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While I appreciate the concern about the minutiae of daily plastic use I am more concerned about the staggering quantity of plastic used in agriculture. Greenhouses, coldframes, loopframing, to mention a few. Worst of all is the miles and miles and miles of plastic used to wrap hay bales for outdoor storage. Sometimes I wonder why we fret about a plastic button when we might be turning our attention to this problem. What happens to all this plastic once the bales are unwrapped?
Then there are all the shrink wrapped pleasure boats. And the plastic wrapped houses under constuction.
How do we address this much bigger problem?
Absolutely. Those are huge problems. In fact, I have a post coming up about plastic-wrapped buildings under construction.
We can find ways to work on those problems, but we have to also make sure we ourselves are walking our talk. It does no good to place blame and point fingers. Not that that's what you are doing. I started with myself because I am the only person whose actions I can control. Then, I move out into the world and try to make change on a bigger level.
Is there a particular company you could target to focus on? Could you contact particular farmers and find out the reasons for their practices? How about contacting farmers or contractors who are not using so much plastic and find out how they operate so you can use them as an example?
We can't fix this all at once. We have to bite off what we can chew one bit at a time.
I suppose the reason that I get so frustrated is because I started doing this reduce, reuse, recycle, compost etc. thing back in the early 70's when the environmental issue was in its infancy. We started growing all our own food, making our own clothes, buying everything second hand, buying into wind power and solar power and so on, convinced that not only were we doing our part to save the planet but that everyone else would see what we were doing (not just us but our whole community of back-to-the-landers) and things would begin to turn around.
Obviously that did not happen. In fact, things got worse. There is now a resurgence of those principles to some small degree but is this movement going to be sustainable or will it just run its course? This is not, I hope, finger pointing, but just an awareness that things have to change on a much larger scale than just doing our own little part. We still live by the same principles that we embraced almost 40 years ago (heck, we even still have our Whole Earth catalogues and Epilogues) but people were advocating this long before even our generation was – eg. Thoreau, Scott and Helen Nearing, – and still . . . . . . . . You are right – we can't fix this all at once.
Nor can we fix it by just changing a lightbulb or two. Or using a glass jar instead of a plastic bag. I've been doing that for years . . . . . . . while my mother-in-law is singlehandedly supporting the plastics industry. And she thinks I am crazy.
Maybe it's time to pass along the torch to a younger generation . . .
Olivia, please take heart! I once scoffed at the "darn hippies" with their reusable bags and second hand everything. I once reveled in the glittery new shininess to be had at 10x the price and 1/10th the effort, for sale in every store, mall, and on the internet. I'll even admit, I had to put up new siding on my house (it was cracked and falling off after 86 years of neglect), and I chose vinyl – no doubt insulated with plastic, though I didn't see it go up.
But I stumbled across noimpactman and Beth's blog and others, and slowly but surely have been recovering from The Life Unexamined. And I'm dragging my boyfriend along with me (he's eager and willing but more habitual than I am, so change is slower).
I have to redo my kitchen (yes, "have" to, not "want" to, this house is a study in why nobody should neglect their home). Before it was easy, formica counters, vinyl floors, new cabinets. Now? Every decision is weighed by much more than what "looks nice and adds resale value". And my contractor is greener too – as much as possible is donated or recycled on other jobs. I'm refinishing the cabinets myself, by hand. And I have no idea what to do about the counters, but I'll figure it out.
Yes, there are Ryan Home enthusiasts who love their plastic houses in their plastic plans, and like a new one every 5 years. But there are just as many people who love their old houses, and most of them are trying to do right by the house and the environment. They're just harder to see, since their houses aren't covered head to toe in bright, glaring plastic :D
Every post, every idea, every example, makes a difference and amplifies. We're competing against big noisy pockets – but they aren't winning. If they were, Copenhagen wouldn't have a chance at happening. And my house would have been torn down, sold off for scrap, and replaced by a Little Box on the Hillside a long time ago. Slow, painful change sometimes feels like moving backwards, but that's just the "darkest before the dawn" bit. Greenwashing runs rampant… because people care enough to try, misguided though it may be, and corporations have recognized that. I'm not saying we don't have farther to go, but I'm saying we're not just running in circles. Well, maybe we're tracing a helix, coming back to the same points but a little farther forward than before.
Thanks, ejwm. And I can relate to the old house thing. Our old farmhouse was built in 1875 and we have spent the past 34 years "fixing it up." **sigh**. The process never ends. And what was considered "green" 30 years ago is now outdated. **double sigh**. Our house is wooden shingles and our kids have repeatedly tried to sell us on vinyl siding but we have stubbornly refused, even though it would be so much easier than the constant replacing, scraping and repainting of said shingles. I would like to have all the shingles removed and replaced with new ones which we would NOT paint – just leave them to weather as many in this part of the world (Canada's Atlantic Coast) do. However, the cost is beyond us. Probably after we are gone, someone will buy the land, tear down this dear old house and replace it with a modern bungalow. Ah well – we do what we can. Good luck with your green reno.
Hi Olivia. I hear you. And I get overwhelmed with the immensity of the problem. One person who has been particularly encouraging to me is No Impact Man. And he has been inspirational to many people. Recently, I had the opportunity to interview him and asked him what he does to avoid being overwhelmed. He gave me some great answers. So, here is a link to that interview as well as a couple of other posts I've done that respond this question. Maybe they will resonate with you?
I just read this post from a few years ago. I recently read the No Impact Man's book. It was very eye opening for me. I feel bogged down in the day to day of trying to do the right thing. I have tried to pass these ideas on to the next generation. I am sure my 15 year old would rather have the shiny new plastic everything. There are days when I feel that maybe the extra work of trying to find alternatives isn't worth it. I think that just trying to find juice in a glass bottle takes all my energy. The one brand I was able to find the store was out of when I went shopping. This meant a few brands of soda were the only drinks in glass bottles. I chose the juice with a plastic bottle that I could reuse for grow seedlings and then recycle. I know that a few dedicated people can make all the difference in the end.
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