The Culture of Disposable

The problem with creating a culture around disposable products is that it creates a habit that is really freaking hard to break. We aren’t addicted to the packaging per se, but we also can’t shake it either. In this day and age, it takes work to eliminate plastic crap from our daily lives…like, physical and mental work that makes dieting and exercise look like a cake walk. (Is that a pun or just a bad joke? Neither? Hm…)

So when an entire country votes to ban a major source of this disposable lifestyle; of COURSE we get psyched! More awareness about the problem, less use of stupid, single-use plastic crap, and less stress over eating out and grocery shopping (plus win win for the planet!) Victory at last?

But then I read this and sort of lose it:

The Associated Press reports that France has enacted a ban on all plastic dishes, cups, and utensils. The ban goes into effect in 2020, after which all disposable utensils and dishes must be made of biological, rather than petroleum-based, material.

Let me preface this rant by saying that I think it’s amazing, truly, that France has declared this kind of ban (even if it doesn’t go into effect for 4 more years. Sigh.) The fact that an issue like this is gaining political traction is amazing and only speaks to how much more aware we are as humans that we are finally realizing our impact on this planet and want to take action to fix our mistakes.

So why create bandaid legislation? Why not attack the issue of waste and our culture of disposables head-on, instead of saying “no” to plastics but “yes” to something that walks, talks, and perpetuate the idea of plastic? Have we really ventured too far down the rabbit hole of single-use that this is the best solution?

Having no idea what went into this decision or how many plastic industry reps are fighting this, I can’t speculate on the whys or how’s and I realize that in me crying out for stronger legislation, I’m labeling myself some kind of idealist. Fine, I’ll take that on but man-oh-man, am I ever tired of this consumer culture. We need to evolve beyond using something for 5 minutes just to throw it away and never see it again. Plastic forks are seriously getting old. This is 2016, people!!

Where’s the plastic? Oh right…its’s 2016!

So we switch to compostable forks and cups. Great! At this point are there actually viable products on the market that can be mass-produced at low costs that will actually break down in a compost heap? Like a regular Joe-shmo pile? If not, then are we creating more problems for ourselves?

This ban leaves me with some hope and optimism but in the end, more questions (clearly). I want to live in a world that relies less on the concept of single-use…France, can ya help me out?

Inspired by Plastic

It’s a bit funny that as I try to eliminate single-use plastics from my life, I hoard 2 bins full of bottle caps, cigarette lighters, and toothbrushes. Why do I do that?

Exhibit A

Easy: it’s a constant reminder to myself that not only did I actually go to Midway Atoll (sometimes I think it was a dream) but that our trash DOES have an impact on living things, somewhere in the world. 
Exhibit B

This year marks 4 years since my Midway journey began and in a way, it hasn’t ever ended. The physical presence of the albatross is long gone and I’m no longer within walking distance of the nearest tern chick, but the memories linger and the plastic is obviously not going away any time soon. Every time I look at that bin, I am instantly transported back to that atoll and then start thinking about how in the hell all that crap ended up here. Then, Take those bottle caps in the bin, for instance…
Sometimes I forget that the whole concept of recycling is a bit of a leap of faith. We trust that what we throw into the bin will be processed in some way, turned into some new plastic item but it’s made out of recycled plastic and we did our due diligence so check, check. Out of sight, out of mind. BUT! (There’s so many buts [har har har])!
The bottle you recycle MAY be melted down and turned into something and the bottle cap that was attached MAY get caught by the recycling center and sorted with the other #5 plastics, but it’s not necessarily a guarantee. See exhibit A and B, above. That stuff is sneaky and it gets out. So it’s not too much of a stretch to conclude that the only way to be sure that your consumption is really having minimal impact on the planet is to tread lightly in the first place. Skip the plastic bottle, people.

Tomorrow is World Oceans Day, a day to celebrate the salty seas that provide us with so many benefits. For me, that benefit is being able to witness abundant life thriving in, on, and around a water world. I want to protect and sustain it that so others can witness the same thing.


On World Oceans Day,and tomorrow and the next day, I’ll be thinking about Midway and the albatross (who doesn’t get a vote in any of this) and the easy things I can do to help make their lives easier: drinking my morning smoothie out of a jar with a reusable lid, not a plastic bottle with a colorful cap; sipping water through a badass glass straw, not a flimsy plastic one.

