Friday, April 18, 2014

Plastic Paradise

We alone cannot save the world.  Sometimes it feels completely and totally overwhelming thinking that we must at least try.  How does one family or one person make a noticeable difference in solving problems that seem insurmountable, like the the amount of plastic floating in our oceans, collecting into a mass that has been labeled “Garbage Island”?

We first came to know Garbage Island two years ago when Lilah was participating in Destination Imagination (DI).  Her team project was to raise awareness of the shark finning industry in the effort to bring outrage and activism against it.  They spent countless hours researching the ocean, the marine life and the horrors of shark finning.  They held a movie screening of Sharkwater and because of this, one family we know made the decision to become vegetarian.  Through their research, they not only learned about sharks, but the plight of the sea turtle and the marine birds that feed off the ocean and its inhabitants.  One Pacific Northwest study of bird’s stomach cavities showed that 92% of birds injested plastic, often in large amounts.  The birds eat it, the fish eat it, and ultimately, we eat it.

This week we attended a screening of Plastic Paradise which examines these issues, in addition to the rise of the plastic industry, and the use of BPA.  We left with a renewed commitment to not use plastic bags when we shop and to use our glass water bottles more often.  

Watching these documentaries is educational and enlightening, but also frightening.  What is supposed to be an empowering movement for children to “change the world” often leaves them feeling powerless and very small.  My girls had a bit of a freak out over BPA, even though I reassured them that I am vigilant against allowing any plastics into our home and the few plastic items that we have do not contain BPA.  

I have come to the realization that it is virtually impossible in a typical family to live 100% clean.  Eating 100% organic is a challenge at best.  Living plastic free is an attainable goal, provided you introduce new habits and procedures into your home.  But what about toothbrushes and hair ties and summer flip flops and shampoo bottles?  Yes you could buy bamboo toothbrushes, but right now because I am involved with orthodonture treatment, I am averaging one toothbrush per week.  On Amazon a 4 pack of bamboo tooth brushes range from $12 to $20. While we use hardly any plastic, we are not plastic-free.

We can continue to do small things in our home.  We can use reusable shopping bags.  We can shop more at local markets when they are in season.  We can not pack our produce in separate plastic bags, because really, we are washing it anyway!  We can recycle, as much as our town allows.  But there are other things that we cannot change due to life’s circumstances.  Our family relies on water bottles, the big 2 gallon Poland Spring jugs.  Our town’s water is heavily chlorinated and even with a Brita or a similar filtering system, it just does not taste right.  Until we can install a full home filter, we do rely on the Poland Springs bottles, which we pour into glass water bottles and recycle when empty.  I confirmed on Poland Springs website and others that they do not use BPA in any container that is less than 3 gallons.  Shame on them for continuing to use it in the larger water cooler bottles......

I told my girls not to get anxious.  The four of us cannot solve Garbage Island.  We have to trust that the experts are working on ways to solve this problem.  Perhaps they will one day work in that field and they will put their talents, intelligence and creativity to work solving a large problem.  We can do small things with intention.  We can be aware and reflect that as consumers.  We vote with our dollars.  Our one small change may inspire someone else’s one small change and those small changes add up.  

At the movie screenings Q&A session held by a homeschooled 12 year old girl, I mentioned that over the past few years there has been an explosion of offerings that are “organic”.  Even Kraft is now offering organic mac-n-cheese.  I “” organic because I have a deep mistrust of big food getting into the organic labeling business.  On a side note, I trust Amy’s products or Annie’s far more than Kraft, but they are adapting their business to consumer trends.  Legislation only makes what we purchase more expensive.  You can force companies to change through more laws and more bureaucracy or you can simply stop purchasing.  Once bottom lines and profits are impacted, change comes relatively quick.  I have to trust that there will be change in the plastic industry as well, as consumers inform themselves and children start by taking the small steps that become part of a larger movement.


Jenn said...

Thank you for sharing this! I share your concerns and have tried for the last few years to decrease our use of seems to be almost impossible to completely eliminate it. But I think our girls do need to see that while one person alone cannot solve the problem, she can choose not to contribute to it willingly (understanding that some things are just out of our powere to control). And food?! That's a whole new challenge for me...trying to buy local, organic, natural, non-GMO food for a family of seven can be frustrating and expensive:/ That's why we expanded our garden!

Karen said...

It IS overwhelming but I agree, small changes will lead to big changes. I don't trust big companies getting into the 'organic' foods either. It is easy to slap a name on something. I would like to see this film.

firstgood said...

Have you watched Waste Land? Our daught had to watch for a paper for college and we just watchd it as a family. Great film.


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