Did you read the article this weekend in the New York Times “Life Without Plastic”? Or it’s companion article, “9 Ways to Cut Down on Plastic”? As with most NY Times Style section articles that report on something I already know, I was both annoyed and pleased to see the zero waste, or at least zero plastic, movement get some mainstream media attention.
One remark in the articles annoyed me, though, was the assertion that people who are trying to eliminate plastic from our lives see it as a game. I take it pretty seriously and that suggested I was doing this on some kind of whim, which I’m not.
On the other hand, it is really challenging to come across some single-use plastic item in your life and start thinking about how you might eliminate or replace it. I don’t plan on making my own toothpaste any time soon, but the thin plastic dry cleaning bags that come home drive me bonkers. The dry cleaner wraps our clothes in yards of thin plastic hours or minutes before we leave the store and there’s no good use for it once you have it at home. It seemed obvious to me that this was an easy plastic to eliminate, just by asking.
So we asked. And the first couple of trips back there, she kept the plastic off and we were happy. Then she forgot and wrapped them up again.
Here’s my next effort. I made a garment bag that converts to a laundry bag. Or a laundry bag that converts to a garment bag. My hope is that when my husband brings his shirts in this bag, she’ll send them home in the garment bag, and several yards of plastic can stay on her giant skein forever. Maybe I’ll start a business and revolutionize dry cleaning. Or maybe she’ll forget about it and lose the bag after a couple of trips.
The hardest part of eliminating waste for our lives is getting other people to understand why we are doing it, without giving them a big lecture. I don’t want to be that woman who is constantly nagging people; I just want people to respect my wishes when I ask not to use a particular item, like plastic all over our clothes. The garment-laundry bag was easy. Using it will be the bigger challenge.
In a sense, the environmental challenge requires creative thinking and some measure of craftsmanship. That’s called innovation. Innovation wasn’t a game when NASA, IBM and Apple were doing it, and it isn’t a game when consumers do it to evade wasteful products. More of us need to do it, and more of us need to turn that into the way we do things (culture) and the way we buy (economics).
I’m in no mood to learn how to patent my nifty creation. I’d rather make a YouTube for the rest of you, so you can make one yourself. Stay tuned.