I want to take just a minute to brag.
In 2019, I started looking into the Zero Waste movement. After some reading and research, I despaired of ever reaching the “only a canning jar of trash a year” level, but I also decided to make an effort to reduce the amount of trash our family sends to the landfill. Though I don’t agree with her about everything, Bea Johnson’s book, Zero Waste Home, was invaluable to this project.
For New Year’s 2020, I resolved to get our family trash output down to one five-gallon bucket a week. The looks on the faces of the folks at the New Year’s Eve party at which I announced this goal were not encouraging. Such a thought had clearly never crossed some of their minds, and the logic behind such a goal was inconceivable.
Still, I made an attempt. Between refusing to bring home things we didn’t need, shopping to avoid packaging, recycling, and composting, we got down to buckets a week. Nothing to sneeze at.
Then COVID hit, and suddenly everything had to be sterile, which meant so much more plastic and packaging. And of course it meant so many disposable masks. It also set me back in a zero-waste area where I had been making progress: plastic grocery bags.
I had been doing a reasonably good job of remembering my reusable shopping bags, but suddenly they weren’t allowed. I was going to get plastic, like it or not. (Why I never thought to ask for paper instead I just don’t know.) And the plastic bags can be useful – I put them in small trash cans, use them to send the gobs of satsumas from our tree to friends, and they accompany the dog on all his walks. Still, I didn’t need nearly so many.
Three years later, a milestone. Reusable bags have been allowed back in our grocery stores for some time now, and this New Year’s, I’m proud to say that we ran out of plastic grocery bags at our house. I actually took some from my mom so that we’d have a stash for the bathroom trashcan.
It’s a small victory; it’s not nearly enough, of course. But it’s also a reminder that we can change our lifestyles for the better. It might take a while, and there will likely be set-backs. But when I think of all the plastic bags that aren’t blowing down the side of the highway and floating in the Vermillion and riding off to a recycling facility (where they may or may not actually be recycled), it feels like I accomplished something.