A Plastic Pledge

By on August 15th, 2008

When I think of August a few favourite activies come to mind…floating on Lake Okanagan… drinking a cold beer on a busy patio… sneaking fresh berries and peaches into every meal…the list goes on. While these activities sound harmless and fun, they would all be considered no-no’s (or at least major challenges) for Christine Jeavans who has given up plastic for the month of August. Plastic floaties, plastic chairs, plastic packaging. Even the beer caps have plastic in them, according to Christine.

I first came across Chris’s story in BBC’s news magazine, where she published a list of plastic waste that her family of three used in one month. In her own words, the list of 603 items “isn’t pretty”. Here’s her abridged version:

  • 36 carrier bags
  • 67 food packaging bags and films such as bread bags, cheese wrappers (and a jumbo pack of Maltesers!)
  • 23 polystyrene tea cups with lids and 24 coffee cup lids
  • 15 fruit punnets and vegetable trays
  • 13 yoghurt pots
  • 16 water bottles, 10 milk bottles, 7 juice bottles
  • Two toothbrushes

Toothbrushes? That might make some of you laugh, and I admit to thinking that this was a bit extreme. But after a glance at some of Christine’s posts in her blog I came across this fascinating anecdote:

“Scientists studying seabirds in the North Pacific have found toothbrushes (and many other plastic objects) in the stomachs of dead birds.”

Christine’s list got me thinking about how much plastic my own family uses in the span of one month. With my 16 year old stepson here for the summer, there are at least 7 extra single sized water bottles in our recycling box every Sunday night, not to mention twice the amount of milk jugs and juice containers. It’s hard to convince a thirsty teenager that watering down the apple juice is better for his health, not to mention that it reduces our family’s environmental impact.

Am I going to switch my family to wooden toothbrushes, and join Chris’s “plastic-free-wagon,” no. But the story did remind me that all of the little plastic pieces can really add up, and that one person’s commitment, even for a short time, can make a difference. If there’s one thing that drives me bonkers these days it is the criticism others give to those who are merely trying to do their own small part for the earth. A quick glance at Chris or Danni’s blog and you’ll find plenty of people wasting their energy with negative comments. But, let’s focus on the positive comments like this one to Chris from a Texan named Jeremy. He congratulates Chris on her effort and reminds readers that “coffee and tea should be enjoyed sitting, not on the go.”

I’m happy that we live in a city where most of the items on Chris’s list are recyclable, including the recent addition of plastic bags and yogurt pots which go straight into our blue box. However, I am still interested in reducing our plastic use wherever we can. I’m in the process of thinking of my own plastic pledge, which I hope to tie into my family’s monthly-earth-hour challenge at the end of August. Stay tuned. And if you have made a personal commitment to the environment, whether big or small, we want to hear about it here!

“And yet we used to manage without all this plastic. In the 1950s, less than five million tonnes of plastic was produced worldwide, today it is close to 100 million tonnes.” Christine Jeavans