How strange to call this planet 'Earth' when quite clearly it is ocean. Arthur C. Clarke

Friday, April 25, 2014

Plastic fast--the last few weeks

Happy Easter!
That means my new plastic fast is over. Here are my results and reflections.

Though I haven't posted about it every week, I've certainly been trying to avoid plastic the whole time. I got to the point where there are things I need that I was just waiting to buy until the plastic fast was over. Overall, I wasn't able to totally avoid plastic, but I got better as the fast went on.

  • Things I needed that normally come with new plastic: SCUBA gear, ground flaxseed, cheap coconut oil
  • Things I bought that have new plastic (if any; hopefully this will be none): Stickers on fruit, an underwater compass, half of a diving manual (I split the cost with a friend), a small bag of crystallized ginger (I couldn't resist), a racing number to pin to my shirt.
  • Things I bought in plastic-free form: another strainer and a whisk.
  • Things I did to avoid buying new plastic: I refilled old flour containers, I didn't buy prepackaged food, and I've still been making my own bread like crazy.
  • Things with new plastic that were given to me: a half marathon finisher shirt (well, I guess I paid for it when I registered).
  • Plastic things I politely rejected: none.
  • People who learned about my plastic fast (optional): maybe people who read my blog.
  • What was the hardest part of my fast this week?: buying SCUBA gear. Does any of it come plastic-free? 
  • What was the easiest part of my fast this week?: buying fresh food. 
  • What can I not find a non-plastic alternative for, and can I give up this item entirely?: SCUBA gear, cheap coconut oil. I cannot give up SCUBA gear if I want to keep diving, but I can give up cheap coconut oil and buy more expensive oil in a glass jar.

Here's all the plastic trash (and a bit of non-plastic trash) I used during the fast. I didn't want to dump it out so you can see each item, but at least you can get an idea of volume. It's a paper-grocery-bag full. On top are some old plastic produce bags I had from before the fast, and they make up for the things I forgot to keep.

I learned from this fast that single-use plastics are the easier to avoid, while durable plastic items are sometimes impossible to avoid (for example, when buying SCUBA gear). Since the everyone else thinks plastic is a safe and useful material, it is extremely difficult to avoid it entirely. The most striking observation I made about plastic is how much food comes in really cheap plastic. This is why I lived off the fresh produce and bulk sections of New Leaf.  Unfortunately, all the bulk foods are stored in plastic bins. 

Another striking observation I made was how useful plastic is when backpacking. Storing food in plastic bags one of the best ways to pack food for backpacking trips because plastic bags are super lightweight and collapse-able. It was really hard to plan for my trip without plastic.

Now that the official fast is over, I plan to continue avoiding single-use plastic, but I'm not going to try quite as hard to avoid those durable plastic things I need (like SCUBA gear). In fact, I will probably buy my usual 54 oz. plastic jar of coconut oil as soon as I get paid next month. This is because it's 50% cheaper than what I can get in glass, and I struggle with money for food (probably largely due to my dietary choices). But once I'm being paid like a middle-class American and 51% of my income doesn't go toward paying rent, I will buy only plastic-free coconut oil.

I hope you are inspired to think about your use of plastic! To conclude, here's a picture of what I might study instead of California sheephead. I'll post about how my project is changing later.

Owl limpet Lottia gigantea. Photo by me this year.

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