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GreenBlog3: Plastic, plastic, plastic January 26, 2008

Posted by emsgeiss in Green & Frunchy, parenting & family.
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Recently a friend said to me, “I know how you hate plastic,” in discussing storage options. Ever since I started using eco-bags for my groceries and other shopping, I’ve learned that it’s not easy being green. But your greenness can also be confusing to your friends and extended family, especially when it comes to green parenting. Apparently, making greener choices for yourself and your family opens you up for a whole host of assumptions that range from you’re a green hypocrite because you’re not “green enough” to thoughts that you’re a “tree-hugging, Birkenstock-wearing, macrobiotic freak.” (My son and I do have Birks. My husband’s not quite there yet, but I’m working on him.)

But seriously, being green is not the easiest thing to do, especially when the ability to do so varies widely. Stores like Kroger (which gives a 5-cent discount for every bag that you bring yourself) and Whole Foods, which will be eliminating plastic bags entirely reward you for green shopping; others, like IKEA, penalize you for not being a green shopper, charging you for every plastic bag that you end up using. Some areas have great recycling programs, others, have none, or limited recycling. Choosing fresh, organic food means spending some extra dollars because organic food is more expensive than the traditional options. (One would think that making healthy choices would cost less than the brands that are filled with chemicals and preservatives.) Hybrid and other more-efficient or alternatively-fueled vehicles can cost more than those that run on conventional fuel. But try fitting a car seat (or two), a stroller and still have room for other passengers and bundles in a Prius; and unless the SmartCar comes in an SUV or Mini Van version, it’s not going to be a big hit with the moms of the world. And speaking of recycling, where exactly are you supposed to put the plastic-lined cans and foil-lined containers? Do they go in the plastic bin, the metals bin or the cardboard bin? And what about the polystyrene (the containers with the #6 on them) that can’t even be recycled. It makes getting take-out or a “doggy bag” a tough choice when you’re trying to be green.

So back to my friend’s assessment of me for hating plastic. I don’t hate plastic. Plastic has its place. I’m glad that my child’s bottles and cups are shatter proof and light weight. I love the fact that we can use plastic storage bins instead of cardboard boxes in our basement, thus eliminating the potential for mold and mildew, especially if we have a flood or a leak of any kind. But those are things that are not about to wind up in a landfill in a hot second. Plastic shopping bags, all the packaging that products come in do—and like with take-out containers, even if they aren’t “styrofoam,” how much of it can be really and truly recycled? These are the issues that we’re confronted with as parents (and people in general) who are adopting a greener lifestyle.

Green parenting is not just about an assault on plastics and environmental toxins. It’s about trying to adopt a healthier lifestyle in general as well…walking to the park that’s only a quarter mile away instead of driving there; choosing organic, natural or whole foods when possible; using naturally derived cleaning products; using alternative diapering to traditional disposable diapers; using the remedies that Grandma used that seemed to work over conventional/commercial products—you know, how steam and eucalyptus oil are better for relieving baby’s congestion than pumping her full of drugs when she doesn’t have a fever? It means driving smarter when you do drive, even if you don’t have a hybrid-, flex-fuel- or electric vehicle. It means choosing natural fibers for clothes and natural toys when possible. And those are just a few things. But green parents come in as many varieties as there are trees. There’s no one formula, we cannot be pigeon-holed, and come in many shades of “green-ness.” But we are united in the fact that we are making wiser, healthier choices for ourselves, our families and our environment.

Copyright © 2008, Erika-Marie S. Geiss



1. Life Less Plastic - January 27, 2008

Hey There,

I know what you mean about people making assumptions. I pretty much stopped buying or consuming new plastic about three months ago, and several of my friends think I’m crazy. They just can’t understand why I would want to give up the convenience of plastic bags and pre-packaged food, but for me it just makes sense. First, doing things like bringing your own bags and carrying a reusable water bottle are just easy, and second, since I already like to cook, it just makes good sense to stop buying pre-processed foods, which are probably pretty bad for me anyway.

In any case, you’re not alone out here in your efforts in trying to use less plastic, and I think what you’re doing is really great. Keep on!!

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