Whenever I make a purchase, I try to be conscious of what I am buying and I am sure you are no different. I come at the decision from so many angles–financial, ecological, political, aesthetic, and so on. Is it within my budget, where was it made, with what materials and how long do I think it will last? I have become increasingly leery of purchasing items made of any kind of plastic. I didn’t used to be—after all, plastics have so many advantages—lighter weight, less breakable than glass, won’t rust, tarnish or rot and come in a billion colors and shapes.
Recent life experiences have shaped my thinking about plastics and most have involved the ocean. Living on the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 was one. I remember the acrid odor of burning oil on the evening shore breeze during the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. I already knew the statistics on just how much oil we import to produce plastics, but this disaster brought it home. Since then I’ve been even more aware of the unsustainable nature of plastics production.
During that year I had the daily indulgent pleasure of walking on the beach on Sand Key, Florida. It was hard to appreciate the beauty sometimes when confronted with the sheer volume of our life’s conveniences washing up on the sand. I would fetch an abandoned grocery bag to collect trash and while I cannot say how many full bags I collected, I can tell you, the vast majority of it was plastic.
One day I laid out all the trash I collected in a two mile walk, sorted it and counted it. 83 cigarette butts & cigar tips, 4 Band-Aids, 4 tampon applicators, 43 drink straws and drink straw wrappers, 3 lighters, 2 pairs sunglasses, 21 bottle caps, 14 bottle cap sealer rings, 1 disposable razor, 16 army men…on and on.
What I realized as I collected trash day in and day out was that there are alternatives to what I was picking up. Roll your own cigarettes, use canvas bags, bring your own water bottle, nix the drink straws, buy leather sandals, use wooden matches, use tampons with out applicator, and avoid over-packaged merchandise of all kinds. I try to do these things, but of course, I’m still human.
In the coming months, as a regular part of my “Viva Verde” posts, I will be featuring some of the alternatives to plastic as I try to implement these changes in my own life. I would love to hear from you about your own alternatives to plastic.
© Colleen Miko, 2012