Fair warning: This post is not going to be filled with any solid scientific information. Unless you’re the President of the United States, we feel like it’s pretty universally accepted that our planetis drowning in single use plastic. You can Google the terrifying and terrible facts, or you can just decide that there are probably MANY things you can do to reduce your own plastic use.
I think I came to this conclusion right around the time Justice Kennedy retired. Is there a lot I can do to change the fate of the Supreme Court? Probably not. So why not focus on something where I can actually make a difference. In Month 19, we’re here to bring you some armchair expert (as in, we’re not actually experts and you guys are probably far smarter than us on this topic, so please weigh in!) advice on how you can control your Supreme Court rage by getting your plastic use under control.
One quick fact before we delve into the opinions. Plastic recycling in Flagstaff (and many other communities around the US) recently took a huge hit, because apparently China doesn’t want our crap any more (https://azdailysun.com/news/local/china-crackdown-undermines-flagstaff-plastic-recycling/article_ed488c26-88ee-570b-9208-d294457f6507.html). How dare they? Similar to the Supreme Court, I probably can’t convince one of the world’s largest economies to once again take our plastic, so I decided to step up and do what I could in my own house:
Think Ahead: This is an oldie but a goodie….put reusable bags in your car. It’s really difficult to refuse the dearth of plastic bags you’re offered on a daily basis when your reusable bags are sitting in your garage. Listen, I have dogs who poop. A lot. And sometimes I get the plastic bags to deal with that, but my dog’s poop can’t compete with the abundance of my grocery shopping (note to self: do a post on food waste), and one simply does not need that many plastic bags in their life. Your local school or daycare can also use your excess bags (if you're a parent there's no greater joy than picking up the dreaded poop bag from school). Cristy will accept them at Haven Montessori any day of the week for the gang of potty-trainers.
Reuse: Sometimes we have to use plastic, but there’s no reason it has to be single use. I’m working on it, but I do love a Ziploc bag. My kitchen has become a giant Ziploc bag drying rack for all of the bags I wash and reuse. Those things are remarkably resilient and there’s no reason to toss them after one use. Another idea - Cristy and I went to the Flagstaff Community Market together yesterday (listen, we do more than just drink wine together, ok?) and saw people dropping off their plastic "clam" containers (think: strawberry containers) with the various vendors. So now that's going to be a thing too!
Refuse: I bought two books at a store today, and the clerk asked me if I wanted a bag. First, kudos to her for asking and not assuming. If you work in retail, please make this a policy at your business. Second, I was pretty tired from a rough day at the pool, but I still had the ability to carry two books without the assistance of a plastic bag. Sometimes we just say “yes” because it’s a force of habit, but learn to say no.
Invest: When I decided to take my plastic reduction to the next level, I turned to my BFF Amazon. For $47.01 I was able to up my plastic elimination game. My favorite purchase thus far has been the mesh produce bags). I busted these out at the Flagstaff Community Market today and felt like I was single-handedly saving the planet, one zucchini at a time. This Bee’s Wrap Paper is the bee’s knees (get it??). Use it wherever you’d normally use plastic wrap, and pat yourself on the back. Also, if you live in FLG, I recently discovered they sell it at Seasoned Kitchen, so keep that shit local. Have you heard that plastic straws are basically to the planet today what AquaNet was to the ozone layer in the 80’s? Did you know it’s possible to have a drink without a straw? If this sounds like something out of your wheelhouse (or you have kids who can’t fathom not having a straw), stock your purse or car with these stainless steel straws . I’m still figuring out the full potential of this purchase, but these reusable silicone bags have definitely saved some Ziploc bags from dying an unnecessary death in our household.
Badger: I was so excited when Ahipoki Bowl opened in Flagstaff. Chipotle meets poke was my dream come true, until I realized they serve everything (to-go and eat-in orders) in non-recyclable plastic containers. Whomp whomp. I started low key with emails and Facebook messages. On a visit there (hey, I’m not made of steel), I asked if I could bring in my own container. Negative. But, the manager was there, and I asked him about the plastic use. I’m guessing I wasn’t the first person, but he also had no idea their containers weren’t recyclable. I don’t know if our conversation had any impact, but sometimes it pays to be the squeaky wheel. And it will break my poke-loving heart, but I’ll definitely think twice before I go there, knowing that a plastic container is my only option.
Be Weird: We had an employee BBQ last week and I was horrified with the plastic situation. Sam’s Club size hot dog buns, in plastic bags, paired with more buns, and put in another plastic bag. So. Much. Plastic. I was the resident BBQ weirdo that gathered all of the bags and saved them for the aforementioned dog feces. Embrace your weird.
Am I the model of plastic perfection? Absolutely not. Until someone far smarter than me invents a sustainable alternative to plastic (has this already been done??), it’s part of our everyday lives. And plastic is convenient AF. But, if we can pay attention to our usage, we can each make a small impact, and that adds up to a large impact.