Week 1 Plastic Tally

Week 1 Plastic Tally June 6, 2010

OK, so it is actually a little less than a full week; I began collecting my plastic on June 1st. However, I want to have a regular weigh-in day, and Sunday will probably work out best, so here we are.

The grand total for Week 1: 6 oz. of plastic.

I was really quite discouraged at the amount of plastic I’d accumulated in the (plastic! But not new plastic) bin for this week, until I weighed it out. Actually, I still feel apologetic, and feel the need to point out that a lot of the items in this week’s collection, things like the yogurt container and hand sanitizer bottle, are from purchases from weeks or even months back. Hand sanitizer, like liquid soap generally, is something I’ll be avoiding in future: I’ve swapped over exclusively to bar soap and powdered, which comes in cardboard (though with a little plastic measuring cup, unfortunately), with the possible exception of dishwashing detergent. Though my friend Hystery tells me borax works for washing dishes, so we’ll see.

Among the pieces of plastic waste here is packing material from the scale I bought for measuring plastic waste. Guess what the scale is mostly made of? That’s right…


I’m wary of the temptation to deal with this challenge, as all others, in that good old fashioned American way, by buying more stuff. I did consider alternatives to having our own scale. After all, my husband teaches science–Peter has access to all kinds of fancy measuring equipment at school. But I was hesitant to add yet another job to his already busy life. He’s pretty indulgent of my quirks and passions, and, though he shares my concern for the impact of plastic on the planet, it’s different for him–he’s not “under a concern” as the Quaker phrase is, feeling a kind of bone-deep urgency to change our way of life.

The whole question of how spouses of people trying to follow an inconvenient cope is an interesting one. I know I’ve met a number of Quakers who are war tax resisters, and that’s pretty tough on a spouse who doesn’t feel the same intensity in their witness. Resisters’ husbands and wives also face the possibility of losing their home–or the certainty of never owning one–and the impossibility of getting loans or credit, among other things. Hard to do that if you don’t fully share a leading.

And then I think about people like No-Impact Man, and his wife and child, who didn’t sign up for a radical witness, but had it chosen for them. That is asking an awful lot.

Not that Peter is making a fuss. He’s putting aside a number of his own favorite foods and beverages, until we find plastic-free alternatives he can use. He’s giving up his favorite soda, and the yogurt is really his love, not mine; I cook with it, but it’s a daily indulgence for him.

Eventually, we’ll get him a yogurt maker and maybe a seltzer maker, too, and have a try at recreating that favorite soda recipe of his.

All of which will also involve… plastic.

Again, I feel odd about buying tools and toys to help us beat back our habits of consumption. But everything this week has been about balancing one need or urgency against another. Nothing has felt simple.

Maybe that is why this process isn’t feeling especially satisfying just yet, or like it has gotten me any closer to that Spirit that was the impetus for trying it.

Then again, maybe the answer to that is in staying up too late, wasting too much time on trivial Web surfing and computer games. There is more than one kind of plastic in my life capable of being a barrier between me and the Spirit of Life.

In any case, there you have it: Week 1. If my consumption were to hold steady at this level for a year, I’d finish the year with less than 20 lbs. of plastic waste–less than a quarter of the American average. But I doubt it will be that simple.

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