Zero Waste Week Challenge Day 2

I was ready – I remembered to buy only Larabars for breakfast because the wrappers can be Terracycled as opposed to Kind Bars which, due to their clear wrappers, were not. I remembered to choose the Celestial Seasoning’s tea, wherein the little twin teabags come neatly layered in a wax paper wrapper, instead of the other brands which have their pampered teabags individually wrapped in metallic envelopes – NOT RECYCLABLE! I remembered to bring my own plate and utensils to the Environmental Studies lunch and learn about pig farms. I even sat for a spell outside Rancatore’s in Lexington contemplating whether or not ice cream cups could be recycled in the paper bin (they can if they are made like hot coffee cups). However, I forgot about the big items – the bag of catfood that was only one meal short of empty, the granola bag that had only enough for one more bowl of yogurt, the tortilla packet with two tortillas left. Arg! It is the curse of the almost empty bag.

On the other end of the spectrum there are the waste-bespeckled new products – the little clear plastic ‘sealed for your protection’ ring around the organic, unpasteurized apple cider vinegar bottle; the white plastic circle that pops off a new carton of soy milk; the sticky price tag that falls off a new can of cat food. There’s no winning apparently.

Often time, when I talk to my colleagues with kids about the Zero-Waste Challenge they say, “I could never do that – we have too much trash – I couldn’t fit it into a one gallon bag” and I think they’re right, it would be very difficult to carry around the accumulated Styrofoam trays and those little wet diapers that raw chicken comes on from the deli section; the plastic bags frozen vegetables come in; the box liners holding cereal, not to mention the impossible-to-open hard plastic cases that enclose all electronics that one collects throughout the week.

We are drowning in packaging. The world’s oceans and lakes are even slowly turning into a slurry of tiny plastic pieces (I would’ve linked to the NOAA site but it’s unavailable due to the government shutdown). Plastic, because of its handy ability to float, often collects in Texas-sized floating islands in the Pacific. Hmm… don’t even get me started on plastic – did you know that over 190 million barrels of liquid petroleum gases (LPG) and natural gas liquids (NGL) were used to make plastic in America? And you thought fossil fuels were only bad because of climate change.ZWWphoto

How to reduce plastic use and packaging in general? Well, you can start by using a cool reusable water bottle, a handy reusable bag (Huff post can even help you identify the perfect one) and making yourself rad reusable containers for your lunch from clean beverage containers (so cool).  Can one live life without plastic? Well, disregarding the fact that humans did it for the six million years between the emergence of humans and 1940, this woman has not used new plastic since 2007 (and she even started a week-long plastic challenge oh-so-similar to the zero-waste-week challenge!). What do you think – is it not possible for families to reduce their trash? Only college students?

–Tina Woolston

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