After a week without sugar, the Portland ReDirect Guide staff decided to continue our inspired-by-SansLux experience by avoiding acquiring any plastic. In staff meeting Monday morning it seemed easy enough. We already compost food scraps on site in our own office composter and reduce and reuse whenever possible. We take computers to e-cyclers and other hard-to-recycle items to the appropriate recycling centers. Surely we were fairly eco-conscious folks, we reasoned. Avoiding purchasing plastic should be second nature by day two of the challenge.
Our first attempt lasted precisely until lunch time, when two of us unwittingly came back from New Seasons with plastic – the first item was a carton with a tiny cap, and the second a soup container with a plastic lid. Neither one of our coworkers had realized what they were purchasing and were mildly surprised at how unconsciously they acquired it. Later in the day, Heather realized she was out of shampoo but couldn’t purchase a new bottle until the end of our challenge, and other coworkers commented on how avoiding acquiring plastic would impact their takeout plans. The challenge was shaping up to be a lot trickier than we first thought.
We knuckled down with renewed commitment, double-checking every purchase, bringing glass jars to buy bulk food at the grocery store and requesting compostable containers when available. At a Thai restaurant later in the week, Heather requested that the waiter avoid putting her leftovers in plastic and was thrilled when he reappeared with cardboard takeout boxes in a paper bag. However, upon arriving home and inspecting the contents of the sack, she was dismayed to find the restaurant had included condiments in small plastic containers.
“People concerned about the environment rightly point out the problem of plastic water bottles, but that’s only one small piece of everything plastic that we consume,” Heather mused toward the end of the week as we discussed how many things we had put off purchasing because of plastic.
At the end of the week, many of us were relieved to have the burden of avoiding acquiring plastics lift from our shoulders, but it was replaced by increased awareness about just how difficult it is to avoid the substance. However, by examining our acquisition patterns during the week, we agreed we had developed some new habits that would allow us to continue to reduce our overall consumption of plastic.