Hot take: convenience is plastic's only redeeming quality.
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We have better tools for most of what we use plastic for.
There's obviously some nuance here. I think it's good to make medical equipment and other things that need to be sanitary out of plastic because it's easy to clean. But for iced coffee to-go and pb&j sandwiches, there are better options.
And for my first shameless promotional blog, I'm going to highlight one of my favorite reusable options: The Etee Food Wrap.
Early on last summer I was researching a lot of products to build a sustainability ecommerce site. I reached out to Etee because their organic wraps looked cool.
Etee never emailed me back, but a package came in the mail a few weeks later. There were 3 Etee wraps in it, and I was excited to use them.
They must like sending strangers packages, because a few days ago I got a new parcel. This time it was a 100% reusable dishcloth, coconut fiber brillo pad, and some soap, probably also made of coconut.
It's kind of bizarre that Etee never sends any kind of note or information with these parcels. Though that does fit with an eco-friendly paperless philosophy (Edit: They emailed me, I just missed it).
I found a few different ways to use the first wraps they sent me. They're easy to use and add a nice pop of color into my lunchbag 👌
They didn't change my life, but they did exactly what they were supposed to extremely well. I still use the one I haven't lost to hold snacks and cover food in my fridge. Right now it's keeping some leftover chicken alfredo fresh.
(These wraps probably aren't the best tool to use for iced coffee and other beverages. But for the record I did turn one into a watertight bowl)
So throw away those damn ziploc bags!
For real, though, incorporating reusable household items is a small way to help mother earth out. Many small steps taken over time cover great distance.
My biggest argument against these things is that you have to use extra time cleaning Etees and manipulating them to fit on your food.
But that's a dumb argument.
It begs the question, "What are we saving time for?"
More IG scrolling? Another bachelorette? Next round of Fortnite?
I don't think that most people use their time effectively as they could. It takes 64 more seconds at worst to use an Etee instead of a sandwich bag. And unless you're Gary Vaynerchuck, you probably don't have your day optimized to the point that every second truly counts
Since my earliest days I've eaten PB & J out of plastic bags. I never thought about it because when you're 4 and you have loving parents, you never think to question what Mom puts in your lunch.
That's why we use plastic. A fish can't see the water it swims in. We can't see the plastic we live in.
Efficient manufacturing and good salespeople enabled plastic producers to expand globally before we had a chance to fully understand their impact. By the time we realized plastic was polluting our children and our oceans, it was already a factor in most of our everyday interactions.
Even though questioning and curiosity are important parts of my personality, it's still challenging to think critically about how I transport my food or what happens after I throw away my dental floss.
"Tools like Etee make us consciously engage
with parts of our lives we usually ignore."
Life is hard and complicated, so it's unsuprising that convenience has been such a defining factor in which technologies took over our daily lives.
Nowadays I use tupperware or an Etee wrap because I have restructured my life around it. I constantly take small steps towards a life centered around reusable technology.
I really view it as a mindfulness excercise. We spend so much time checked out from our direct reality because we're thinking about some imaginary anxiety or a fearful responsibility.
Tools like Etee make us consciously engage with parts of our lives we usually ignore.
Here is a problem, though: Plastic might be the most efficient solution to human life! There is a possibility that we have made it and we're simply doomed to drown ourselves in straws & to-go bags.
I disagree with this view, because I think a bright future is impossible without optimism. We can't find the solutions without a subconscious understanding that they might exist.
We can solve our global trash problem. In order to do this, though, we need to fully accept the severity of the situation. Anna Hommel illustrates the point perfectly:
"Although the Korean government is strict about household recycling, it cannot deal with the trash anymore. Due to heavy smog in 2017, the Korean government started shipping trash out to other countries, instead of incinerating it within Korea. China used to be the main recipient, but due to tightened regulations, Korea started to export its trash to the Philippines, both legally and illegally. However, the trash South Korea exported to the Philippines was not recyclable, and they had to take a portion of the trash back."
😂It's tragic and hilarious that some people's job is to ferry trash around the world. No one can figure out what to do with it so they just put it on a boat and send it to a different country. Out of sight, out of mind.😂
I know there is a better way. Big boats cannot be our best possible waste management strategy. Plastic products helped western society involve into a state of relative comfort and stability. but it's the wrong tool to take us to the next steps.
Maybe this September some University of Mumbai undergrads will invent an efficient process that blends trash into a paste, denatures the organic material, and compresses it into bricks to build houses. Or better yet repurposes the trash as 3D printing material.
Optimism and effort over time yield world-changing results. We cannot despair when we wake up tomorrow in the same plastic-filled world. The insight that changes environmental history might happen the day afterwards.
In the words of Ellen DeGeneres, " Just keep swimming." We'll get to Sydney eventually.
Visit Etee's website for more info about their resusable products.