But beyond that, the biggest act we can take to do something, beyond the products and the refusing? We can talk, discuss, and argue with each other about this issue. Look how much attention the world of politics is getting right now, all because people are yapping. The more we bring this plastic crap up, the more we look into that bin of plastic, and the more momentum we build.

At the end of the day (regardless of what celebratory “day” it is), it’s our combined efforts and chatter that will magnify this dilemma and make the biggest difference in helping eradicate it. So I’ll keep the bins of plastic and they will keep reminding me to keep building that  momentum toward cleaner seas. Here’s to getting inspired by plastic!

For more about my Midway journey including photos that may inspire you to purge the plastic out of your life, check out my guest post over at Plastic-Free Tuesday! And stay tuned as I continue to wax poetic about the Midway Months on here over the course of this summer. 😊

Bulkin’ Up

Let’s talk about how amazing the bulk section of a grocery store is. Remember when we would go to stores as kids and the idea of bulk candy was both overwhelming and so freaking exciting? I think the bulk foods section is the adult version. Think about it: you get to choose whatever you want and however much you want! Kid in a candy shop, 2.0. 😊

Candyland

And as someone who disdains frivolous plastic packaging, these bins are the perfect solution because you have the powah to choose what to put your sweet, sweet cinnamon powder in. Did I mention that this amazing wonderland happens to be within biking distance of my house? No? Well, welcome to Rising Tide. Come visit, sometime!

My happy place!

Once you’re presented with this spread though…you can’t just take a plastic bag and start fillin’. I mean, you definitely can but should you? Think about all the stuff you likely have laying around your kitchen right now: reused bread bags and ziplock; old pasta sauce jars, leftover takeout containers…turns out all these vessels are just waiting to be filled with rice, nuts, and snacks!The great news? Most stores usually have a scale near the bulk goods which allows you to tare containers and weigh product without confusing the cashiers. So really, the only things really stopping you at this point are organizing and the worry that you’ll piss off the impatient guy in line behind you. But come on! You’re saving the planet and shouldn’t we all slow down over food anyway?

Well? What are you waiting for?! Go getcha bulk on!

Plastic-free goodness!

Freaking Out Over Mason Jar Coffee

You wouldn’t know it from this blog, but I’ve been living in Maine for almost three years now and have done a surprisingly poor job at publicizing my exploits across the state. I wait to post something, then forget, then think it’s too late to do anything about it and a year goes by. Oy!

So here’s something: almost every morning, I drive through the odd little village of Wiscasset and stop at my favorite, favorite place to get coffee: Treats. It is truly heaven on earth. Croissants, coffee, and a killer view to boot!! How can you lose, really? Go if you haven’t been, return if it’s been a while. 😊 

Wiscasset, ME
 Up until very recently, I carted my trusty Klean Kanteen around with me for coffee pit stops but that’s taken a backseat while I reacquaint myself with my freaking Mason Jar set up. By “freaking” I mean “Freaker” and by “Freaker” I mean “modified awesome sock.” (Or #awesomesock for all you #hashtaggers out there). Because I have a tendency to mutter “Good Grief” one too many times, it seems only fitting that my coffee stay snuggled in Charlie Brown attire. 
Good grief! Is that enough coffee?!
 Why am I telling you this? As I get back into my favorite topic, railing against single-use plastics (looking at you, #6 plastic coffee cup lid!), I also want to talk about funky alternatives! A jar and a sock are a pretty weird combination (let’s just admit it) but a) they work and b) all the people in whatever coffee shop you visit will remark upon how fun your #awesomesock is. 

Revamp In Progress

Well, it’s official. I’ve officially gone over a year without posting a single new thing here. Not that nothing has happened in the last year, I simply have not prioritized this space. That can only mean one thing: it’s time for a blog face lift! I want to be inspired by 7 In the Ocean and excited to write about all the things currently hung up in my queue of draft posts, SO here we go…revamp time!

First up: this awful layout – it will be parting ways with 7 In the Ocean and I’m not sorry about it. Stay tuned for some updated content!

Consumptive Vacation

Why is it that we always seem to assume the worst in people? We plan for a mess and then create more of a mess in the process. I’m speaking this time of the wastefulness of outdoor bars and restaurants. At some point (and I haven’t done a ton of research so can’t point to an exact year or decade) bar owners thought that combining outdoor establishments with alcohol in glass vessels wasn’t a good idea and with good reason, I suppose. Patrons break glass, other patrons step on broken glass, lawsuits abound. Or, people steal the glassware. Or it falls into the ocean/waterway next to the bar. The solution? Make everything plastic. That way, we can throw everything away (easy cleanup), there’s no risk of breakage (no pissed off customers) and if it blows away? It’s not our problem anymore! Right?

