Once a month on a Monday night our family heads off to our local Permaculture group meeting. We always look forward to it and get to hear about group achievements, hear about new ideas, listen to guest speakers, watch DVDs and catch up with our Permie friends over a cuppa.
This week there was a lot of excitement around the anticipated screening of a movie called ‘BAG IT – is your life too plastic’ and for those of you who are genuinely serious about sustainability and environmental issues it should not be missed. It was simply outstanding.
Have a look at the website by clicking ‘BAG IT’ . Check out the trailer and options for viewing and if you’re part of an organisation or community group perhaps try to organise a communal viewing as a way of sharing the message with as many people as possible.
This movie is about the production of plastic but is largely focused on our subconscious use of plastic bags on a global scale and the environmental disaster that has resulted. It was released in January 2011 and is a US production but the content is relevant to every one of us because the problem is universal.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this movie since Monday and have been wondering what life would be like without any plastic at all. While I love the idea of it, I’m not quite ready for such radical progression but I am definitely ready to seriously rid my life of as many of the day-to-day bits of plastic that I can. I’m going to focus on plastic bags and bottles, food packaging and wrapping, disposable plastic lined coffee cups and anything else that is over-packaged. The good news……my family are right on side.
It’s come at a good time because I’ve seen the signs that our commitment to reduce plastic bags has been waning and a recent reality check confirmed that we’ve actually been a bunch of complete slackers when it comes to curtailing our use of the dreaded plastic bag.
Okay, I’m throwing it out there right now…
It was only last weekend, before watching this movie that I decided it was time to sort out our plastic bag drawer – yes as ashamed as I am to admit it, we have a wire basket drawer we use to store plastic and paper bags – and while I sat on the floor sorting through the pile I felt nothing short of anger and embarrassment…and at this stage I hadn’t even seen the movie!
Then on Monday I watch ‘Bag It’ the movie. I watch in disbelief as the storyline unfolds and feel saddened to the core to think that we’ve allowed this to happen to our amazing and precious planet.
On Tuesday I wake up in day-after-‘Bag It’-mode, my mind acutely aware of every little bit of plastic around me and I feel angry that I have allowed this sinister and subliminal behaviour to creep so deeply into my life. I feel compelled to do something about it and over the next few days decide that I can and I will.
Firstly I take a good look at all the things our family is already doing and feel relieved knowing that we’ve already made a good start. This gives us a good platform to build from and I then get excited thinking about all the new ways I can do things to reduce our reliance on plastic bags and packaging.
Listen to this scenario, I bet it sounds familiar…..on the way home from work you have to stop to pick up some groceries. You get to the car park, you’re in a hurry, completely focussed on getting in and out of that supermarket as soon as humanly possible. You shop like a mad thing, pick up things you don’t even need, you get to the checkout and realise you’ve left your reusable shopping bags in the boot of the car or worse, at home. Momentarily you think about all the plastic bags you already have in that wire basket at home and feel as guilty as all get out knowing you’re going to be adding to the pile, yet again. You watch as the bags are filled, wanting to kick yourself for not remembering to get them from the car and knowing the car is only a few minutes away is even more frustrating. When you get home you empty the bags, one has a tear so you chuck that straight into the bin, the rest you scrunch up and shove in the wire drawer with the rest of the collection.
Somehow your clever little brain justifies using those bags as a bin liner or as a carry bag or a substitute for cling wrap or whatever, even though you know in the back of your mind that those shopping bags shouldn’t really go to land fill because they don’t break down as their ‘biodegradable’ or ‘recycled’ label might suggest. Next time, another family member forgets to take their bags and does exactly the same thing and in the end your plastic bag collection is out of control.
The truth is that we really don’t need a bin liner at our place because our kitchen bin has a removable plastic bucket which can be emptied directly into our large bin ready for the weekly garbage collection. I think to myself…if I need to I could use newspaper as a bin liner or at least wrap some of the rubbish in newspaper before putting it in the big bin. Yep, that’s what I’ll do. I talk to Chris, he’s in.
I have a good collection of strong reusable shopping bags which live in the boot of my car. I use these most times I shop but I stop for a moment to think about the times when I forget to take them. It dawns on me that as a human I am predisposed to forgetting things sometimes. I think back to being at the checkout without my reusable shopping bags and see how automatic the process of loading checked shopping into a plastic bag becomes. I see the shop attendant’s hand reaching out to open the next plastic bag on the hanger and suddenly I say ‘no bags thanks’. I’ve taken control of the situation and ask for my checked items to be passed through instead. I load them into an empty trolley and pack them into my bags back at the car. The solution is so stupidly simple. How could I not see it before.
Back in the supermarket you see some of the most ridiculous over-packaged food products on the market, fermented yoghurt in tiny plastic bottles and then cocooned in shrink wrap; apples in plastic boxes and then wrapped in an outer layer of plastic; toilet paper wrapped in plastic; and tuna in tins, also wrapped in plastic or packaged in cardboard and sometimes even both. You look closely and know that it’s all about ease of transport, handling and neat stacking and you think about the consequences of that convenience. So it makes life easier to stack things because it means there’s less handling and time involved which equates to less human labour. So this must mean less money needed for wages. You’ve heard about the giant sellers and their profits and their shareholder dividends and it starts to make sense. You choose not to put that over-packaged product in your trolley because you know you’re going to be buying the giant’s piece of plastic and as soon as you become the new owner, that plastic becomes your problem.
At the fruit and veggie shop or supermarket section we see the rolls of clear plastic bags so easily accessible. But you don’t use them because you have your own hand-made bags that can be used over and over again. People stop and ask you where you got them and when you tell them you made them they say ‘really?’
We move now to the other dreaded drawer in our kitchen – the one that contains the menagerie of reusable plastic containers where lids disappear and foreign containers miraculously arrive from outer space. As annoying and plastic as they are, they have a place as reusable food containers which can last for many years and eliminate the need for virtually hundreds of plastic bags and who knows how many metres of cling wrap.
There are so many things we can do to make this better.
If you do need some plastic bags, wash them and reuse them over and over again.
Buy bulk where you can. I recently joined my local Co-op Stop for bulk purchasing of grains, pulses, sugar and flour which considerably reduces plastic packaging as well as saving money and time.
Learn to make your own every-day products because you will automatically loose the associated plastic bags and wrapping. We make bread, yoghurt, fermented milk, sour cream, cheese, muesli, soap, detergent, hair conditioner and household cleaners all of which are stored in glass jars or reusable plastic containers and have saved on a lot of plastic packaging.
Looking back, we’ve made a pretty good start in reducing our reliance on plastic bags and product packaging but there’s nothing like a slap in the face type of movie like ‘Bag It’ to really get you moving to the next level. I hope you get a chance to watch the ‘Bag It’ move and in a nice way, I hope you get a slap in the face too.
Composting update to come shortly.