December is Advent season, known in Christian communities as a time of anticipation and good news. So I am pleased to report a small piece of good news.
Let’s begin with the challenge. Plastic. I know I’ve harped on plastic before. Reducing or eliminating plastic use is essential if we want to leave a more favorable legacy from this civilization than an ever-breaking-down sea of plastic filaments the stomachs of all living things (including whales and humans), not to mention a film of plastic fibers covering the surface area of land, water, mountains, beaches, prairies, ocean floorsand river bottoms.
Ironically, I’ve discussed this problem with friendly neighbors at the grocery store as we pick up items made of plastic and wrapped in plastic, place them in more plastic, and then head out the door through a final sea of plastic items like door liners, box containers and garbage bins.
If I had to guess a month in which we are the worst plastic offenders, it would be December. Too many plastic gifts, gifts wrapped in plastic, gifts mailed in plastic. A worthy goal for this Advent season would be to take seriously God’s direction to us in Genesis 2:15. Depending on the translation, it reads thus: “the Lord God took the man (humans) and put him (them) in the Garden of Eden to work/keep/dress/cultivate/tend/watch over it and take care of it." Our Garden of Eden needs care.
Both demand and supply of plastic must be reduced or eliminated to solve this problem. How to reduce demand? That is where we as consumers must act. We must stop using so much plastic — and tell everyone within hearing distance why we are doing so.
It can be as simple as a comment to a grocery clerk: “I don’t buy vegetables if I can’t wrap them in my own bags.”
It can be an email to any store in which you receive goods wrapped in bubble wrap or peanuts. A comment is good; a purchase decision is better.
“Social Proof” is a documented psychological trend whereby people act like the people around them, particularly those with whom they identify. So whenever you bring your own bag, those in front and behind you in line are watching.
“Both demand and supply of plastic must be reduced or eliminated to solve this problem.”
On the supply side, we need plastic to cost significantly more than it does, so we will use less of it. Placing a fee on carbon, and returning all revenues to U.S. citizens, as H.R. 763 (a legislative bill currently in the House) does, would be a good start, as plastics are both created and manufactured with fossil fuels.
Meanwhile, as this over-arching solution works its way through Congress, we can take matters into our own hands. Here in Two Harbors, Super One managers have provided a recyclable drop-off for all clean, dry plastic.
Put a small garbage can next to your regular kitchen garbage can. This will now be for all clear, dry plastic. When you go food shopping at Super One, drop it off in the recycle bin on your way out the door. This plastic gets recycled into things like decking. Remember, not all of the “R’s” have equal weight. First, refuse and reduce. Recyling is a last-ditch resort, but it’s better than the landfill.
If a plastic bag cost as much as a pair of shoes, would we keep it as long? The Duluth City Council just approved putting a price — just 5 cents — on single-use plastic bags. This ordinance relies on a pinprick of conscience to get us to bring our own bags.
That is the good news — remember to see it as such if you go shopping in Duluth!
Katya Gordon is a volunteer for the Citizens' Climate Lobby and a Two Harbors resident.