Plastic. It’s political.
Of course. It always is.
A couple of weeks into our Lenten plastic fast, and a number of things are becoming obvious.
For one thing, I never imagined that our family cutting down on plastic would have a massive impact on the planet. We engaged this exercise to become more aware, more mindful, more repentant of what we are doing to the Creator’s good gift of the earth.
As we have reported in this blog, and will continue to do, we have had successes and failures.
Today was a success as we headed to the Bulk Barn and filled our own and new re-usable containers with the foods we normally would buy in plastic.
…I have become acutely aware that the choice to participate in a plastic fast is, in many ways, a luxury for the rich.
Hear me out.
My family grew up poor. We didn’t use a lot of plastic. My mother made bread and cookies and other foods rather than purchase them, as it was cheaper. On the rare occasions when we would buy Wonderbread near Christmas, it was so exciting to have plastic in the house that we used to cut out the nativity figures printed on the plastic bread bag and stick them on the wall over the fireplace. (Sad!)
The opposite is now our cultural reality. To reduce and eliminate plastic use is time consuming and expensive. Being rural helps. Having land helps. Having time to plan your life helps. Having money to drive to places and to pay for reusable containers and a seven dollar loaf of bread is for the rich of the world.
In many ways, I am not a likely candidate for a plastic fast. I live rurally but occupy an urban lifestyle. I work long hours, and have to do a lot of shopping and food preparation on the hoof. The convenience of plastic is made for me.
And yet. And yet. I don’t like prepared meals or processed food, and enjoy cooking. This means I will often come home late and still cook a meal from scratch because I prefer it. Or, my husband will cook and the food will be waiting when I get home (those are good days!) But again, we have the luxury of a stay-at-home parent so that the food shopping is done, and fresh ingredients await us whenever we happen to be ready for them.
Living rurally means that we can access free range meat and organic vegetables that grow within a mile or two of home for two and a half seasons of the year. I love to pick out my free range turkey every Christmas, mindful that as I shell out nearly $100 for it, I could buy a mass-produced bird, wrapped in plastic at the supermarket for a quarter of the price.
I choose to pay good money for locally-produced food, and I consider it a good investment in our health and the environment. But I understand that there are many who do not, and many who cannot. During harvest season last year I remember talking with a friend who was excited to have just bought two dozen corn for a dollar. At Wal-mart. Shipped in from far away. We are surrounded by cornfields; it’s fresh and delicious, and I paid five times as much at a local farm market for it. I manage to stop myself from judging her just in time. Maybe she couldn’t afford to pay five times as much. Maybe she wouldn’t if she could.
So…what now? It becomes political.
It can’t be just about encouraging individuals to make changes, important though that is. (Shoutout to those of you who have told me you’re reading this blog and trying to cut down on plastic too! Keep going!) Rather, it’s about what it’s always about…figuring out what structural changes I can muster the energy and courage and time to act on in any tangible way.
This is a learning curve, and one I’m not sure I’m prepared for.
What do I need to do to lobby companies whose products I like to improve their production and packaging waste? How can I support the access of others to good local food? We have a local farm that offers gleaning all through the harvest season. This is good and biblical practice. Can we encourage this in other sectors?
I can’t even begin to answer these questions right now. I know others of you are way ahead of me. This is just where I am on the plastic journey.
Lord, I live in a world of plenty. Others do not. How could I have thought that a plastic fast would not have political implications for justice, for others and for the planet? Forgive me. Teach me. Amen.