The following is a guest post from Fake Plastic Fish reader Laura Zilverberg, who responded immediately to my request this week for new voices on Fake Plastic Fish. Enjoy her powerful post comparing her experience of waste in Mexico vs. the United States.
Hello Fake Plastic Fish Readers,
I am a 23-year-old resident of Phoenix, Arizona. I am originally from Minnesota and moved out here for the weather college. I wanted to be a broadcast major, but decided very quickly that the industry wasn’t for me. Instead I majored in public relations and am finishing up my certification in nonprofit management. I spent 2008 volunteering at Nuestros Pequeños Hermanos Mexico (NPH): a home for about 1,000 orphaned, abandoned and disadvantaged children. I was one of three primary caretakers for 29 girls in their 2nd year of secondary school, in other words, teenagers.
About the same time I discovered Fake Plastic Fish and realized the need to reduce my own use of plastic. I worked at it as best as I could and didn’t find it too difficult since at NPH we grew most of our own fruits and veggies, corn (for tortillas), raised our own chickens (for eggs and meat) and raised our own goats and pigs. Individually wrapped treats were just that, a treat to be enjoyed once in a while. When I did cook, my food was picked up from the kitchen or purchased package free from the market in town. We even purified our own water without chlorine. When I went out, I could drink soda or beer in a returnable/reusable glass bottle. I survived hotter and more humid weather than Phoenix without air conditioning.
Upon moving back I assumed I would continue my plastic free lifestyle with ease, but I soon discovered it was not so simple. Despite “green” being everywhere, I have found living plastic free to be incredibly difficult. Inspired by Beth, I tracked my own plastic consumption for one month. I generated more than 75 items (about half of what Beth generated in all of 2009). Some of it was because I was using up old items such as soap. Some was inadvertent, like when I forgot to ask for no straw at a restaurant or when my friends left their half full drink mixes in my fridge. Some was unavoidable like a disposable racing chip (what happened to reusable chips?) [Beth chimes in: Oh, yes! We have discussed that frustrating issue here. Check out this post about disposable timing chips.] or plastic tags on my otherwise plastic free produce. Some was deliberate waste like cheese wrappers.
It was frustrating. I was living in a place where it was difficult to reduce your plastic because bulk bins were scarce and because people couldn’t understand why I would want to bring my own container for meat. It was even more frustrating because it was coupled with reverse culture shock. I was moving back into the U.S. culture and everyone around me expected me to be the same person I was before I left. But, I was different. Now, I see the world differently. It is painful to see waste and not just because it is tragic for the environment, but because waste is a luxury. Wasting food is a luxury the kids I worked with don’t have. Throwing away old clothes is a luxury. Buying a soda and only drinking half and then throwing the rest away is a luxury. I watched children buy a bottle of soda and share that one bottle with all their friends because it was a special treat.
While I am still adjusting, it is getting easier. I am learning that I don’t need to be perfect, that just doing something is enough. I am learning that I can’t expect everyone to care as much as I do, but that they do care in their own way. And I am learning more ways to limit my plastic consumption. And I am hopeful that maybe soon, if enough people start to care, waste will bother everyone.
If you’d like to take a turn guest blogging, please contact me. It’s great to hear different points of view.