Monday, April 30, 2012

Plastic Gets Personal

Last Wednesday, April 25, 2012 we hosted Karen Ristuben, an artist from Gloucester, MA. She gave a beautiful and eye-opening presentation called Just one Word.... It was full of information about plastics and what they have been doing to our planet since they came into every day use in the 50's.  I won't go into the details of her presentation. I hope you will click on the links we have provided so that you can go and look for yourselves at some of what she was talking about but let me just say that it moved me to tears and it has caused me to really think about my own consumption of plastic, convenience and how unbelievably careless and cavalier I have been.  Like many of us, I try to be conscious about my impact on my environment but Karen's presentation really brought it home to me (and I hope to others like me) that I say a lot but when it comes right down to it, I don't do enough. I thought I did. I really thought I did but in one hour I was forced to be honest and admit that I am not consistent and that sometimes the convenience that plastics afford my life often trumps the environment. We can all do more. How many times have we heard that and try to do just that? After listening to Karen's performance I realized that we HAVE to do more.  We have a lot to take care of.

7 billion tons. That's how much plastic is floating in our oceans. I'm sure you have all heard of the floating island of plastic that is the size of Texas.  Well it exists. And it isn't just one. It is at least five.  Plastic islands gather in the 5 gyres in each of the five oceans.  And it isn't just floating on the surface it is pervasive into the water column.  Plastics break down into smaller floating bits that outnumber plankton 5 to 1. And let's talk about all of the chemicals that also leach out of the plastic into the water column.  Bisphenol A (BPA) and polystyrene to name a few.  Plastic soup.  So all this plastic that was created to last forever, and it does, was created for convenience and usually to be used once.

These 7 billion tons of forever plastic doesn't just float indefinitely- it gets eaten by fish, turtles, whales, seals and ultimately us.  It gets into the guts of birds, around heads of animals and residual chemicals can even end up in breast milk -not in trace amounts- but in significant concentrations.  The most natural and "breast is best" idea can actually be a direct line to toxic exposure for your infant.  So just because we don't chew on plastic bags or mistake floating plastic bits as food we are still ingesting it in one form or another.

There is so much more information out there on this. But I have to admit that listening to this presentation made me realize how pervasive, and insidiously embedded in MY life (and possibly yours too) plastics are. When I got I home I noticed it EVERYWHERE IN MY HOUSE. Plastic gallon water bottles that I used to make my baby's plastic bottles with formula that is in plastic containers. I noticed that all of our medications are in plastic bottles. Soda bottles. Tupperware.  Plastic take out containers. Cups. Kids plates. A Bumbo and its tray. Toys. Utensils. And this was just in my kitchen.

Taking inventory of the plastic that is in my life and home I am overwhelmed.  How did I get here? How do I get out of it? I know that every little bit can help but where to start? So here is MY list of what I am going to do to curb my plastic consumption. It is not extensive- YET- but it is a starting point.

-I will try to not ever use another plastic bag again.

-Spend the money! I will get my water treated so I don't ever buy another plastic water bottle again.

-I will not buy another drink in a plastic container.

- Recycle as much as I can.

-Learn what plastics are truly recycle-able and try not to use the others.

-I will help clean up my beaches and my woods.

-I will donate toys and hope that the next owners will donate them when they are finished.

-I will decline a straw at restaurants.

-I will always have my travel mug or cup with me.

-I will bring my reusable bags everywhere.

- I am switching my baby to cloth diapers

-I will join the local effort to make Portsmouth, NH plastic bag free. If we can make places implement a non-smoking ban I am sure we can make them be plastic bag free.

-I haven't figured out what to do about other plastic containers and packaging- how do I avoid having to buy those?

This is hardly anything but it is a start.  

Anyone reading this- if you have other ideas- please comment and let me know. We can start a list and pass it around.

I want to leave this planet knowing I did as much as possible to keep it healthy and alive. And this is how I am starting.

How will you?