Saturday, January 10, 2009

Can you live without plastic with preschoolers?

I'm always impressed with people who make a conscious effort to abandon the plastic habit. I admit I want to reduce my consumption, but I feel like I cheat all too often.

Yes, I've abandoned two-liters, but I grab a soda or bottled water now and then at work. Worse, in the cafeteria, we're stuck with styrafoam.

Yes, I try to take my own totes, but without the kids in tow, I forget my bags are in the backseat. So I tell the cashiers to bag paper. Which they forget, and grab plastic. I correct them, only usually to get home and find that they bagged the plastic bags in paper.

I save my plastic bags with the great intention of taking them to Wal-Mart or Kroger to recycle, yet never get them outside of my pantry.

So when people aim to rid themselves of plastic, and they are working parents with myself, I take notice.

When they do that when they have infants or toddlers, I stand impressed.

A few months ago, I wrote about the BBC chronicling a monthlong attempt of living without plastic. Even a week though can create upheaval, as Trine Tsouderos of the Chicago Tribune reports.

Tsoderos's life is so parallel to mine. A three-year-old. A baby. And a job. And yet, she pledged not only not to bring new plastic into her home but also to keep the plastic in her home out of the family's use for an entire week. Quite a task. And she managed to be very successful, cutting her family's plastic use in half.

It's something that's a bit inspiring to me, I have to admit, as I'm making baby steps toward changes.

Right now, I admit that we're in a financial crisis, so how quickly or extensively you flip the switch to greenness has to be a personal decision. When making the switch - particularly a drastic one - there's going to be a significant cash outlay. New toiletries or cleaning products. Paper (which I didn't even know existed) or cloth diapers. Stainless steel sipppy cups or water bottles. Glass containers to tote your lunches to work (if you so desire). But the reality is, you'll likely save money over the long haul. Those Pyrex containers I bought on sale at the grocery store this summer have paid for themselves over and over, given that I usually lose or ruin plastic lunch containers. Months later, mine aren't warped, stained or otherwise out of use. It's the same concept as buying something quality and hanging onto it, instead of the cheapie version that you have to replace over and over again.

Another thing to consider when making the switch is getting the buy-in from your family on the trade. If you're going to have meltdown over breakfast because it's not Cheerios or served on your plastic princess plate, you might be in trouble. Or your morning routine might be switched from the stop at the convenience store to bringing your beverage with you. Or stocking - and restocking - those reusable bags in your spouse's car and resisting the urge to get on his case when he still brings home the groceries in plastic.

It all takes change, and patience from all parties.

But the hopeful thing is, it can be done.

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