Baggin' it: Join me in living a plastic-free life

I found out about this documentary "Bag It" through my fantastic environmental friend, A. Roem. Watch the clip, and then continue reading:

Bag It Intro from Suzan Beraza on Vimeo.

**This documentary will be airing on public television on April 18, 2011. So, watch it in it's entirety.**

Plastic, specifically packaging and bags, makes me angry. It's made from petroleum or corn/soy/bio-blends that are also oil-intensive. I can count on one hand the number of times that I've had to use a plastic or paper bag in the past eight years (I don't really know why I've decided to use that figure as a marking point, but, just go with it). I'm not claiming to be better than anyone else, but how hard is it to bring a reusable bag with you or (my favorite:) think twice about not using another produce bag for something that's already wrapped in plastic?!

Here's another documentary about plastic, called "Plastic Planet":

Ok. So, where to go from here:

Step 1: Stop using plastic bags. Including produce bags. And, if you go to the Bag It: The Movie site, you can find out to involve your community or educational institution in bag-free initiatives and hold screenings of the film.

Step 2: Go one step further - say "no" to plastic. I'm usually good about this, but I think I'm going to pick up the pace on this commitment. Starting today (11 March 2011), I'm living without consuming new plastic products.  And I mean, everything: food packaging, clothing, recyclable plastic materials. Everything. This may seem as challenging as opposing things made in China, but even if I can't cut it out entirely, I can drastically reduce my consumption of plastic.

Why not just recycle? Well, yes, recycling is awesome, and buying something made from recyclable materials does give me the warm-fuzzies, but plastic recycling and smelting is a nasty business and terrible for the environment.

If you want to join me in this challenge, here are my guidelines. (There's nothing really official about this, but suggestions might be helpful in getting started, and I certainly welcome yours.)
  • Do not knowingly purchase or consume anything made out of plastic. 
  • We'll all have plastic in our homes and lives, so don't go on a spring cleaning binge. Re-purpose what you have and recycle properly. A total cleansing of plastic in our lives is not productive; don't add to the landfill.
  • If there's something you NEED, find out if the manufacturers or retailers will take back the plastic types, or resins before - or shortly after - you buy it. Be aware of your purchases. Ask questions: "Can I compost this?" "What makes these trash bags biodegradable?" Some things like drug prescription bottles, hygiene product containers and other medical supplies are made from plastic. Use your judgment and don't cut anything out of your life that will adversely affect your livelihood or health.
  • Make this the year of "Make your own" or "DIY": Taking plastic out of the equation is a daunting task, and, a little (lot) radical. Look for ways to make your own home remedies, cleaning products and other common things you'd otherwise get in a plastic bottle. Making things from scratch isn't as difficult as you think...
  • Bulk up: I'll do some investigation of my own about where to buy some less likely bulk products (the Willimantic Food Co-op is a terrific place for this), including detergents, shampoo, etc. In the meantime, look to your local grocer or, more likely, health food store manager/owner to see if bulk items like these are possible in their stores.
  • Stay local: Yup, it's a staple on this blog, but, think about it. You're more likely to convince your local food producer to bring you the food you want (veggies, fruit, dairy, meat, etc.) without packaging. Produce can easily be put into cloth bags; meat, fish or cheese can be put into containers milk in a glass jar, cheese wrapped in cloth. The producer benefits because it's less packaging that they'll have to purchase and they'll be gaining a more loyal customer. It requires planning, but I guess that's what happens when you've been so accustomed to relying on plastic for your whole life. (There's an excellent scene from "No Impact Man" on this very topic).
I'll be tracking my progress as I go along, and, perhaps starting a new page on this new plastic-free experiment. I can already see a huge issue/ethical call that I need to tackle: Deciding how I feel about food - organic, local, conventional or otherwise - grown using plastic mulch. 

I'm young, able-bodied and healthy - a good candidate for the challenge, and know that there are more of you out there. I'm open to advice (not cynicism or "helpful" criticism) and tips you may have. Will you join me in this challenge?