Last July, I meant to write a post each week on my attempts to be single-use plastic free for the month. But one week in, there was an emergency in my extended family, and July became a rush of sleepless nights, worried phone calls, hospital visits and many other things that seemed immediately more important than the packaging my dinner came in.
It’s hard to care about plastic packaging when you’re worried about the people around you, if they’re coping OK, if they’re eating OK. And when someone asks for blueberries and grapes to be brought to the hospital, the correct response is not “sorry, I can’t get those because they come wrapped in plastic.” It’s “yes of course.”
A year on, and things have settled down a lot. Life returns to something approaching normal. And when Plastic Free July arrived, I realised that I was excited to begin the challenge of trying to forgo all disposable plastic for a month, precisely because I have the luxury of having the time, energy and drive to do so.
Now I imagine there will be many people with less of all of the above factors than me who manage to live environmentally-conscious, packaging-free, sustainable lives. But anyone who has tried to do so will surely admit that it requires more work, more thought and often more compromise than a more conventional lifestyle. I love my glass milk bottle delivery but accept it involves planning ahead and costs more and that’s OK because it’s important to me. I am happy to arrive home from work an hour later to go via the wholefoods shop and refill my bags of rice, herbs and spices because I feel like I’ve done ‘my bit’.
And because it’s important to me, and I’m used to it, a bit of my brain sees someone buying a non-recyclable bag of rice and doubly-plastic-packaged tomatoes in the supermarket and it makes a snap judgement – “Plastic is choking the planet, poisoning wildlife and polluting the oceans! This is really important! How can they not care?”
But these days, when I remember to give myself a good talking to and climb down off my high horse, I can say to myself “I don’t know anything about this person or why they’re making these choices.” They may have a hundred reasons why the sustainability of their purchase hasn’t even registered on their radar – perhaps they have to rush home to care for children, or they’re working 80 hours a week, or both. Sometimes you’re so busy just keeping on keeping on, you don’t have time to look up and realise that you’re part of something much bigger. And that that something bigger is getting polluted and trashed.
And so all of this is why, if you have the time and the energy to care about the environment, then for god’s sake, care! If you have the time to make a thermos of tea rather than getting a disposable cup to go, to remember to pack your reusable bags and refillable containers rather than getting a crappy flimsy plastic bag, then DO! It’s hard to get people to care about the environment because it seems remote and unchanging and it’s easy to feel like it’s something happening somewhere else and it’s someone else’s problem. But it isn’t, it’s all of our problem – we all have to breathe air, drink water and eat food. These things aren’t luxuries, and they’re getting poisoned, used up and wasted and that will affect all of us.
So for the sake of people that have other things to worry about, worry about the environment for them. If you have time to look up and see your part of the wider picture, then please make the view worthwhile.
And a very happy Plastic Free July for all of you doing just that 🙂