Updated: Sep 21, 2019
One of my earliest childhood memories is being in the car with my parents and seeing a large truck blowing clouds of dark exhaust into the air. I was only about 7 years old but for some reason it filled me with uncontrollable rage. My parents literally had to lock the car doors so I couldn't get out to yell at the driver for polluting. I just didn't understand how someone could be so inconsiderate to other people, but most importantly, to the innocent plants and animals around them?
Turns out, most people don't care about the plants and animals around them, at least enough to change their daily habits. Long ago I made a commitment to NOT be one of those people. Unfortunately as part of the environmentalist minority, I find myself feeling very alone in daily efforts to stand up for the planet. Granted, my sometimes-unhealthy obsession with sustainability can look extreme to some. (Too much of a good thing is not a good thing - similar to someone who over exercises or diets).
I put a pressure on myself to contribute to the greater good each day. Sometimes it's easy and comes naturally, but other times it is really. freaking. hard. It feels like a constant uphill battle trying to face something so much bigger than yourself and that no matter what you do and how much you care, the outcome is out of your hands.
At the forefront of the media's attention these days: the Plastic Problem. Microplastics can now be found in every corner of the earth- from the bottom of the oceans to the very organs in our bodies. This toxic, cancer-causing, inflammatory material is officially inescapable and because it literally never goes away, it is slowly killing us and our planet.
We are so blessed to live in a wonderful world of ease and opportunity. Asking people to volunteer to leave their cozy bubbles of comfort and convenience is the definition of insanity. It's human nature to take the path of least resistance. But something has to give. There HAS to be a change. For my daughter's generation and every living soul (person, plants and animal) to come after us, it is our duty to make this right.
Determined to "be the change" I wanted to find out if it really is possible to live without plastic, so last month I took a pledge to participate in "Mind Your Plastic May."
First, it should be noted that the plastic-free life isn't something new for me. In the past few years we have successfully ditched 90% of plastic in our home and daily lives (how we did this is a whole other blog!). But always the over-achiever, I wanted to try to take it to the next level and experiment to see if I could live 100% plastic-free for a month.
I figured after getting this far in our lifestyle changes, that it'd be easy. Spoiler alert: It was not. I couldn't do it. I tried, and I failed. But like all mistakes, I learned from them.
First, that it's important to "Use your privilege". I had several distinct slip-ups and all of them occurred during moments where I felt either rushed or pressurized in some way. Through these situations I was able to fully realize that living plastic-free is a luxury that most people don't have. Making a change to your lifestyle, routines and habits takes a lot of focus, determination and above all - time. So, if you are one of those lucky few who does have that leisure to live intentionally (and I assume you do if you're reading this blog) then it is imperative to put that privilege towards something bigger than yourself. Do some research on the zero-waste lifestyle. Follow some new influencers who are leading the movement. Invest in plastic-free reusable products. And in the meantime, let this collapse of our planet also be a lesson to us all that as a society we just need to SLOW the heck down!
Second, it takes a village. This a deep and complex problem. Consumers created the problem, and it is up to us to fix it, but we can't do it alone. Corporations and businesses have to also make changes in order for this movement to work. How do we hold them accountable? The key is in making every choice count when you're a customer. First, support only those businesses that support the environment. And those that don't- don't be afraid to speak up by sending an email or making a phone call to management. Demand they do better, and they will. When you become a leader in your community you become a leader for the whole world.
All month long I encountered businesses using single-use plastic simply because that was their habit, or worse, their "policy." No one had bothered to ask them to reevaluate their choices, so they never had taken the time to understand the alternatives. Everywhere we turn now we are surrounded by commerce built around convenience (Exhibit A: Without thinking, I accidentally left the farmers market- of all places- with a plastic container of microgreens and a fresh squeezed lemonade in a plastic cup!)
Indeed, the plastic-free life requires you to always be on the defensive- like driving on a busy highway, waiting to see what those reckless or oblivious rivers will do next. But we can't abandon our cars on the highway and just walk away. We have to stay patiently alert, calmly assertive. The more traffic this road gets, the more familiar the route.
And what is the final destination? It's not some fantasy utopia of perfection and eternal bliss. It's a lifestyle of simplicity and sustainability. It's a circular economy where our planet is valued just as money as people and profit. It's a culture where nature is revered, the wild is worshipped, and every living thing is given the opportunity to thrive. We can get there, and we can get there together.
Love and Light (and Less),
Want more? Check out Part 2 of this post here.