Thursday, September 6, 2007

Test run

I recently read an article titled Our oceans are turning into plastic...are we? which prompted this experiment. In the article, the impact of decades of plastic production is shockingly clear. Hundreds of miles of the ocean surface is littered with plastic. Plastic is found inside wildlife and inside human bodies. Plastic is poisoning the environment. And worst of all, it's not going away anytime soon.

So what can we do? On an individual basis, perhaps more than one would think. Becoming aware of how much plastic is in our possession, how much is wasted each year, and how much is unnecessary to our survival is just the beginning. Just looking around my apartment, I can find nowhere to rest my eyes that does not have a piece of plastic in view. The window blinds, stereo equipment, toiletries, kitchen gadgets, hangers, lamps, phones...we are dependent on it.

Or are we?

Today was just a test run grocery trip. Carl and I have reusable grocery bags and a box full of used produce bags. I needed to pick up some dried beans, cereal, coffee, half and half, and vegetables for minestrone soup, so I thought it would be easy to avoid plastic.

In the end, I was close. I had a bundle of organic carrots with a plastic tag (printed with information about the farm it came from) and a bag for coffee beans lined with plastic. Since it was a generic bag, I just wrote the date and bin number, which I will cross off and reuse next time we need coffee. To avoid the plastic tag on the bundle of carrots, I will buy bulk carrots individually.

I've been giving it a lot of thought. How can we avoid plastic but still eat healthy? Here is a sample of the types of packaging with plastic: milk, meat, yogurt, juice, pasta, bread, cheese, cereal, salad dressing, tofu, snacks such as chips and cookies.

We are fortunate to live in a densely populated area of the city. 3 blocks from our apartment is Madison Market, a co-op with
a large selection of local and organically grown produce and bulk foods. Utilizing the used plastic produce bags, I was able to bring home three types of dried beans, granola, and fresh produce. They also stock bulk pasta, flour, sugar, and other dried goods. I've seen fresh pasta at Pike Place Market. We are going to check into a place that sells fresh tofu, using either used produce bags or another container that we already own. The same idea could apply to fresh meat at the market. If I talk to the butchers and request that the meat is only packaged in paper, we could potentially avoid plastic.

We plan on also contacting the companies that use plastic in their packaging and asking about the types of plastic they use and alternative ideas that they may have. There are types of plastics that are made from corn, for example, that have been proven to be biodegradable though not without another set of problems entirely.


Karina said...

hooray!! I think I will join you in this.

April Greer Photography said...

When we lived in Germany, grocery stores charged for plastic bags!! It was only .15 pfennings, but still enough to think twice about it. If you have to pay for it, it totally changes your mind. Seriously .15 pfennings is like 10 cents, but to BUY a bag just pisses people off. I never, ever used the plastic bags unless it was a do/die situation. We used linen bags, plastic reusable brakedown crates, yellow Ikea bags, tons of reusable stuff or even cardboard boxes that were in a cart at the check out. They totally wanted you to bring the cardboard home instead of using plastic bags. only since returning to the states did we use plastic bags again. Weird huh?