The blog formerly known as   Fake Plastic Fish

June 18, 2009

The Discovery of a Challenge

The following is a guest post from Fake Plastic Fish reader Diana McLennan who finds that pretending she’s on the show Little House on the Prairie is a fun green motivator. Diana joined the Show Us Your (Plastic) Trash Challenge a few weeks ago.

I’m a single girl in my twenties in Los Angeles, working in what’s essentially the legal department of an entertainment company. The building I work in is actually quite progressive in the “green” arena—they just installed a ginormous field of solar panels–and it was an article in the weekly company newsletter that jumpstarted my current obsession with minimizing my carbon footprint—which, of course, includes avoiding plastic. (Getting the word out DOES make a difference!)

The article was on green issues and mentioned a few blogs -— like No Impact Man —- written by people who weren’t content with just chucking things in the recycling bin like I was: instead, they took the leap to decide that if disposable items were bad, they would examine every facet of their lives to try to rid their lives of them completely. I had had no idea there was such a vibrant online community about this. And the more I read, the more apparent it became that I wasn’t doing nearly enough.

I just plain didn’t know exactly how damaging plastic -— and other consumer materials -— was to the ecosystem. Of course I knew enough to frown upon it, but I certainly didn’t realize, for instance, how damaging it was to ME, directly -— e.g. that it was soaking into my skin from cosmetics and could cause CANCER. I learned about a bunch of things that kick you right in the gut -— like the Mae West turtle and the Pacific Garbage Patch and the prediction from some scientists that the entire North Pole may melt completely in just a few decades. I realized that things like not buying a soda in a plastic bottle wasn’t just nice -— it was imperative.

I became an addict -— poring through every article of every blog I could find (like Fake Plastic Fish) for tips on changes to make. And I was surprised to find how maddeningly hard eliminating plastic was. Cans have a plastic liner?? You can’t get medication in anything other than plastic?? There are no electronics not made with plastic?!?!

It became an exciting challenge. One website, Crunchy Chicken, even runs awesome (hardcore!!) challenges that kickstart you into changing or amping up your habits. I’ve always been a bit of an ascetic, a bit of an eccentric, and a bit of a luddite, and this new obsession drew those qualities right to the surface. Not that you have to be those things in the pursuit of becoming more eco-friendly – —that’s just what I found most fun about it.

I love pretending I’ve entered the world of Little House of the Prairie. Instead of washing my dishes with a plastic sponge, I started using a hand-crocheted cloth -— just like in ye olden tymes! I brush my teeth with baking soda, line-dry my laundry, make most of my meals from scratch, buy only used clothing, use the bulk bins, etc., etc., etc.

(In the kitchen pic, I’m cooking with my used pot and new but bamboo cooking spoon and wearing a skirt I got at Goodwill for 5 bucks! The other picture is me holding my toothbrush (with baking soda on it) and my baking soda deodorant concoction -— recipe courtesy of Fake Plastic Fish.)

Of course, I still have a long way to go. My next anti-plastic project is to get a crockpot and a tortilla press so I can indulge in my craving for refried beans and tortilla chips without having to toss out yet another can and plastic bag. But at least I’m now fully aware of these issues, which is, of course, half the battle. And the changes I’ve made have become so ingrained that I barely notice them anymore—I don’t feel deprived or anything; I feel the same as usual.

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8 years ago

Mae West: no, that jar is glass.

Mae West
10 years ago

Ummmmm … but you’re using a plastic jar to hold your deodorant?

Just sayin’

Braedy Tritthart
12 years ago

I too live in Canada and came from farming communities. I've see what happens to the plastic from wrapping the bales. It's torn off and left to float around the fields. I've been hiking and found hundreds of feet of this stuff caught in the trees and shrubs at the edges of the bushes. Small holes are missing from it – possibly from tearing, possibly from being eaten by little critters looking for an easy meal.

It's sad what we've come to. Why are we so hung up on this thing called plastic? Why do insist on wrapping every little thing in it?

12 years ago

The toxins in plastic are rather horrifying. I have small kids and thinking that it could be damaging to them is really upsetting to me.

It sounds like you're doing a lot to reduce your plastic consumption. Thanks so much for sharing your steps with us.

12 years ago

Yay! Thanks for the support, guys! :D

12 years ago

WTG Carrick, my most impressive anti-plastic act (in my mind, anyway) is getting off the grocery bag routine. I can now say that I never use a plastic grocery bag and, if I forget my regular cloth bag (kept in my backpack) I force myself to hand carry whatever I buy.

Olivia, I have noticed that agri-plastic thing as well. You, being a neighbor to that farmer, would be in a good position to just mosey over and ask what happens to the plastic when the hay is used. It would also be interesting to know how it pays for itself – what did he do before he used plastic and why did he give it up?

12 years ago

Well-written guest post! It's so refreshing to hear of others attempts to reduce plastic. The more we share what and how we're doing it, the easier it will seem to other people. I thought it would be hard at first – and some things still are- but some have become second nature. I mean, if our g-grandparents lived without plastic, why can't we? At least disposable plastic for the time being!

Great post!

12 years ago

I live in a farming commmunity in Canada but I suspect that the following practice is widespread: this morning, as I looked out my window into the neighbouring field, I observed large rolls of hay being "packaged" into plastic. There is some sort of machine that wraps the plastic around the hay as it is slowly pushed forward. The plastic is not wrapped around the hay ONCE but SEVERAL times. I was horrified. I would estimate that the roll of hay was well over 300 metres long – and this was only one roll of several. It occurred to me that there are probably thousands and thousands of farmers who preserve their winter supply of hay this way. There would be more plastic in that one long roll of hay than I could ever use in my lifetime. I have seen hay wrapped this way for many years but I guess I never connected the dots before. What do we do about this sort of thing?

12 years ago

Nice guest post. I feel such a sense of community reading this and knowing that other people are going through the same process of baby steps as I am, trying to reduce our impact. Thank you!

12 years ago

Great guest post!!