I became more and more grossed out, pissed off, and overwhelmed by the presence of plastics around me. I should actually say surrounding me and in me, not just around me. Not only that, I also became more annoyed at my own lazy consumer habits when it comes to plastics. I seemed to excuse my plastic consumption for the sake of convenience way too often. Then, I ended up looking around and feeling repulsed, because I knew, both intuitively and factually, that plastics are negatively affecting my health and the health of the planet. Particularly the oceans! And oh how I love the oceans.
So, one day I had this idea that I would join the ranks of the others making changes, drastic by many standards, when the world around simply doesn’t feel right. Starting January 1st 2010, I embarked on my year without plastics.
What does a year without plastics entail? Leading up to 2010, my friends started calling me randomly with numerous “what are you going to do about ____” inquiries, as they began to think about the ramifications of this experiment. Here are some of the rules for the project:
- No acquiring (buying or accepting) of any new items containing plastic or contained in plastic (applying to all categories of goods). This includes recyclable, biodegradable, and recycled plastics. Note- I will be making every effort to find out where plastics exist, but realize that I am no plastic expert, and will probably unknowingly consume plastics in my ignorance until enlightened.
- Documentation of all plastics acquired out of “necessity”. Health-related plastics spring to mind as a few examples of such “necessary” exceptions. Throughout the life of this project, I anticipate many documented contemplations of the “necessary”.
- Collection of all plastics acquired, purposeful or incidental. An example of incidental plastics would be a toothpick with that frilly plastic end on it, which miraculously ends up in your lunch sandwich without consent. All efforts, however, will be made to try to avoid such incidents.
- A purge of existing plastic use and/or ownership in the categories of hygiene/cosmetics and food preparation/storage. This is because many toxic plastics live in the bathroom and kitchen, and many toxic products live within those plastics.
- A gradual phasing out of existing plastic use and/or ownership in the categories of clothing/footwear and many office and household items.
- Allowed use of office and household items containing plastic, for as long as they are not phased out. My computer and cell phone are examples.
- Allowed dining at restaurants and friends’ houses (where plastic would have been used in food preparations) as long as I am not directly consuming plastic. Examples of direct consumption would be an individually-wrapped dessert item (e.g. an ice cream bar), bottled beer (with its annoying plastic lining inside the cap), or disposable cutlery/dishes.
- No consumption of new plastic-wrapped items, including food, that are in my house, as bought and/or prepared by others.
- No getting others to buy plastic items for me.
- Re-gifting of plastic-marred gifts acquired after January 1st.
- No borrowing plastic items from friends (mainly to help kick the habit).
- Allowance for touching plastics where they exist in my everyday. For example, a bus seat. But, since plastics leach out, washing hands often to avoid absorption.
- Allowed consumption of items that likely touched plastics somewhere along their production/transport (this is sadly probably most things).
This is a very personal project for me. It has the primary objectives of:
- Self-discipline. If I don’t agree with plastics, and plastics don’t agree with me, why would I keep consuming them? I don’t want to be just another person in a sustained consumption coma. I believe, that with a little bit of effort, I can cut out the majority of my plastic consumption.
- Self reliance. The more you can cut your reliance on oil-based products, the closer you are to being a free citizen. Learn to make and grow my own stuff, let go of reliance on convenience foods and products, learn to live with less.
- Self education. I don’t really know where plastics hide in my everyday. By cutting out out all plastics, I will be forced to pay more attention and learn to evade this sneaky substance. And! the prospect of discovering healthier and more natural substitutes delights me.
- Personal health. I know that many plastics do funky things to me. And, their accumulation in our environment is affecting the health of our planet, and hence me. In addition, I think that if I cut out plastics, I will simultaneously be avoiding a whole gamut of other things that aren’t good for me. Processed foods and cosmetics are two examples of things that I often get fooled into conveniently consuming.
- Clarity and redefinition of value. I probably don’t “need” many of the items containing plastics that I currently use/own. By not allowing any new purchases, and by phasing out use/ownership of plastics currently in my possession, I hope to gain clarity on the frivolity of many items. I also want to gain clarity on what level of plastic use is OK in my own, and currently cloudy, personal judgment. Remaining items, chosen with care, regain value.
- Personal challenge. This project will not be convenient. In fact, I get a little terrified thinking about it some days, but also welcome the excitement that brews in my belly about it.
The reasons that I am making this project public are:
- Peer pressure. When self-discipline is waning, there’s nothing like an audience to keep me on the right track.
- Community support. I am hoping that there are people and companies out there who can help me find substitutes.
- Making connections. I like talking about this stuff, and connecting with other people who care.
- Education and leading by example. If I can learn from this project and reduce my use of plastics, others can too. I don’t, by any means, think that everyone should feel guilty about their plastic consumption and turn eco-Nazi overnight. However, I think that all of us can become more aware of how pervasive and dangerous plastics are, learn about alternatives, and make small positive changes.