litter, trash bags, pita bags? We love pita bread, and it always comes in a bag.

In terms of reactions from other people, I will say it is pretty positive. Many people have told me about their efforts, and just about everyone seemed intrigued when we told them we were doing a Plastic Free July challenge. Some people giggled, wished us luck, or would applaud our efforts and tell us about how they do the exact opposite. But it always started a conversation! Some of our favourite vendors at the market have now been “trained” that we don’t want plastic. The fish and meat guy, Jerry, may sometimes even leave a tuna stake unpackaged for us :). Other vendors are frustrating, like the woman from whom we get hummus. We go to her business at least once a week, and routinely ask for no bags, and instead she double-bags, and ties the bag, when she hands it to you. I have handed her the bag back so many times now, that I think I’m just going to give up on her… mostly because I recently realized that I can MAKE hummus in my Nutribullet and it is astoundingly easy, and quick, and infinitely customizable, which means infinitely delicious 😀

It is no surprise that weeding out plastic will be a journey that will mostly happen gradually and through thoughtful effort. But it is worth taking on the challenge. Here’s why:

Much of the garbage including bags, plastic rings, facial microbeads, etc. end up in the ocean. One of the things that was interesting about the search for that missing airplane was how often the media latched on to “leads” of “spotted debris” only to realize it was just floating garbage. The ocean is FULL of garbage. Scientists exploring new depths in the ocean are finding the garbage made it there first, that’s how much garbage there is. And lots of marine animals either get caught in, or swallow trash and die. Pretty much anything that eats jelly fish would swallow a plastic bag, they look alike!

Plastic is also made from oil. Reducing plastic is a measurable way that you can reduce your carbon footprint. And it’s not all industry’s fault. Something like 40% of carbon pollution is from individual use.

When you buy a product, you’re buying the packaging too. It is not enough to “buy green”, we have to think of the life cycle of the things we use. You likely use a bag once or twice, before it will inevitable either get thrown away or filled with garbage/pet waste and thrown in the dump… WHERE IT WILL REMAIN for a minimum 500 YEARS. There might not even be people in 500 years, but our trash will be here. And companies will keep making more and more of it, unless WE refuse to use it!

Let me know if you want to join me in the challenge, I’m sure we could swap ideas. Or send me your hummus recipe.

 

 

 

Plastic Free July Day 2: You won’t like me when I’m Hangry, and why I have to break up with my hummus lady

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So, I’m not gonna lie – plastic free challenge is more like a lesson in how goddamn hard it is to avoid plastic.

I was mostly prepared today – I even brought a container for take out at the office (I am clearly too lazy to make my own lunch, but perhaps I should start). What I wasn’t prepared for was what actually happened: my coding meeting started way late and then went really long, and not having eaten anything beforehand I was extremely hungry when we finished, and also in a big hurry because I had other places to be. So what did I do? I ran out for a late lunch without my container, and all the places where I usually get lunch that are relatively plastic-avoidable were closed. At that point I just wanted to shove the first food I saw in my mouth, so not only was I not thinking about the package it would be coming in, I also made poor choices in terms of picking something relatively healthy. So count me down for plastic sauce container, fork and knife.

When I got home, I saw that my partner has done the grocery shopping: chicken came in a plastic bag wrapped in another plastic bag. Pitas in a bag; and he said that the hummus lady AS USUAL refused to hear anything about us not wanting bags and purposefully put all his stuff in a bag and TIED it before handing it to him. I guess he felt uncomfortable untying it to take everything out so he decided not to make a fuss. Fair enough, but I’ve had enough with her. She does this all the time, and she knows better; she just does it regardless. What gives?? I think that means it’s time to break up with my hummus lady. Now where will I get delicious hummus???

On the plus side, my veggie delivery guy said that they will “try” to not pack my groceries in plastic, but if it still comes in a bag we are welcome to return the bags with the bins and they’d be happy to reuse them. Better than nothing?

Today’s total: 1 fork, 1 knife, 1 small container, FOUR GODDAMN BAGS. Ugh.

Plastic Free Canada Day and sneaky sources of plastic

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Plastic Free Canada Day and sneaky sources of plastic

With the first day of Plastic Free July behind me, this is what I learned:

– Tell people right off the bat that you are doing the plastic free challenge/going plastic free before they hand you a delicious Canada Day drink with a straw in it! D’oh!

– I bragged in my first post about the challenge that I’ve already eradicated straws from my life a long time ago, and the first day made me realize that just because *I* don’t buy straws, doesn’t mean they don’t sneak into my life. When I ate at a restaurant later in the day there was yet another straw in my water 😦

– The other source of sneaky plastic yesterday was my veggie box delivery. Even though everything comes in a box, the potatoes, kale, and lettuce were all wrapped in individual plastic bags. I’ve since emailed my grocery delivery and politely asked if they can nix the plastic from my box, but some of the produce is from the States and likely comes that way to them (but the potatoes and lettuce are local, so why the heck were they bagged???)

But that was all the plastic I encountered in the day, so… not too shabby?

Today I am on campus, armed with my reusable water bottle and a container for takeout if I go out to eat. Let’s see if I can do better on day 2 😛

I’m doing the Plastic Free July challenge

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In an effort to practice what I so often preach, I am joining the Plastic Free July  challenge! The challenge is to attempt to refuse as much single-use plastic as you can.

Now I’ll admit, I immediately balked at doing a whole month. That seems daunting… However, you have the option to take the challenge for as many days as you like, so I pledged a week and intend to go for as long as I can for the rest of the month. I also considered doing only the main Top 4 offender elimination. The top 4 single use plastic items are: plastic bags, plastic bottles, straws, and coffee lids. But then I realized I’d be cheating because we’ve already eradicated straws and 95% of plastic bottles, I mostly use my S’well bottle for water and coffee, with plastic bags still being the problematic one, though we’ve dramatically reduced their use.

There are some problems for which I’ve had solutions for a while but have been lax on implementing:

– Bringing a reusable container for meats/grocery and takeout

– Getting canvas/cloth bags for bulk item shopping, which is where the majority of my plastic bags are still coming from

– Getting cloth for plastic-free storage of greens and veggies in the fridge

My biggest challenges that I don’t really have solutions for are:

– Cat litter

– The garbage

For the purpose of the challenge we are asked to keep a “dilemma bag” where all the plastic that we were not able to avoid during the challenge will go. This is a neat idea because it will help me figure out other challenging areas where I may not have realized I was using throw-away plastic. I will keep you updated on my progress as I go! Wish me luck 🙂