Sunday, May 3, 2009

Post-modernity and a Plastic Assessment

Contest winner coming soon (though it's pretty clear as of now...get your last-minute entries in!).

It just hit me that this blog is highly ironic.

The basic premise is: my life is on fast-forward, my life is one-time-use disposable plastic, and I need to address that both literally and figuratively. Living in a montage is basically the definition of post-modernity. And the microprocessor is the vehicle that sends us into this hyper-stimulated, quick-fix orbit.

The reality is: I am using a medium of communication that has existed for only a few years, one that owes its very conception to the aforementioned microprocessors.

We live in a world of contradictions. Blogging evokes a sense of community lost to the demands of individualistic, post-modern pursuits. And yet blogging is a testament to our disconnections, the embodiment of self-indulgence, and a fundamentally lonely sport. Similarly, I am a bit of a contradiction. As I approach the end of grad school, I find it useful to take stock of where my plastic-reductionist journey has taken me. Which things have I successfully eliminated? What have I tried to eliminate but slipped back into? What did I never really give up? What new changes can I make with enhanced time in a post-graduate life?

Plastic victories:
plastic bags
*plastic straws

*plastic lids

*disposable cups (for the most part)
*bread: I basically just don't buy it.
*CDs/DVDs: I've avoided buying these since I started. I don't miss it much, since you can buy most anything you'd want online. Also a good cost-saver.

Attempts I later abandoned:
*shampoo/conditioner: I bought the bar conditioner from Lush and really tried to use it. However, that stuff does NOT lather. Call me vain, but I went back to regular conditioner. The saleswoman at Lush also claimed that it could double as shaving cream, but my sensitive skin begs to differ. Thoughts? Does anyone have better plastic-free shampoo/conditioner besides what comes from Lush?
*I realize this is a dirty little cleaning secret for a plastic blogger, but I LOVE Swiffer sheets: Tried to give these up. I mop, I vacuum. But seriously, there is nothing like a wet Swiffer wipe to clean off that cat fur you didn't even see. It really is five different kinds of clean. I suppose I could put a rag on my Swiffer and dampen it with eco-cleaner (like my favorite, Greening the Cleaning, or maybe just baking soda and water?). Anyone have thoughts?
*Dairy: Pretty much didn't buy any at all during my first month, when I was trying for the 1 piece of plastic/day rule. But I like milk, cheese, yogurt, ice cream, sour cream, and eggs. I've yet to find them without plastic. I really wish I could. I hear exciting things from New York regarding glass-casing on yogurt and milk, so I'll keep looking. But a girl's gotta get some calcium!
*Granola bars: This is an area I can improve. I generally eat them when I'm in a huge rush. Hopefully I'll be able to organize and stabilize my life post-studenthood. No guarantees. I definitely could use some better on-the-go food options.
*Meat: I was semi-vegetarian (unless out to eat) in October. Currently, I let myself buy a pack of chicken about once/2 weeks. Wish I had a better, I miss the butchers in Spain who wrap your food in paper!

Don't go there:
Crackers: You can't get them without plastic. And I really like them a lot. No, I don't have time to make them myself. No, there is no real logic about why I buy crackers and not bread. Except that crackers last a LOT longer.
*Popsicles: I never really gave them up, as I had some when I started the Plastic Diet in October. I'm not going to lie; I keep buying them. I hate that they are individually wrapped. And I have visions of making my own, but anything I'd make them out of (juice) would come from plastic. So does anyone know where I can get plastic-free juice? I guess I could buy fruit and make my own juice. But then the popsicles would lack their main attraction: 15 calorie goodness! I might just have to swallow the hypocracy of this one...
*Makeup: See previous posts. Blonde eyelashes, etc. I am looking for makeup that comes in eco-friendly casing.
*Office Supplies: See contest.
*Pet supplies: I appreciate those of you who suggest cooking for my cats, but a) if I buy meat to cook for them, I will be using plastic and b) it's a lot more expensive. And the natural litter doesn't work for my cats. Sigh.

I've said it before, but I think my major victory is AWARENESS. Senior year of college, I took a class called "Religion and Consumer Culture" with Prof. Vince Miller. He based the course on his book Consuming Religion. Basically, he advised us to choose just ONE thing and trace it back, whether it be a new pair of shoes or the bananas we were choosing to eat. He wanted us to take one small area of our lives, evaluate the implications and act consciously. I feel like the plastic diet might be like that for me. I'm not eliminating everything. But I am very conscious, and at least I'm making real choices. I have eliminated many more than one thing in my life, so at least I'm succeeding on that scale!

Here's to creeping forward.


Juli said...

You CAN buy bread without plastic. That is, you can if there are any decent bakeries near you. There are lots near me. I get a fresh loaf (Pullman style is the closest to regular old sandwich bread-- actually it is the original regular old sandwich bread) in a paper bag. Many of them will pre-slice it if you ask, though it stays fresh longer if you slice at home. Once home I put the bread and paper bag in a much re-used plastic bread bag. Works for me! And the bread is fresher and better than that other stuff.

Meg said...

My husband and I have 2/5 cats using Feline Pine pellets and that stuff is great -- especially with the special litter box you can buy at their site.

Now, if only we could get the other cats to use it or even just the Feline Pine scoopable. We just haven't had the patience, though.

underbelly said...

I too am trying to reduce my plastic and am glad I'm not the only one!

About shampoo/conditioner: have you ever tried using baking soda/water & vinegar/water? I have thick, curly hair and have been doing this for about two weeks. I'll admit I still use conditioner because my hair sometimes gets really tangled, but the baking soda REALLY cleans and the diluted vinegar leaves your hair surprisingly soft. (The trick is to not use too much of either!) I haven't written about my experience on my blog yet, but Beth at Fake Plastic Fish has if you're interested. Trust me--this cleaning method is really effective, cheap, will reduce your plastic consumption AND the amount of chemicals you're putting on your body.

About the crackers: have you ever heard of WASA crackers? I buy them at Publix, and they are the only crackers that don't come in plastic packaging. They're not any more expensive, they don't add sugar to them, and they taste really good! I don't know where you live, but I have a feeling they're pretty mainstream.

kudos to making an effort--none of us are perfect. good luck!