Can’t Live With It . . .

plastic 0519Here is how my morning has gone, in plastic: I checked Na Ki’o’s blood sugar with a meter encased in plastic, then gave him an injection of insulin with a plastic syringe. I medicated both him and Oz out of plastic pill bottles, and covered the food they got for snacks with plastic lids. For good measure, I refreshed the water in their plastic dish.

For my breakfast, I took tortillas out of a plastic wrapper (now empty, I threw it away), spread butter that came from a plastic tub, opened up raspberries reposing in a plastic pack. I finished off a box of cereal and used my plastic strainer to eliminate the crumbs before they went into my Tupperware bowl (a family heirloom from when my parents were first married). The plastic liner of the cereal box went into the trash (they used to go to a local gardener who used them to pack her vegetables for sale, but she no longer vends at the farmers’ market). The milk for the cereal came out of a plastic jug.

I put my plastic Zoku cup in the freezer for a slushie this evening, next to a plastic Gatorade bottle filled with ice (good for plantar fasciitis). The plastic outer layer of my Zoku remained on the counter (is Formica plastic?) next to my Nalgene, next to a plastic candy cane that until last night held the last of my Reece’s Pieces. I am telling you about all this on my computer, and much of the casing appears to be plastic.

Whew! 9 a.m. and I have already used up my annual quota of environmental degradation.

The other day I started but didn’t finish an article somewhere, inspired once again by a horrible story of yet another whale dying with tens of pounds of plastic in its digestive system. Albatrosses, I read — perhaps not the same place — are killing their young because they’re feeding them plastic. And now there are micro-plastics, coming from synthetic clothing (your polyester athleisure wear), that wash out of your machine into your sewer, down some river and into an ocean, polluting during that entire process.

Whatever I was reading had perhaps two sidebars on different women who have distilled their use of plastics down to bare minimums. My friend Matt took me to task the other day because I couldn’t remember the time frame (and he’s right, there would be a big difference between daily and annual output), but one of these women can fit all her plastic waste for some time period into a measuring cup (probably made of plastic, although the one I use is aluminum).

I meant to read how these women minimized their plastic use, but something else commanded my attention, and now that I can’t even remember where I was reading this, it makes it difficult to go back. I’m sure the internet could lead me to entire fora (correct plural of forum, maybe?), and perhaps I will end up there, because ever since I spotted those sidebars, I have been wondering how people manage to function without plastic. I am up to my ears in the stuff.

I know several people here in Gunnison, where can we can only recycle #1 and 2 plastics, who lament that their yogurt containers are #5. And you’ve already heard me express the same concern about my mini-creampuffs. I can envision a solution for all of us: they make their own yogurt, and I wait for Lynn to make me creampuffs.

Ha!

I have a friend who is a full-time mom and part-time REI retailer who, when I met her, was planning to be an industrial designer. She makes her own marshmallows, I learned last summer. I had never heard of such a thing. First she assured me it was easy, and then she described the five zillion steps involved in making one’s own marshmallows.

I’m guessing if you take the marshmallow process and multiply by five more zillion, you can get to the start of the amount of time you would have to invest in your day to minimize plastic in your life.

I’m not sure there’s a whole lot we can do about the diabetes supplies, and Na Ki’o needs those to survive. We could, I suppose, forego the plastic lids and use foil on the pet cans, although that’s not recyclable either. At one point Lynn’s granola used to be a hot commodity around town, but as demand — now that she’s not in the baking biz — has declined, so has her output. And I prefer my low-sugar Cheerios, encased in their plastic liner, to her high-sugar health product (she’s the one who remarks on how much sugar is in it, before you excoriate me), which also gets packed in a plastic bag for distribution.

Once upon a time a vendor at the farmer’s market offered milk in glass bottles. The vendor came from Montrose and told me once that people in Gunnison were like, “Oh, glass,” but people in Crested Butte would drop to one knee in obeisance to the bottle. No matter how venerated, the dairy producing these bottles dropped this man and all its other vendors when it got a contract with Walmart. As happens very often with small vendors who think they’ve made it big, Walmart bankrupted the dairy in a matter of months. Those were the last glass bottles I’ve seen.

I could buy my milk in waxed paper cartons, by the half-gallon, but I prefer — at my rate of consumption — to buy a gallon at a time. And I still believe in supporting regional producers, so I get my (very expensive) milk from an Olathe dairy via Gunnison Vitamin and Health Food. It comes in plastic.

I could avoid plastics like those containing holiday candy, and while my Nalgene, which is heavily infused with nasty BPA, whatever that is, is plastic, it has outlasted by a factor of years all the single-use water bottles I might have opened. Lynn now gets aluminum S’well bottles, and perhaps I will go that route when my Nalgene runs its course. If it ever does: did you miss the part where I eat my Cheerios out of 57-year-old plastic bowls? Lynn uses ceramic bowls, often those she made herself.

(As I carry on here, it’s becoming clear which one of us in the household is the environmentalist in deed rather than words.)

Until I started looking, I didn’t realize just how much of my existence is encased in plastic. I’m still befuddled as to how people say they get by without it, and am wondering if it’s the same as that odious film I watched where one man could conserve his energy because he could rely on his neighbors who were not conserving in the same manner. It just feels like somewhere along the line, plastic has to be involved. It’s ubiquitous, and harder than I was thinking to avoid.

Not that I mean to disparage anyone’s attempt to live with less plastic. The irreparable damage we our doing to the only planet we have is immense, and because plastic never seems to go away (it just gets smaller and smaller and harder to manage), irrevocable. We either all need to learn to make do without it (as we did for millennia), or figure out a recycle/repurpose process that actually works.

In the meantime, I need to go brush my teeth (with a plastic toothbrush and plastic toothpaste tube), comb what’s left of my hair (plastic comb), put on some lotion (plastic container) and get on with my (more plastic-filled than I ever imagined) day.

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