Refusing Plastic While Navigating Relationships | Plastic-Free Discussion Board

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Refusing Plastic While Navigating Relationships
July 28, 2013 - 9:29 am

     This morning I walked downstairs to a beautiful quiche made by my dad. I told him it looked beautiful and would love to eat it but wasn’t going to because the cheese probably came in plastic which it did (not to mention the disposable liners in which it was made). I didn’t want to hurt his feelings (it was a really beautiful quiche) and yet I wanted to stick to my convictions and not have the moral dilemma agony of knowing plastic was used. Was that the right thing to do?

     I know it has been much easier for me than my parents to go plastic free because making change, organizing and planning comes easier to me. Any plastic free changes they’ve made have been because I made them and in the beginning prodded them a bit but it hasn’t been much of a permanent change for them.  

     I guess my question is do I refuse food people make for me if it involves plastic? Do I accept some and refuse others depending on the situation? Or do I just treat it like an allergy that isn’t fully socially accepted yet and be okay with it?

       I’m also curious about other’s stories of navigating these tricky spots of good intentions.

July 29, 2013 - 5:03 am

If you believed you had done the right thing by refusing that quiche that your father made, you would not be running it by us on this forum.  If I were you, I would go to your dad and apologize, because I’m sure what you did hurt his feelings even if he didn’t show it.  Next, I would offer to help your parents do the grocery shopping and meal planning to lessen the likelihood of this happening again.  It takes a lot of practice to get used to doing something radically different than you’re used to, especially as you age.  Recognize that there may be an occasional cheese bag that makes it past the moral gateway, and don’t let it get in the middle of relationships with important people in your life.

July 29, 2013 - 6:03 am

I speak from a place of still having plastic in my life, but having gotten rid of lots and lots of it, but being in the process of eschewing it in steps, over years.  Okay, that said, may I suggest another approach you might have taken: Sit down and enjoy that wonderful quiche with your wonderful father and enjoy it with great love.  At some point, perhaps while eating, perhaps afterwards, you could begin a conversation: I wonder how we could make that quiche without having to use items that come in plastic?  In that way, perhaps he might be inspired to try something new and different.

July 29, 2013 - 7:27 am

Hi Zoesunshine:

That’s a toughie – especially with such a beautiful gesture as a home made meal from a family member. My particular slant: be a gracious recipient. That will enrich your bond. Those are the bonds that make this plastic battle worth fighting. It’s the moments before the meal/gesture is made that I intercept. Example: “Oh here, use my bag instead of getting one of those plastic bags”, or “let’s go to the deli counter and get cheese – it’s probably better and fresher there,” or “I promise I’ll wash the dishes and everything if you don’t use the styrofoam plates and plastic forks” (I used that one on my sister in law, and she loved it – she totally understood where I was coming from, and I respected how tired she was from all the other festivities surrounding her daughter’s bat mitzvah”. )


I try to lead most by example – my family and friends see me in action, with my stainless steel bottle never far from my side, my reusable bag clipped to my backpack, the little clothesline of washed and drying produce bags in my kitchen. As I am an example for them, I have friends who are examples for me: they buy more in bulk than I do, they use cloth napkins, no trashcan liners, etc. I keep watching them like a toddler, and then one day I will successfully imitate them. 

I want to hear how it goes for you on this journey – eager to hear successes and failures and learn from them!



Eve Stavros
August 12, 2013 - 7:47 am

I have struggled with these issues as well, and here’s a few ways I navigate those tricky waters:

If it’s something homemade  from a friend, I partake.  With so many people using convenience foods packaged in plastic I figure at least I can honor the homemade food, which is healthier (I hope) and certainly well-intentioned.

If it’s something on a buffet or served at the table and it’s obviously a pre-packaged convenience food (salad, dip, chips, coleslaw, cheese, cake from a mix, etc.)  I avoid those choices.  I make no comments, since I’m trying not to sound preachy about it any more (did that enough for awhile!), just quietly make my choices.  After all, it’s ultimately my conscience I have to listen to here.

If I can help influence ingredient choices, I try to do that whenever possible.  Perhaps you could offer to shop for the ingredients for a favorite dish your Dad can make for you and provide all plastic-free alternatives to him.  Good luck with this!

Plastic-Free Ericka Moderator
August 16, 2013 - 4:11 pm

Thank you for the very thoughtful response. I can tell you’ve run into this situation before and have figured out an approach that works best for you. I think your advice would also work for others and allows hopefully, for more dialog on the subject and understanding. I especially like your tip about offering to buy the ingredients yourself. 

August 21, 2013 - 10:57 am


      Yes, you’re right, if I was completely confident in my actions I wouldn’t be asking for other people’s thoughts and experiences. I wasn’t sure what to do and chose to politely err on the side of not eating plastic. I don’t regret it. It re-encouraged my parents to by cheese and meat from the deli again and I later learned something important about them that has bettered our relationship. And I wouldn’t have heard how others navigate those spaces. As for helping with grocery shopping and meal planning, that’s a great idea. However, my family is peculiar in that family meals are unusual, everyone eats different things and whenever they want. Also, I don’t think taking over would help them, they need to make they’re own decisions and navigate on their own at they’re own speed. It’s really not my place to make those decisions for them. To the point about apologizing, yes there probably should be a gentle conversation about this. Thanks for your input.



     Thanks for your reply. It sounds like you are a great example and easily steps into making plastic free opportunities happen for other people. I really like what you said about those being the bonds worth fighting for, thanks for the reminder. I’ve been focusing too much on oceans and beaches of plastic and bird stomachs filled with plastic caps and was forgetting the very positive relational aspect that could come from living plastic free done well. And you’re right about home cooked meals, I’ve picked up Michael Pollan’s books again and have been reminded that real cooking needs to be celebrated at every chance. Thanks for your post, I’m reminded to be more gentle with others and myself.


Eve Stavros-

     Those are the guidelines that I’ve arrived at too. I think I probably slipped up a little here. Thanks for the reminder to honor homemade food and provide plastic free alternatives. Thanks for your post.


Thank you all for your thoughts and experiences, this has helped a lot. I appreciate it.

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