I became more and more grossed out, pissed off, and overwhelmed by the presence of plastics around me.  I should actually say surrounding me and in me, not just around me.   Not only that, I also  became more annoyed at my own lazy consumer habits when it comes to plastics.  I seemed to excuse my plastic consumption for the sake of convenience way too often.  Then, I ended up looking around and feeling repulsed, because I knew, both intuitively and factually, that plastics are negatively affecting my health and the health of the planet.  Particularly the oceans!  And oh how I love the oceans.

So, one day I had this idea that I would join the ranks of the others making changes, drastic by many standards, when the world around simply doesn’t feel right.  Starting January 1st 2010, I embarked on my year without plastics.

What does a year without plastics entail? Leading up to 2010, my friends started  calling me randomly with numerous “what are you going to do about ____” inquiries, as they began to think about the ramifications of this experiment.  Here are some of the rules for the project:

  • No acquiring (buying or accepting) of any new items containing plastic or contained in plastic (applying to all categories of goods).  This includes recyclable, biodegradable, and recycled plastics.   Note- I will be making every effort to find out where plastics exist, but realize that I am no plastic expert, and will probably unknowingly consume plastics in my ignorance until enlightened.
  • Documentation of all plastics acquired out of “necessity”. Health-related plastics spring to mind as a few examples of such “necessary” exceptions.  Throughout the life of this project, I anticipate many documented contemplations of the “necessary”.
  • Collection of all plastics acquired, purposeful or incidental.  An example of incidental plastics would be a toothpick with that frilly plastic end on it, which miraculously ends up in your lunch sandwich without consent.  All efforts, however, will be made to try to avoid such incidents.
  • A purge of existing plastic use and/or ownership in the categories of hygiene/cosmetics and food preparation/storage.  This is because many toxic plastics live in the bathroom and kitchen, and many toxic products live within those plastics.
  • A gradual phasing out of existing plastic use and/or ownership in the categories of clothing/footwear and many office and household items.
  • Allowed use of office and household items containing plastic, for as long as they are not phased out.  My computer and cell phone are examples.
  • Allowed dining at restaurants and friends’ houses (where plastic would have been used in food preparations) as long as I am not directly consuming plastic.  Examples of direct consumption would be an individually-wrapped dessert item (e.g. an ice cream bar), bottled beer (with its annoying plastic lining inside the cap), or disposable cutlery/dishes.
  • No consumption of new plastic-wrapped items, including food, that are in my house, as bought and/or prepared by others.
  • No getting others to buy plastic items for me.
  • Re-gifting of plastic-marred gifts acquired after January 1st.
  • No borrowing plastic items from friends (mainly to help kick the habit).
  • Allowance for touching plastics where they exist in my everyday. For example, a bus seat.  But, since plastics leach out, washing hands often to avoid absorption.
  • Allowed consumption of items that likely touched plastics somewhere along their production/transport (this is sadly probably most things).

This is a very personal project for me.  It has the primary objectives of:

  • Self-discipline.  If I don’t agree with plastics, and plastics don’t agree with me, why would I keep consuming them? I don’t want to be just another person in a sustained consumption coma.  I believe, that with a little bit of effort, I can cut out the majority of my plastic consumption.
  • Self reliance. The more you can cut your reliance on oil-based products, the closer you are to being a free citizen.  Learn to make and grow my own stuff, let go of reliance on convenience foods and products, learn to live with less.
  • Self education.  I don’t really know where plastics hide in my everyday.  By cutting out out all plastics, I will be forced to pay more attention and learn to evade this sneaky substance. And! the prospect of discovering healthier and more natural substitutes delights me.
  • Personal health.  I know that many plastics do funky things to me.  And, their accumulation in our environment is affecting the health of our planet, and hence me.  In addition, I think that if I cut out plastics, I will simultaneously be avoiding a whole gamut of other things that aren’t good for me.  Processed foods and cosmetics are two examples of things that I often get fooled into conveniently consuming.
  • Clarity and redefinition of value.  I probably don’t “need” many of the items containing plastics that I currently use/own.  By not allowing any new purchases, and by phasing out use/ownership of plastics currently in my possession, I hope to gain clarity on the frivolity of many items.  I also want to gain clarity on what level of plastic use is OK in my own, and currently cloudy, personal judgment.  Remaining items, chosen with care, regain value.
  • Personal challenge.  This project will not be convenient.  In fact, I get a little terrified thinking about it some days, but also welcome the excitement that brews in my belly about it.

The reasons that I am making this project public are:

  • Peer pressure.  When self-discipline is waning, there’s nothing like an audience to keep me on the right track.
  • Community support.  I am hoping that there are people and companies out there who can help me find substitutes.
  • Making connections.  I like talking about this stuff, and connecting with other people who care.
  • Education and leading by example.  If I can learn from this project and reduce my use of plastics, others can too.  I don’t, by any means, think that everyone should feel guilty about their plastic consumption and turn eco-Nazi overnight.  However, I think that all of us can become more aware of how pervasive and dangerous plastics are, learn about alternatives, and make small positive changes.