Lenten Plastic Fast 2015

Last year for Lent, my family did a plastic fast. We tried to eliminate as much plastic as possible from our home, and then tried to not get or use any more plastic for forty days. It was hard. It was not 100% possible, but even doing our best was hard, and eye-opening.

First, we got rid of all the plastic we could from the house. We tried to recycle old plastic bags, but found out that at that time in our area, plastic was too cheap to make recycling bags possible — no vendors were taking them. So we threw them away. We recycled or took to thrift stores all of our plasticware and plastic hangers. We got rid of plastic cups, dishes, toys (our children are young adults, so this was not as hard as for families with young children). A few items we kept: three plastic folding chairs, a couple of things that were nostalgic (an old sugar container, an old toy, etc.).

We recognized that we would not now, nor ever want to, eliminate plastics totally - we would want them in our cars and in our eyeglasses, for instance. I asked about refilling prescription bottles, but was told that was not possible, even at a local independent pharmacy. But we tried to remove as much as possible, and to consume as little as possible.

We used glass jars and other things for storage of food. We bought waxed paper and freezer (masking) tape, and brown paper bags. We bought wooden and natural dish brushes, a metal cleaning bucket, a wood and brush broom. And we were ready to try.

We carried metal or glass water bottles. We put silverware, a metal drinking straw, and leftover containers in our car for restaurants. This was one of the challenges: restaurant staff automatically give plastic straws, and throw them out of you try to give them back. We sometimes forgot.

In groceries and household items, the packaging was more an issue than the product, often. Veggie sausages had plastic casings, brown paper bags and masking tape came in plastic wrap, and cardboard containers (bread crumbs, etc.) sometimes had plastic lids. Trash bags were problematic: there were paper leaf bags, which we used, but were awkward. Paper grocery bags were not tall enough for our metal kitchen garbage can. We asked at green vendors about garbage-sized paper bags, but found none. Paper coated milk containers were coated in plastic and had plastic spouts (because we can’t open the ends for some reason now?). Some things we ordered came in plastic packaging - we stopped ordering things online for the rest of Lent.

We did have to give up some things - berries, for instance, we never found in non-plastic containers. When we couldn’t find alternatives for things we felt we had to have before the fast ended (items for Lent and Easter donations, for instance), or when we slipped up, we took photos. Many of those are attached here.

But we found we could get many things in cardboard (laundry soap, etc.) or glass (peanut butter, etc.) that we had previously bought in plastic. We bought bread and cheese from the deli in paper wrapping or bags. It was in that way, a great Lenten discipline — a discipline of awareness more than deprivation. We were more conscious of the things we bought and used.

The plastic bag ban in Austin, Texas give us this idea. For many years we hiked the Shoal Creek Trail in Austin with our dogs. Three weeks after the bag ban, we saw a drastic visual change in the creek landscape. The bags were gone from the trees and brush in and along the creek. It was so striking it was shocking. This video from the Plastic Pollution Coalition was helpful to get us started and motivated: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9znvqIkIM-A

items we bought of or in plastic

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