Is all the effort worth it?
It's 1988 and I'm a stay at home mom with a new born and a 3 year old. I'm up to my eyeballs in cloth diapers (diaper service was trying to make a come back) and baby snot. I was a newbie gardener, canning my loot, baking bread, trying my hand at making soy milk, knitting sweaters, quilting blankets, if you looked out at my laundry on the line you'd see an assortment of plastic bags drying too. I sound like a cliche of all those things that hipsters in B'klyn are doing now, but this was nearly 30 years ago.
There was a time when it occurred to me, that as a stay at home mom for the foreseeable future it could be a perfect opportunity for me to hone my skills and become more self sufficient. I was enamored reading Organic Gardening, Mother Earth News and The Whole Earth Catalog. I dreamed of becoming a homesteader. I wanted to be one of those 'people'. I wanted to raise most of my food, homeschool my kids, and live off the land. (Ha!) But alas, I was in a NJ suburb within earshot of Interstate 78 and I was feeling like my life was on hold while I was raising a family. My 'wusband' (past tense for husband) didn't share my fantasy however he was supportive of the majority of my 'projects'. I could 'pretend' to be a homesteader in the suburbs; sorta...So I sought to educate myself in what was once considered necessary living skills.
Fast forward 30 years and most of those skills became an important part of who I am today.
Recently, some family members came for a ski visit. I made lunches to take to the mountain and every evening I'd collect the used sandwich bags to be washed out and dried on my special drying rack http://www.reuseit.com/floworks-design-floworks-design-plastic-bag-and-bottle-dryer.htm?affid=GA&gclid=COLg1KPK3tECFYF8fgodVv4NQA My guests complied, albeit with quizzical looks which suggested; why would I bother? Cleaning plastic bags is a perfect example of one of those things I've done for so long it's second nature. Less waste is the obvious reason. Plastic has become so ubiquitous that it's hard to see. But for me it raises alarms. I do my best to keep my food purchases that are wrapped in plastic to a minimum. Sometimes shopping can be down right crippling as every purchase becomes a conundrum; to buy or not to buy. Does this purchase align with my values? Whether it's the ingredients or its packaging; those choices can all be very exhausting. I don't exaggerate when I tell you sometimes I'll go a little thirsty before I'll buy bottled water. Please don't mistake my commitments as a show of righteousness, I still live in the world and have to make plastic purchases. I submit that I am merely trying to remain conscious of my day to day purchases and reduce my footprint.
Recently I've begun to see some plastic bag alternatives. One I've found is actually old school, beeswax infused cotton, used to cover bowls and wrap food such as sandwiches and it easily wipes clean. If you are a DIY player, you can make them yourself and even revitalize them when it starts to break down after a years' use.
You can also purchase them. http://www.beeswrap.com
Composting seems an obvious practice, especially as a gardener. But when you live half the year in a high alpine environment in a condo it's not an option, Still.... I can't throw vegetable peels and coffee grinds in the trash in good conscience . So, I've purchased compostable bags to line my compost bucket and keep it in a trash bin on the deck. It all freezes and when I visit friends I come bearing gifts of compost. One might consider this a hassle, but I don't. To me it just makes sense. In my mind I think why wouldn't I? And of course when I am at my other home I make heaps of compost for my gardens.
The question remains though, does it make a difference? I like to think it does. When someone comes to visit, perhaps they notice and perhaps they are curious enough to ask why. I'm happy to share my experience.
As I continue to work to reduce my trash, imagine my good fortune when I realized a friend of mine lisabagwell.com is an upcycle artist, (she would tell you she just likes to make art from trash). For the last 3 years I've been saving bottle caps, corks, chip bags, lemon/avocado mesh bags, screw tops, etc. for her future projects. Her pieces are quite remarkable and are something to behold. It offers me another option beyond the trash bin and Lisa's artwork gives us an opportunity to contemplate the wanton use of disposable items.
A life time of practice becomes second nature, but it need not take 30 years to make changes for a new life style. I would argue that seemingly small actions do make a difference in the day to day practices of an American householder, and after all, there may be someone who is paying attention.
Plastic bag drying rack