When Mr. Huber first approached me with the idea, I thought that avoiding plastic for a weekend would be fun and easy. When I think plastic, I think of plastic bottles, utensils, and straws. But as it turns out, it was incredibly difficult to not use plastic for even just a weekend, and I ended up failing miserably.
I decided to do it over a three-day weekend; I had a Friday off as well for a Staff Development Day. Might as well do it for an extra day. As I woke up on Friday, I soon realized that this was not going to be easy – or even possible. I went to pour myself a bowl of cereal and looked at what I was holding. In my hands was a plastic bag of cereal. Next to me was a plastic gallon carton of milk.
That was when it dawned on me. It wasn’t just about the straws and the plastic utensils. Packaging is an industry dominated by plastic.
I had to eat, and as I searched around my kitchen, everywhere I saw plastic. I thought, okay, I can make something myself. That won’t use plastic! I opened my fridge and saw two things. The eggs I was about to grab were in a styrofoam carton, which is plastic, and the coffee creamer (that I had already used) was in a plastic bottle.
The bread I wanted for toast was in a plastic bag as well. So were the granola bars – they were, in fact, each individually packaged in plastic.
I now understood that I had to set some rules – some exceptions if I wanted to make it through these three days without starving. I came up with two to begin with.
1. Food packaged in plastic was okay, but I wouldn’t use plastic when eating/drinking.
2. Reusable plastics (such as hard washable plastic cups, the plastic in cell phones, my glasses, etc.) were okay as well.
Once I had these rules, things became a lot easier. I couldn’t help but feel like I was cheating; that I was ruining the whole point of the experiment. But what was I to do? Eating, if you’re not aware, is necessary for survival. The reusable plastics I didn’t feel too bad about, as mostly single-use plastics are the issue.
Plus, even my glasses are made with plastic. I don’t have contacts, and seeing is pretty much a necessity.
As I sat there, guiltily eating my Cinnamon Toast Crunch, more and more plastic things I take for granted came to mind. I was planning on taking a shower after eating breakfast, but with my current rules that would be impossible.
My shampoo and conditioner are in plastic bottles (ones that can’t even be recycled in Amherst anymore), as well as my face wash. I didn’t want to have super greasy hair for the weekend or breakout. Bar soap, while seemingly not in plastic, does come in a box that has plastic packaging. Deodorant is in plastic as well!
As my parents have always said, “Personal hygiene is not an option.” So I added a third exception:
3) Necessary personal hygiene products are okay.
I decided to go without the face wash – I wanted to feel like there was something that I was doing to cut out plastic of my life. Again, I got to thinking it was too easy now. But what could I do? I didn’t know of any shampoo and conditioner bottles that weren’t made out of plastic.
When I was getting dressed, I came across my next problem. All of the clothing that I owned was store bought. Which meant that they all had those price tags on them with the plastic thing to keep them on. Plus, many clothing items are made with plastic. Not wearing clothing wasn’t an option, so I added exception number four:
4) Clothing items are okay, but I’ll try and wear as few items as possible.
For those of you who know me, I like to wear lots of layers to stay warm. I decided that I could go a few days being a bit colder than usual. Now I started feeling like the whole experience was practically pointless. I had intended on spending a whole weekend not using plastic and within my first conscious hour on day one I had already had to make exceptions.
There were times during my weekend where I was able to find an alternative option to using plastic. For instance, when out with my sister for lunch, I didn’t put a cap on my soft drink or use a straw. It was simple and easy, and made me feel like I was able to do something.
But still, there was very little that I could do throughout the weekend. I tried to do what I could but there was very little available for me to do. I stopped using things like Capri Sun juice boxes and tried to find an alternative to using these single-use plastics, but there were not many opportunities for me to do so.
The four rules that I established were about all that I needed to get through the weekend normally. It also got me thinking about all the things around me that are made of plastic and has made me more self-aware and cognizant of my plastic usage. I have tried to continue with some of the changes I made during those three days, such as not using disposable single-use plastics with utensils, straws, and similar products.