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Consumption Week 4: Reducing Plastic: Change is Possible

“It is increasingly clear that we can’t solve the climate dilemma without empowering all people to become part of the solution.” – Karen Ehrhardt-Martinez, CMB Program Director at Garrison Institute

I read an interesting article in the Garrison Institute’s newsletter titled “Insights from the Climate, Mind and Behavior Programs” by Karen Ehrhardt-Martinez. One of the most interesting bits for me was the insight that we are all in fact reacting to climate change but many of us react by scrambling to gain resources. The examples used were the Taliban and the Tea Party. This was such a shift in perspective for me because I often feel like many of us have been screaming “The sky is falling!!!!” or “The planet is melting!!!”(and it actually is), but no one is listening (especially not the Tea Party!). So this gives me hope. Because some of the solutions in the bigger picture are to shift the way information is presented, to engage people in behavioral changes, and to make them fairly easy to do. I feel that is in part what this month at IDP has been – we have all been asked to examine and shift our consumption habits. And from reading the blog posts it seems that it has been quite doable for each of us (even if daunting sometimes).

I started the week actually feeling empowered by the freedom and ability I have to make choices and to affect even a small change (Seems to be much easier to change my consumption habits than to change the habits of my mind!). I have also been thinking about how privileged I am to be able to make these choices to purchase reusable bags and steel tins, etc… I am well aware of how many of my neighbors do not have the funds or the bandwidth really to make even the small changes I have made. I thought Patrick Groneman wrote about this quite eloquently in his last post.

In Nainital (a small town in the north of India) they completely banned single use plastic bags and replaced them with paper bags made from old newspapers! They are really great and work for everyone (ok they kind of fall apart easily, but still). And in India you can see plastic bag waste all around you, so the difference is immediately visible.

And now before this post gets way too long, here are some details about reusable produce bags and storing produce (and bread) without single use plastic bags. Green beans held up well in the nylon chico bag but it was only over night. Here is a recommendation from the Plastic-free Living Guide where there is an extensive list of how to store produce without plastic: “they like humidity, but not wetness. A damp cloth draped over an open or loosely closed container.” I found that unwashed lettuce does very well wrapped in either a damp paper towel or a damp dishtowel in the crisper. I had to try the dishtowel after reading ellen s’s posts about reducing paper towels. Broccoli continues to do well in the nylon chico bag (again in the crisper). Celery lasts a really long time when washed, cut into stalks and stored in a large glass jar of water with a lid. And I read that carrots do well that way too. I love these ball mason jars. Basil, which I buy a lot of, never kept more than a day in plastic bags anyway so I’ve taken to buying that the same day I am going to use it. And today I bought a couple of basil plants to grow at home along with some mint. Zucchini continues to do well in the cotton muslin bags in the crisper for quite some time. I’ve been storing bagels in tins on the kitchen counter and they are ok but I found a bit of mold on a couple after about 6 days, so I moved the rest to the fridge.

My purchases this week were Dr. Brown’s brushes to clean the steel drinking straws (which work very well by the way) and these oh-so-cute LunchBots steel tins, which are a lot like the steel tiffins (containers) people use for carrying food all over India, although quite a bit pricier. I bought all this from Amazon because we get free shipping but as my husband said, “they are the kings of wasteful packaging”. You can get a lot of great (and not so cheap) stuff (including LunchBots) at LifeWithoutPlastic.com and I am pretty sure the packaging would be far less wasteful. And i just discovered that LunchBots.com offers free shipping.

After reading Jonathan Kaplan’s posts with so much info about plastic recycling I looked up what exactly NYC recycles, and found that I had been throwing a lot in the recycling bin that was NOT being recycled! So I have a bag of plastic to take to the Park Slope Food Coop tomorrow to be recycled since they recycle quite a lot of plastic that the city does not.

I took a trip with my daughter to The Red Hook Coomunity Farm this morning (awesome place) and talked to someone there about composting, and vermicomposting (another great recommendation from Jonathan). My intention is to try out one or maybe both things here and see what works.

As Sharon Salzberg often says about meditation practice (am paraphrasing here): “Experiment and have fun with it.” And so the experiment continues - in all things. I am again incredibly grateful to The ID Project for this month’s practice and for all the support.

May All Beings Be Happy And Peaceful.

We are on this journey as a community.  Read all the Responsible Consumption posts and follow along as we examine our habits.

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