Hello, Goodbye: Getting Ready for Life After Plastic

This well-loved and sun bleached trike was dropped off by a friend a month or so ago, and we so appreciate the timing. If it had been offered in the new year, we wouldn’t have been able to accept. That’s the terms of the plastic fast (January 1-May 1) we’ve committed to: Love what you got, make do without what you don’t. We’ve been getting ready to live by this motto for several months now, not so much stocking up (see exceptions below) as learning how to live without the things we once thought were so essential. In the process, we’ve been saying hello to some new products and goodbye to others. In no particular order, the things on my mind these final days are:

Hello:

:: Hello Glue in a can. I love making small books and collages, and burn through glue sticks like nobody’s business.

:: Hello chevre, yogurt, and sour cream cultures. I ordered them from here, and am stocking up as they unfortunately come in tiny plastic bags.

:: Hello mineral pigments in metal tins. Goodbye liquid makeup in a tube.

:: Hello water activated paper tape. Yep, there are times when string just won’t do the job.

:: Hello Compressed natural cellulose sponges. I’d love a Skoy cloth or two, but rags will have to do.

:: Hello fruit juice sweetened ketchup, the only one I can find in a glass jar. It’s good for us, right?

:: Hello cloth baby wipes. A solution of 2 tbsp baby oil, 2 tbsp baby shampoo, and a cup of water make cleaning bums a breeze. I also stack a few to the needed thickness for menstrual pads. We’ve been using cloth diapers since our daughter was born, but not always at night. So bye, bye disposables.

:: Hello renewed sense of right livelihood and balance.

Goodbye:

:: So long, Braggs, beloved condiment that has been with me all my days. I still can’t figure out what you actually are, but I’m forsaking you for tamari from the bulk section of the co-op.

:: Goodbye, condoms. At a mining museum I once saw old tins that held one reusable, animal gut “shield.” As far as I know, nothing like that is available today (or actually effective). Instead we’ll continue using Fertility Awareness (which has worked for us for ten years), and hoard our little stash of latex for fertile day emergencies.

:: Bye, bye, Monterey Jack. We can buy bulk cheddar and baby swiss (and bring it home in a tiffin), but no jack. I’ve been making lot’s of simple soft cheeses and appreciate the way they’ve expanded my culinary world, but this is a favorite, and we’ll miss it.

:: Farewell, contact lenses and associated waste. Hello glasses! (Not me, him.)

:: Adios, cheap underwear and socks from big box stores.

:: So long, canned tomatoes and coconut milk. I’ll keep writing letters to your manufacturers asking them to package you in glass, but until, then, be well.

:: Good riddance, Ebay.

:: Bye for now, snack food for kiddos. Okay, I’ll confess, I bought C. a giant bag (no cardboard) of O’s, but have stashed them in a jar for emergencies.

:: And a fond farewell to feelings of guilt and powerlessness. Thank you for propelling us to make these changes!

::

If the things on these lists seem, well, minor, they are (but let’s talk again in February, shall we?) That’s what I’ve learned during these months of weaning off plastic – we don’t actually need (much of) it. Some exceptions that my pragmatic side asks me to acknowledge our need for are:

:: The occasional plastic cap on milk bottles and the like. Before buying plastic parts I’ll try to go without, or make my own (mayo and toothpowder, for example). We’ll be saving all plastic that makes it’s way into our home, maybe for a fabulous art project if that glue turns out to be worth a dime.

:: Motor oil. Our cars are old, efficient, and kept alive by regular transfusions of oil. But we’ll try to keep it to a minimum by driving as little as possible.

:: Cat food. I’m not planning to make Nippy give up wet food, though one friend pointed out that if I really cared I’d make it for her. I guess we all have our limits. I’m having trouble finding dry food in a paper bag not lined with plastic. Suggestions? As for cat litter, let’s just say Nippy will be spending more time outdoors.

For more on changes we’ve made to make trips to the grocery store plastic free (easily the biggest hurdle), read this post. The long-time plastic-free blogger Fake Plastic Fish has a much more comprehensive list of changes and alternatives here.

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