Plastic-Free/r

I sit down at my desk, proud of myself for getting this close to being productive, then I nearly spew my organic, fair trade tea. The email on my screen blasts: “Free Yourself From Single-Use Plastic in July.”
Is this some kind of sick joke, Earth911?

Ridding my home and eco-un-friendly habits of single-use plastic has long been a personal fixation, not to mention a source of self-flagellation. I’ve devoted countless hours to finding reusable products to replace the tossables. I’ve stacked returnables to the roof, waiting for me to mail them back to their willing recyclers. And still. STILL. I find myself chucking nonrecyclable, nonreusable plastic into the Black Bin of Shame every damn day.

Give up single-use plastic? You mock me, Earth911. I’ve tried and I’ve failed so many times. Am I ready to march myself back down that path toward disappointment? As if the coronavirus wasn’t giving me enough reasons to drink already.

Just yesterday, the Los Angeles Times informed me that “The COVID-19 pandemic is unleashing a tidal wave of plastic waste.” Wait a freaking minute! Weren’t we just rejoicing about the positive impacts of the pandemic on the environment? Clearer skies and waters? I believe I wrote some eco-smug thing about that (link). Can’t we just bask in the eco-sanctimonious glow of Something-Awful-Has-Positive-Side Effects for a little longer?

But no. Discarded masks, gloves, hand sanitizer bottles and other PPE detritus are showing up on the beaches of St Tropez and Hong Kong alike. When we’re suddenly using—and tossing—something like 129 billion face masks and 65 billion gloves each month, something’s gotta give. And, sadly, it’s all those “we vow to reduce use of plastic” resolutions made around the world, from the UK to Rwanda, India to California, that are flying out the window like New Year’s resolutions on Bourbon Street.

It’s not just me and the LA Times wringing our hands. The World Bank warns that COVID-19 creates impossible choices between environment and health, and “seems to be shifting the tide toward single-use plastics.”

Of course, I get the need. PPE is what’s standing between my family and a killer pandemic. I’m all in. If I have to wrap my children in disposable plastic to protect them, then send me the Super Size Saran wrap, Alexa.

So the idea of freeing myself from single-use plastic during a pandemic seems laughable, a tad insensitive, even. Sorry, sea turtles.

If this email were from any other source, I’d shitcan it. But Earth911 is a trusted site—it’s where I go to discover if it’s possible to recycle the many oddities in this house. From CFL bulbs to alkaline batteries, Earth911’s got the intel. If they’ve uncovered the key to the plastic dilemma, my eco-sanity demands to know it.

I skim the email, as quickly as my cynicism and impatience insist, until I read this: “You can be good at plastic elimination, better, or best, based on your preference. The point is to improve and July is the month to do it.”

Well, HOLD THE ECO-PRESSES. I have a choice, you say?? Having a choice makes all the difference to this stubborn-as-a-Missouri-mule. Telling me I must do something is recipe for outright resistance. Unless we’re talking about wearing masks in a pandemic. No argument from me there.

I still don’t know what’s involved, and I don’t currently care. That one sentence, a simple offer of CHOICE, has given this stubborn-as-a-Missouri mule back her hope. Hope that there’s some small thing that I can do to make a difference. Something I have the time, the talents, the patience, and the willingness to do.

Whether or not it will save a single sea turtle, Earth911, my trusted advisor, says there’s something that I can do that will make a difference. Halleluia, thank you and blessed be.

Now, do I aim for better or best?

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