Piles of discarded plastics litter our oceans.
Piles of discarded plastics litter our oceans.

I have heard about this phenomenon before, the mass of plastic refuse floating in the ocean, but have not really looked into it much.  I was not even sure it existed as I have seen articles conflicting articles, with some saying these flotillas of plastic are as large as Texas while others claim it is an urban myth.  Earlier this week I watched VICE’s Garbage Island: An Ocean Full of Plastic and it the shocking reality is far worse than I think I have ever been led to believe.

It was only last week that I found a post on Chris Jordan’s photography of the stomach contents of dead sea birds.  Bellies full of plastic and waste. Horrific images that show just how cruel and self-centered we are as a culture of consumers.

Picture all of the plastic you’ve ever thrown away being piled up in your back yard and that is what these animals live in.  YOUR LIFETIME OF PLASTIC WASTE is in THEIR home, not yours.  And that’s the real issue: we don’t see the cost of our actions.  The real effect of all of our waste occurs thousands of miles away or in ways we just cannot see.

Since having my child I have really had to reevaluate many areas of my life as I try to live as an example to her.  We have changed how we eat, use technology, spend time watching TV, and spend our money.  I am not a huge consumer but I do still buy and throw out too much “stuff”.  It is time to commit myself to being less wasteful.

I’ve attempted before to be more conscious of the plastics in our house and even started to buy glass food storage over the plastic Tupperware; however, that phase kind of wore off.  Glass is breakable and heavy.  It seemed like a burden.  And now I am embarrassed by how selfish that sounds in comparison to what all this waste is doing to the environment and the other living things that share it with me.

I am starting in the kitchen because it seems to be the best place to begin given that our nourishment is being stored in these chemical boxes.  I find it equally wasteful to throw everything out and start fresh and so I will be posting our kitchen plastics on freecycle so another person in need can get use out of them should they choose.

I could just go out and buy all new storage but that pretty much just adds to the consumerism I’m trying to vet from my life.  One solution I’ve found is to save the glass jars from my groceries and re-use them for storage.  Glass jars keep foods fresh, dry and pest free.  Jam or mason jars have a water-proof seal, come in many sizes, and can stand both heat and cold well so they work amazingly for storing and transporting meals like stews and soups.  If you cannot get a set donated by a friend or freecycle then a flat of a dozen are only about $12 and can be reused till they break which, if you’re careful, could be years.  It is more likely that the lid will wear out, and those are easily replaced  What I also like about these kinds of jars is that you can buy them all with the same lid size- no more searching for the matching lid!

Replacing storage boxes is simple as glass is a readily available option; however, there is also the issue of plastic wrap.  I use this handy item all of the time.  Thank goodness someone somewhere has been thinking about eco-solutions for every aspect of our homes.  A simple search on Google found me the Abeego reusable food wraps.  I bought some locally a few days ago and so far I am happy with them.  Right now they don’t wrap things very tightly but I feel as they are used more they will increase in flexibility.  They seem like a product where using them only improves them.

I’m beginning is what I’m trying to get across.  We all need to start this journey somewhere.  My city made an effort to “start somewhere” on this issue by mandating that all stores needed to charge 5 cents for every plastic bag.  In the time that the rule was in place I know everyone in my circle of friends used far fewer bags.  The small fee was a definite incentive to bring your own cloth bag.  Sadly, our idiot mayor eliminated the fee and now usage is back up.  It is so easy to forget to bring a bag with you, and yet I could when it cost me something.  But every time I get a plastic bag it does cost me something.  It costs everyone something…. every living thing pays a price for my bag.  On average I likely use a bag per day, so I could save our planet 365 bags a year.  Everyone could do that- the math is so easy and HUGE.

Simple daily actions have huge impacts.  We don’t need to make grand gestures to change our world.  The small steps make a difference, and they lead to bigger ones eventually.  No more plastic grocery bags, no more produce bags (reusable ones are easy to find), no more Tupperware/Gladware, no more plastic wrap.  I can do this.  You can too.