The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

October 19, 2007

Creeping around the kitchen on Pacific Time

Up early this morning because of the 3-hour time difference, I had nothing better to do than snoop through my parents’ cupboards and refrigerator forgaging for food. Determined to get through this trip somewhat plastickly unscathed, I’ll have to stick to a banana, a glass of water, and a piece of my sister Fran’s homemade apple pie until she arrives later today with unpackaged food for making dinner.

Here’s how my dad feels about the whole plastic reduction project. And yeah, that’s his middle finger in the corner:

And here are a few more choice finds:

I’m not picking on my family. They are not so different from most Americans. They like convenience. And now that my parents are retired, they would rather use disposable tableware to avoid having to wash dishes. Plastic cutlery, styrofoam ice cream bowls, styrofoam or paper plates…. My dad seems to understand the problems of plastic, but I think he feels that small actions don’t make any difference.

One small environmental concession is a clipping about recycling in their area taped to the refrigerator.

My biggest challenge so far has been avoiding the box of individually wrapped Tasty Kake cupcakes my sister bought me as a special treat. They’re not readily available on the West Coast, and my family knows they’ve always been a favorite of mine since childhood. I’m hoping they’ll be devoured by others before my cravings grow too strong. I’m also trying to do a little aversion therapy by reading the ingredient label repeatedly. “partially hydrogenated vegetable shortening… high fructose corn syrup… natural and artificial flavors… propylene glycol monostearate” (WTF?)

Here’s a comment from my brother, Will, “I think plastic is a useful material that is overused. We shouldn’t waste so much. I’ve always felt this way, but… not enough to change.”

His statement probably describes how most people feel. At this point, many people know that there are problems with plastic, even if they don’t understand all of them. But change is hard, and manufacturers and merchants make it harder.

Will adds, “I just want my choices to be made for me.”

Don’t we all, Will? Don’t we all?

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15 years ago

Decades ago when people first began to “come awake” about overpackaging, they made a large and consistent effort to inform manufacturers of their desire for less packaging. For a short while, it seemed that manufacturers heard the consumer.
But we’ve gone backwards a long way…especially when I have recently seen advertising for individually wrapped prunes.

This comment is a result of the Archive meme.

16 years ago

As a chilfree-43-years-old chap, I can say for sure that my use of plastic is way lower than that of those of my friends who have one or more children. In fact, my use of plastic is at least 50% of the use of plastic of those who have one child, 33% of the use of plastic of those who have two, 25% of the use of plastic of those who have three, and so on. The same is true for any other item you could think of (water, food, energy, clothes… anything). Indeed, that makes me feel good. :)

16 years ago

To a large extent, they are already made for us. It is so hard to avoid plastic wrapping on food, so hard to do any traveling outside the city not by car, so hard to find a daycare that will use my cloth diapers instead of disposable ones…

Plus, choosing takes energy. I really think that the wide range of bad choices (whole aisles of toothpaste…but all in plastic tubes and no flavors but mint. 50 kinds of nuke-and-eat lunches but only 4 vegetarian options and none locally produced) takes up a lot of energy that we need for making bigger choices.

Crafty Green Poet
16 years ago

Do we really want our choices made for us though? I find that really disempowering.

16 years ago

You have certainly proven your commitment to reducing the use of plastic. Never in my wildest dreams did I think I’d witness my sister Beth refuse a Tastee Kake cupcake pack. WOW! When she means it, she really means it!


16 years ago

My current allotment reading is Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver. She has introduced me to the concept of High Fructose Corn Syrup, not something I’ve ever heard of before. So when I come to catch up on your posts I notice two references to HFCS in two posts. Weird.
How come I’ve never heard of it? Is it an American thing or is the UK being secretly shafted as well. I suppose the latter.

Robert & Anjanette
16 years ago

I’m glad your family has been good-natured about your choices. I’ve found it hard to express a desire to live differently than my parents without making them feel like they were bad parents. As far as I can tell it’s their baggage and not my approach, but still takes a lot of grace to agree to disagree. :)

Rejin L
16 years ago

Apples do fall far from trees sometimes. I live much closer to my family than you do, so I get to witness their plastic habits on a weekly basis.
Like Clif said, Americans are hooked on convenience. Maybe it will take a lot more interventions like the anti water bottle campaign you’ve been sharing about to break our bad habits. And hopefully, some legislation to force companies to be more responsible for their packaging.

terrible person
16 years ago

I think we all do that sometimes.

16 years ago

You quoted your brother saying, “I think plastic is a useful material that is overused. We shouldn’t waste so much. I’ve always felt this way, but… not enough to change.” In other words, knowing is trumped by wanting.

If people don’t directly see something drastic happening in front of them as a result of what they do, they move with the times and accept things as normal that were not a few years back. In fact, they can even see things in front of them (like always increasing litter) and do nothing, not even seeing it. It is “creeping normalcy” at work.

Humans are great rationalizers. We Americans have become slaves to convenience, constantly encouraged by advertisers of “you deserve it!” How many news articles I have seen about this or that company attempting to “move upscale” with more luxurious offerings. We simply don’t live in the world of the results of our actions – dumping, pollution, etc. happen overseas while all we know are the benefits.

Given these factors, I don’t see people changing their behavior on the mass scale necessary to alter the results of our habits. I’m afraid only some economic or ecological collapse will bring home the truth of our effect on the earth. But that is no reason not to act as you would have others act, particularly in front of children.

I’ve been directly responsible with my own two hands for keeping 100’s of thousands of pounds of paper out of landfills over the years, literally truck-fulls that I have loaded. I figure I’ve more than made up for what at least ten other people have not done. So take heart , Beth, more power to all of us who act on what we know.

16 years ago

your family sounds cute. and i have to admit that i often have the same feelings as your brother. baby steps yanno? one small change at a time maybe won’t make them feel overwhelmed.