At an outdoor bar yesterday, I and my friends gathered for a few drinks. It was situated on a marina (outdoors + water = recipe for plastic haven), but it had a nice, classy vibe so I thought maybe we’d luck out and avoid the plastic. Not so. We were immediately presented with these #5 (polypropylene, e.g. Tupperware) cups, complete with a plastic straw. The interesting thing about these cups was that they were actually designed to be reused (on the bottom of the cup: “Top rack dishwasher safe”)! This seemed pretty cool to me; a halfway solution to the plastic-bar-cup dilemma. “Hey, if we’re going to use plastic, let’s at least wash the cups and reuse ’em!”

Missed opportunity to class a place up and help the environment.
Missed opportunity to class a place up and help the environment.

Naturally, we became curious: did the restaurant intend to use the cups for their designated purpose? After watching a bartender chuck a #1 (PET) cup that had previously held water straight into the trash, I was having second thoughts, but we decided to proceed anyway and flagged the bartender down to ask. To our dismay, it turned out that this place didn’t reuse the cups. In fact, they didn’t even recycle them. Nope, everything got thrown away after one use. GAH!

On a purely monetary level, how is it even cheaper to buy endless sleeves of #5 cups when you could also invest in a set of pint glasses to wash and reuse again and again? In our attempts to avoid disaster, we choose a product that ends up being a disaster further on down the line and in the process, waste so many resources. Plus, we create this system where we assume humans can’t handle something breakable. I realize sometimes we all get a little crazy and thing break, but to just blindly categorize all people drinking as dangerous is unfair and stupid. Give us the benefit of the doubt. Let us make mistakes and break a glass so we know not to do it again. By giving us plastic, you’re letting us continue with our wasteful ways and there is no reprimand.

The worst part? Nobody seems to think this is a big deal. How do we change this perspective? I think the first step might be to hash it out with Skipper’s Dockside Key Largo but there are countless places like this in the world. Any other solutions out there?

Making New Connections

Hey, gang!

Remember back in, oh…MARCH (almost a full year ago now, oy!), when I talked about impermanence and presence and how I wasn’t blogging very much? After that post, I wrote a few short tidbits and since then (October 2014) it’s been radio silence for four whole months. Sigh. Staying present and experiencing life gets in the way of blogging sometimes, but I don’t think that’s a bad thing. However, I started this blog for a reason, darn it, and want to keep it going! Why, oh why, would I want to do that when I can’t even  manage to post once a month? Well, it’s simple: my reasons have changed. They involve food.😉

Background: in addition to being the face behind 7 In the Ocean, I also “manage” a Tumblr known to a small handful of individuals as “Food, Instagrammed;” maybe you’ve heard of it? It started way back in 2012, when Instagram was still new and I was trying my hand at being vegan. Being vegan turned out to be super fun and it was even MORE fun to take pictures of all the new food I was making. After filling my Instagram feed with food porn, I started the blog. I’m not vegan anymore but still have this love and adoration for eating things and feeding my friends good stuff. So…how is this connected with my plastic-free mission?

It hasn’t been until recently that I’ve really put some thought into the food we eat and yes…the inordinate amount of plastic waste we also consume. It’s insane how much of plastic waste is somehow food-related. Bottle caps, cling film, bags, styrofoam trays, bottles, containers…ugh. Given this absurdity, it only made sense to start involving myself in the world of food: to better understand the beast we’re dealing with as a society and to answer questions like, “Is it possible to prepare food for lots of people in a totally plastic-free environment?” (hint: not really, but I’m still learning) and “How do we subtly shift people’s perceptions about plastic pollution? Can we do that through food?”

By this I mean…if we make good, simple food, with minimal ingredients, minimal processing, and (surprise!) minimal packaging, we’ve accomplished two things simultaneously! We automatically eat healthier AND we  create a cleaner planet with less food and packaging waste. Win, win, WIN.

I decided last fall to go back to school and learn more about food: butchery, food production on a commercial scale, nutrition, and the business of making food. Expect to see more food-oriented posts on this space, as well as the usual rantings against the world’s favorite packaging substance. Cheers!

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