Thursday, August 21, 2008


One of the main things that considering the "Plastic Diet" brings up is food. How will I eat if I take the dive into the anti-plastic? This raises some seeming contradictions:

1. I have found that I am more likely to eat "healthy" food when I buy it packaged in a way that is conducive to my busy lifestyle. For example, I eat a lot more salad when I buy lettuce in a plastic bag. I choose a quick snack of cheese instead of a sugary cookie or fruit when I have yummy string cheese wrapped in, yes, plastic.

2. Food that arrives in easy-to-use packaging is usually shipped in from somewhere not local at all. That's actually less healthy.

Is it better to choose lettuce over not-lettuce if the price is plastic and shipped in from far away? I'm really not sure what the right answer is here. It's hard to be pumped about cooking when I roll home at 9:30 pm after a hard day. I've spent a lot of time trying to optimize for healthy, easy, quick solutions (like the aforementioned salad in a bag) but most of them involve plastic.

Maybe the answer involves being disciplined with buying plastic-free lettuce (no plastic bag of course!) and then washing it and storing it in a reusable container. If I do that as soon as I get home from the grocery store, it would be almost as convenient as bagged lettuce. Hmm. Now I really need a salad spinner -- but aren't those made out of plastic? Anyone know where I could get a non-plastic salad spinner?

Wednesday, August 20, 2008


Recently, I've become obsessed with my friend Kerry's blog. A few months ago she decided to start a crusade to dramatically reduce her plastic usage. Armed with a "plastic diet" buddy, Kerry limits her new plastic to one piece per day - as small as a stir in a drink or as large as piece of bubble wrap. She reuses plastic bags, carries her own containers everywhere, and makes intentional choices that allow for a plastic-free life -- including concocting her own deodorant and laundry detergent to avoid the plastic containers those items usually come in and choosing a piece of fruit over a cookie if the cookie comes wrapped up in plastic.

At first it seems a little extreme, but the arguments against plastic are really compelling. Those arguments include the facts that we waste fossil fuels on creating and transporting plastic and have produced a GIANT (twice the size of Texas!) swirling plastic garbage dump in the Pacific Ocean that is killing wildlife. Her trials and triumphs are on display at Awesome blog.

The plastic blog has gotten me thinking, not just about my own plastic consumption but about consumption in general. In a bigger sense, I want to rid myself not just of excessive physical plastic use but also of "plastic decisions" in life. I've decided that I need to refocus on voluntary simplicity, a concept that was once very important to me but has drifted on my list of priorities. And I could use a forum for working out assorted priorities...hence this blog.

Background: My first year out of college, I did a volunteer service program. One of the central elements of the program was voluntary simplicity. In part, we lived this out by earning $100/mo. (plus free room in an old convent and a food budget of $15/person/week). Even more importantly than the material simplicity, we intentionally made choices about how we spent our time and what we focused on. It was the intentionality that I most remember -- really choosing those things that were imporant and working forward. It involves accepting a lot of responsibility for life.

It's not that I don't have priorities anymore. It's just that much energy and prioritization has focused on my work in the years since my "simple" life. By solving for the ways to be most "productive" I have definitely accepted American on-the-go disposable plastic solutions to a lot of problems from food to entertainment. I find that I am not as intentional with life as I used to be, not always fully considering the global implications of my actions, whether it's picking up breakfast at Au Bon Pain in a plastic bag I don't really need or spending time with people that don't nourish my soul. For the love of all that is balanced and good for the earth, I really need to reexamine.

The thing about prioritizing is that some items have to end up on the middle or the bottom of the list. I'm still young (and single!) enough that it makes sense to expend the greatest amount of energy finding and investing in satisfying work. But that is not an excuse to eat unhealthy to-go food wrapped in unnecessary plastic on a regular basis!

I'm going to start like Kerry and Erin did by just noticing the plastic in my life. I'm also going to notice the situations I've created, intentionally or unintentionally, that don't follow my actual internal priorities -- let's call that active plastic. Here's to a less plastic life!