I have given up “single-use” plastic for Lent. The challenge on the face of it sounds quite simple. Attempt to use no single-use plastic during Lent. “Single-use” includes plastic shopping bags, plastic cups, straws, coffee cup lids, plastic packaging, basically anything that’s intended only to be used once and then sent to landfill.
Simple sounding, hard to do. I have spent years worrying about my environmental footprint but the plastic it creeps up on you. It is everywhere. And there is a mass of non-biodegradable plastic rubbish in the Pacific three times the size of Britain. I’d like to stop adding to it.
Recently I had been getting uneasy about amount of plastic in my daily life. The coffee you buy on the way to the meeting, the cellophane wrapper on bunch of flowers, the plastic bag you use because you have forgotten to bring one of the many tote bags you own. And then in January Emily talked to us at Borough Belles WI about her plastic challenge last year and I started thinking about what life would be like without plastic. I found it surprisingly challenging. Food packaging accounts for most of our plastic waste and I want to know if it possible to live without it. After I talked to a friend about the challenge she said she had counted using 13 different types of single-use plastic before getting to work that morning.
I think Lent is a great time for making changes to our lives. Despite not being religious, I like the idea of a period of self-denial at this time of year and think living without something for a short while helps to make you think differently about it. Lent challenges are often really well made goals (much more specific than New Year’s Resolutions, time-bound and manageable). I think also the time frame is perfect for successful behaviour change: it is not so long that it drags out, long enough to become habit-forming and get you into a new routine rhythm. Over recent years, I’ve picked challenges that are linked to environmental habits – last year I went back to full-time vegetarianism, this year no single use plastic.
Giving up single-use plastic for Lent is a way of getting me think about all the single-use plastic I consume everyday without thinking about it. Packaging that I use for 5 minutes but lasts forever. Plastic is particularly damaging in our seas – up to a million marine animals a year are killed by plastic rubbish.
Apparently one reason people are successful with habit change during Lent is because they are striving to make the change for something that has personal meaning to him or her. Existential energy is about those things that give your life meaning, becoming a better person and those things are passionate about. When we strive after these things, we often feel more energized and more motivated to meet the goals we have set for ourselves. Avoiding single-use plastic will mean I will have to do lots of other things I want to do – cook from scratch, shop more locally and ethically, prepare and plan days better, make toiletries and kitchen cleaning products. I’m interested to see whether this challenge gives me more motivation that usual.
This isn’t about telling anyone else what to do. This is an experiment for me to encourage me to change my habits and put into practice all the advice I have read over the years about eco-living. I am not interested in feeling deprived, I’m much more interested in approaching this in a joyful and liberated fashion. I think cutting out plastic will mean that I will have to cook more from scratch, make things and be inventive. Cutting out plastic will mean no quick fixes and I want to rise to the challenge. For me, Lent is about trying to find alternative solutions.
So I am not using single-use plastic for Lent to help me think about plastic in a different and more mindful way. If you would like to follow my plastic free adventure – I have set up a Tumblr account to monitor my progress which you can find here and I’m sure some plastic-free living posts will creep on here throughout the next 40 days!