“What are you doing?” A neighbor asked.
“Making a loom,” Ixchel answered.
Her mother smiled. “But, Ixchel,” she said, “we don’t have any extra thread.”
“I know, Mama,” she answered. “I won’t take any.”
from Rainbow Weaver (Tejedora del Arcoiris)
story by Linda Elovitz Marshall
illustrations by Elisa Chavarri
(written in Spanish and English and translated by Eida de la Vaga)
Children’s Book Press/Lee & Low Books, 2016
Bags, and Bottles, and Straws! Oh My!
I like to play a game when I go to the grocery store. I try to get what I need without buying plastic. Today I thought I’d win, but no such luck. I mostly stayed in the produce department, except for a couple of canned goods and eggs, so I thought I had it made. Can you believe it? The cauliflower is now cut up into florets and packaged in plastic. My other choice was an organic head. Both were the same price, and the organic head of cauliflower was wrapped in plastic. I caved to convenience and bought the bagged florets.
Milk used to come in bottles. We paid a deposit on them when we bought milk, then got credit when we returned the (unbroken) bottles. They went through a strerilization process and were refilled and sold again. I think it’s called a closed system. Pop (soda) worked the same way.
Peanut butter, mayonnaise, shampoo…all packaged and sold in glass bottles or jars. So when plastic containers hit the market in the 1970s and 80s, we broke and cleaned up a lot less, but filled up trashcans and landfills a lot faster.
And what about water bottles? Water has been purchased in single-serving bottles since the mid-1950s, but really became popular in the 1990s. Plastic bottles take about 400 years to decompose naturally. I found an interesting and disturbing article in a recent Forbes Magazine. https://www.forbes.com/sites/trevornace/2017/07/26/million-plastic-bottles-minute-91-not-recycled/#7b5db818292c
- Globally, humans buy one million plastic bottles per minute. The US share works out to about 200 billion per year.
- 91% of all plastic is not recycled, even though it is easy to do so. (think side of the road, trashcans)
- By 2050, the world’s oceans will contain more plastic by weight than fish; and it takes a lot of plastic to weigh as much as a fish. (In 2050, my grandkids will be younger than I am now.)
- The energy equivalent of nearly 17 million barrels of oil are required to produce PET, the plastic used for single-use bottles. https://phys.org/news/2009-03-energy-bottle.html#jCp
The amount of energy required to make 12 plastic shopping bags could drive a car for a mile. http://www.earthpolicy.org/images/uploads/press_room/Plastic_Bags.pdf
But the news is not all bad.
Here’s good news from earth-policy.org
- At least 16 African countries have announced bans on certain types of plastic bags.
- Many European countries tax plastic bags or ban free distribution.
- Over 150 U.S. cities and counties ban or require fees for plastic bags, including Washington DC.
- But, the plastics industry has spent millions of dollars to challenge plastic bag ordinances.
But I can not leave the subject without mentioning plastic straws. I first became aware there even was a problem with straws only a couple of years ago. A friend of mine spoke up in a restaurant and asked *not* to be brought a straw. How odd, I thought. Then I started really thinking and looking and learning.
According to the National Park Service, 500 million plastic straws are used every day in the US. That’s enough to circle the Earth twice! Every day! (But, really, they mostly end up in the ocean.)
So what do we do?
Here are a few thoughts:
Try one new way to reduce the amount of plastic in your life.
Use reusable grocery bags.
Stop buying bottled water. Or buy less.
Bring your own coffee mug to the coffee shop.
Ask for no straws. It only feels awkward the first few times,
Shop in bulk when you can, to avoid extra packaging.
Buy clothes at a consignment shop or a thrift store. People get
rid of some really good stuff.
Consider shopping at Mayan Hands, the organization from
Guatemala I spoke of in the quote at the beginning of this post.
Spread the word. We really are suffocating Mother Nature. No
one can breathe through plastic.
-—stay curious! (and reduce, reuse, repair [that one’s mine!],
I just finished reading Unsheltered, by Barbara Kingsolver. It is about two families living in the same place 200 years apart. I felt like I was looking through a lens to the future when I was in the 1800, and then, I felt like the past was super-imposed on the now when I came back to the present time. Besides all that, it was Barbara Kingsolver at her best. Enjoy!