Looking At My Plastic Waste Footprint


Last week I began to take an honest look at the plastic waste I generate.  I have been reading the book, Plastic-Free by Beth Terry (highly recommended), because of my desire to eliminate plastic– something I consider to be a huge environmental hazard.  Her book includes an exercise (Plastic Trash Challenge), which is also on her blog,  to assess and truly get present with the amount of plastic waste we generate, both recyclable and non-recyclable.  Anyone, care to join me?

I have been on my green journey for years and, perhaps, some people would consider me a little hardcore. So, as you can imagine, I was both humbled and surprised to see how much plastic waste I generated this past week– me the super greenie.  To be fair,  half of the plastic waste I generated was from a gift I received  in the mail (those darn plastic packing pillows!) and also snacks that my boyfriend purchased that I couldn’t resist enjoying as well.  You will also notice things that don’t look like plastic in the photo, such as cat food cans (all cans that hold food are plastic-lined), brown paper frozen berry bags (also plastic-lined) and my old, cheap, ruined boots (made from synthetic petroleum-based fibers.)  Now that I have justified my waste to feel less guilty, let’s get to the juicy stuff.

In the book, Beth invites her readers to truly get present with their trash.  Taking sage wisdom from her meditation teacher, she suggests that we feel our feelings as we look at the pile of waste that we have created.  Like any river, emotions (e-motion) need to flow so we can stay unblocked and clear.  With this clarity we can make wiser choices.

Yesterday, before I meditatively sat with my trash, I initially felt overwhelmed and filled with a flurry of anxious questions– did this mysterious wrapper for my butter have plastic in it? What about this cap to my wine bottle? It didn’t seem quite like metal nor plastic- but some strange combination.  Could I recycle, at the grocery store recycling bag drop-off,  the plastic packaging for my veggie burgers and the small plastic baggies that I had accumulated from snack items?  Was I ready to stop buying plastic-packaged foods and start making things, like bread, from scratch, even though I don’t really like cooking or baking?  The last question really overwhelmed me. I imagined hours of my life disappearing to extended kitchen duty as I made several staple items from scratch.  Ugh.  I even feel overwhelmed just writing about it.

Today, however, I meditatively sat before the plastic waste I generated in a week’s time.  I was actually surprised at what arose.  Instead of the overwhelm bubbling to the surface again, a calm clarity came over me.  It actually felt good to witness my waste.  The plastic waste I generated was no longer a vague idea.  Seeing everything before me so clearly, I intuitively felt the next steps I was ready to take. I didn’t worry about what I was not yet ready to deal with.  I knew, in time, my plastic-free journey would flourish like a garden, growing out of the abundance and the joy of living in harmony with the Earth, not deprivation, overwhelm and constriction.

In closing, I’d love to hear your feedback on going plastic-free and also the plastic waste we all generate.  Have any of you ever taken an honest look at your own trash? If so, I’d love to hear your experience.


7 responses to “Looking At My Plastic Waste Footprint

  1. we are plastic people living in a plastic world . . . I wouldn’t know where to begin . . .

    • I think we just begin with one small step and then another, and little by little our habits change over time. I started making my own nut mylk a few months ago and now I am thinking of what next I can make instead of buying packaged. There are so many plastic-free options, like washing you hair with a shampoo bar. Plastic-Free is an excellent book to guide you. The book also shows how everyday citizens have become activists and created more plastic-free options that didn’t previously exist. Very inspiring.

  2. I’m also a big fan of Beth Terry. Before my daughter found her blog, I didn’t know where to start. I’ve been (nearly) plastic-free since 2011. But I love to cook! So I do make everything from scratch, BUT I stick to simple recipes. It is time consuming at first, but then you get your kitchen routine down to a system. Shopping at the farmer’s market more made a huge difference in cutting down my trash. I take my cloth produce bags with me and come home with beautiful, fresh, local produce and zero trash. Just switching to a steel water bottle makes a difference too.

  3. Hi Anne, I am sooooo with you on the produce bags and stainless steel water bottles. Both are well-loved and well-used in my life. The snacks and condiments, like crackers, chips, chocolate, mayonnaise,etc. are my weak spots. I started making my own nut-mylk a few months ago, although I still occasionally buy it in the carton. I guess, little by little, I will add on a recipe and let it all organically fall into place. When making your staples (not meals) like bread, mayonnaise, salsa, etc., how long do you tend to spend in the kitchen on a weekly basis? I will be sure to check out your blog for tips! Thanks for commenting 😉

  4. I moved from using kitchen garbage bags to those little shopping bags (I know, plastic) years ago. In other words, the garbage — all kinds — I generate is rather low. I dispose of about two of those little shopping bags a week. Sometimes even just one. That’s quite different from a lot of people I know who fill up large lawn-sized bags each week.

    So long as we are conscious of what we dispose of, we can at least monitor it and take appropriate actions.

    • Hi, Michael. It sounds like you done a lot to reduce your waste. You make a good point about monitoring what we dispose of. That awareness is key for appropriate action.

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