By Taymar Pixleysmith
A few months ago I was standing in my sister Josephine’s kitchen in Tucson, Arizona, when she turned to me and said “I want to do something about all this plastic. Everything I buy at the grocery store comes wrapped in the stuff, and I don’t know what to do with it all. I recycle it, but I don’t think it’s enough.” She gestured at a package of seaweed from Trader Joe’s. “I mean look at this package. This is for one little snack, and it’s got a little plastic tray inside and it’s wrapped in this stuff that’s going to last forever. And what can we do about it? We can’t stop eating.”
I knew what she was talking about because I’ve had the same dilemma myself. We have been raised to be conscientious recyclers, but at a certain point, recycling is not enough. When we are hearing about garbage patches of plastic in the ocean that are reported to be the size of Texas and growing, it is time to take a look at how to stem the flow in the first place.
Recently I received a message in my email inbox from Move-On.org saying that if I wrote a petition and got 20 people to sign it by the end of the week they would share it with a thousand people. I forwarded it on to Josephine and asked her if she wanted to create a petition to ban non-biodegradable packaging for our food. She said yes, and within a few days we had the petition up and over 100 signers.
Earlier this evening I called her to celebrate our success. Already people from all over the country were signing the petition, and we had only sent out a few emails and face-book posts. Many months ago I had created a petition calling for the government to stop subsidizing conventional farming, and start subsidizing organic farming instead, but it hadn’t gotten very far so I gave up on it. Josephine said the reason the petition to ban non-biodegradable packaging for food is doing so well is simple. “Everyone can see that the amount of plastic we use to package food is ridiculous. It’s like – duh!”
We decided that the next steps would be for me to write an article about why we created the petition, and to get our sister Leise involved to help provide research on the science behind why plastic should not be used to package food, as well as the various alternatives to it. Leise is a former science teacher and has degrees from Brown and Harvard in science and education, so she’s pretty good at that kind of stuff.
In the meantime, it doesn’t take a science degree to figure out that packaging food that will be consumed in a matter of minutes inside a material that either doesn’t break down at all, or breaks down into horrible toxic chemicals, isn’t a great idea. There are plenty of alternatives. In Boulder, Colorado, for example, every street vendor uses compostable cups, plates and utensils. There are three bins provided at big public events like fairs and festivals – large recycling and compost bins, and a tiny trash bin. This is the way that it should be everywhere in America.
As the biggest consumers and creators of waste, Americans are responsible for grave damage to our environment. Cleaning up our landfills, rivers and oceans is going to be a challenge. There isn’t much we can do to change the damage that has already been done, but we can stand together to minimize future damage.
While a plastic-free future may seem like a daunting goal, there are small changes we can all make individually right now. Even little actions can make a difference.
Here are just a few ideas for reducing your own waste creation:
- If you don’t already, set up recycling and compost bins at home and make it a challenge to recycle and compost at least as much as you throw away.
- Start bringing your own reusable bags and coffee cups with you everywhere.
- If you have the time to cook, buy whole foods and prepare them at home instead of buying pre-packaged food.
- Buy reusable containers for lunches instead of plastic sandwich bags and individually wrapped products.
- Get your meat and fish from the butcher instead of wrapped in styrofoam and plastic in the supermarket aisle.
- Whenever you can, shop at the farmers market or sign up for a CSA with a local farm.
These actions not only minimize the amount of waste you are creating on a daily basis, they also send a message to companies that consumers care about the type of packaging that’s being used.
Trying not to make waste is a lot more difficult than our typical consume and trash lifestyle. If this type of lifestyle if a big change for you, don’t overwhelm yourself by trying to change everything at once. Just pick one or two changes to make at a time, and once you’ve done it consistently for awhile, add more. Once you’ve got the hang of it, you can turn it into a fun challenge to see how little waste you can create. Be an inspiration to the people around you.
I remember visiting Los Angeles as a little girl in the eighties, and being able to see a brown haze over the city from all of the traffic pollution. Now there are even more cars on the road, but because of laws requiring automakers to create cars that produce less pollution, there is no visible haze. We can do the same thing with plastic. If we can get companies to use environmentally friendly alternatives, together we can create a new future. Please, stand with us. Sign the petition and share it with everyone you know. My sisters and I will deliver it to our state representatives in California, Arizona and Colorado on Earth Day 2013. Together we can change the world.
Click here to sign the Petition!
Taymar Pixleysmith is a writer, director and editor. She’s written blogs, non-fiction books and short stories, and is currently working on her first novel. She’s directed documentaries, short films and instructional videos. She enjoys editing, both for the written word and the moving picture. For more about Taymar, visit Pixleyflix.com.