There’s a whole lot of packaging in the world.
I’d already ramped up my quest to avoid packaging, plastic in particular. I’m not moved by packaging that purports to be biodegradable. I suspect that it is biodegradable in certain conditions it is unlikely to encounter in real life. People are going to buy it greenily and it will still end up in a storm drain on its way to an albatross belly. I’d prefer to not have it in the first place.
First step was to ditch my Costco membership. Man, is stuff cheap there. But it’s all wrapped up in plastic. Some of it is plastic stuff wrapped in plastic and shrink-wrapped to several of its closest friends. I can get all the same stuff at other stores for a little more money. Olive oil in glass bottles. Tonic water in glass bottles. I bring cloth bags for my vegetables and bulk foods, and if the only way they sell mushrooms is in Styrofoam with plastic wrap on top, I look for a different recipe.
All was going well. Many people do a much better job of avoiding waste than I do but my own personal midden shrank considerably. I could even go to small-can once-a-month garbage pickup, except that I know I would forget to put it out at least half the time.
And then some virus showed up and although some things did get better (less traffic, less noise), some things did not, as you may have heard. In my case, I decided to keep my elderly respiratory apparatus out of the grocery stores and get curbside pickup. Which works splendidly well, but it blew my packaging diet all to hell. Vegetables come in plastic baggies. Nothing comes in butcher paper. Feta cheese comes in a hard plastic shell. Okay, it always did.
They run out of stuff, though, and ask if they can make substitutions, and I say “sure.” But then there are surprises. (Seltzer is not a substitute for tonic water, Petunia.) I ordered one (plastic) bottle of 600 Benadryl tablets to hold me for the next thirty years and instead I got a tower of little boxes with 600 individually-wrapped tabs in plastic bubble-packs. It took me five minutes to excavate just one. I’d rather have hives.
And of course so much is ordered online. Last month seemed like a package thunked onto the porch every day. I thought it was over and then a big box showed up. It didn’t weigh more than a bag of chips. “What is it?” Dave asked, and I said “I think it’s for the cat,” except our cat doesn’t sit in boxes, or, frankly, do any other normal thing. (Her own packaging, however, is first-rate.)
What the hell.
Inside the big box–which you could ship a Labrador Retriever in–were three more boxes. All empty. It was like God’s Nesting Dolls Of Waste. I pulled everything out and found one small scrap of paper. Oh! My internet “provider” sent me the boxes so I could send back any old devices of theirs I wasn’t using anymore. They’d just installed a new router. I sent back the old device and a couple random cables. They would have fit in a Kleenex box with room to rattle. But there was no preprinted label as promised. I contacted the company and they said they’d send me a new label.
Guess what fluttered out of a big box on the front porch a few days later?
Meanwhile Dave and I are fluttering around in a 2700-square-foot home in a town full of homeless people. A hundred and fifty years ago people routinely jammed all their kids, including the spares, in a small bed like a pile of puppies, in a one-room shack, and not without joy. But I can hardly bear to think of inviting more people to live here even though they’d still rattle. Best I can say for myself is I don’t put a lot of heat in the place. I sweater up, and wait for the rest of my heart to thaw.
This is why I don't go to Trader Joe's. EVERYTHING is wrapped in plastic. I go over the state line to Whole Foods. It's really not as expensive as all that if you don't buy processed food. They also have large sizes of the cleaning products I use, which I decant into smaller containers. Ultimately, it's less plastic. I am fortunate that I have a farm market nearby, which has organic produce that is unwrapped. Also, a farmer's market over the state line where they still do wrap their deli stuff in butcher paper (not their meats and poultry, though, If they did, it would leak everywhere.)
One of the (many) things that fell by the wayside during the pandemic is environmental concerns. I used to buy just two kaiser rolls at a time when they were in bins and I could pick what I needed. Now, they come in plastic bags of 6. It takes up way too much room in my small freezer, so I can't stock up on other things that I'd rather. Also, library "appointments" for curbside delivery. You have a date that you "must pick up by", and I try to schedule it when I'm already out that way doing errands. Sometimes, they already have their appointments filled and I must drive out there just for a single book, at an inconvenient time, or lose it. It's such a waste of gas to have to make special appointments. I mean, it's curbside, FFS — I'm in my car with the trunk popped open!
The one good thing we have done environmentally here in Delaware — even during the pandemic! — is to do away with plastic shopping bags. Now we must bring our own or pay for one of their reusable ones. I always keep mine in my car, plus I found one that folds into a small pocket that I can keep in my purse in case I'm at a drugstore and forget that they no longer have bags. I mean, it's pointless to save everyone from Covid if there is no Earth left for us to live on.
There's plenty dooming the earth besides plastic but it's a place to start. A really effective plague would also be good for the planet but I'm not eager to volunteer for that.
Hey, without the Black Plague, we wouldn't have had the Renaissance.
mimimanderly, take the kaiser rolls out of the six-pack bag and wrap them individually to stash in odd corners of your freezer.
I have often been defeated by packaging.
Yeah, when you have to start stabbing things with scissors, you're already in trouble.
I used to joke that I'll have to move to Europe one day because the good ole USA is running me out through over-packaging. It's ridiculous in so many instances. Kim in PA
You could probably get packed up and ready to ship to Europe cheap.
An excellent post Murr (well, they're always excellent). And I commend you on your efforts to leave a smaller thumbprint and stay out of that albatross belly. I may not be as diligent as you (and we still have plastic grocery bags in Penna) but I do use mine to line my small kitchen & bath trashcans. I also re-use my own baggies & tin-foil. Oh fudge, now I have that scene stuck in my craw where Dustin Hoffman is pulled aside and told "Plastics" in 'The Graduate'. Hey one more thing, I recently heard Fran Lebowitz lamenting the fact that nobody reads newspapers anymore, I miss the nostalgia of those too but that's helped the planet, hasn't it? PS. I live in a 120 unit apt building, you should see the piles of Amazon boxes in our lobby everyday. It does make one cringe.
I, too, use the plastic bags as bin liners. Now I use the ones that I get in PA from the farmer's market, or my bins "go commando." I also reuse small plastic bags from bread or produce. I never have to buy them.
I do get a newspaper, but it's because I have parrots. It's the cheapest source of cage liner. And we get to read it first… then it's liner… then it's kindling for the wood stove. Not only do I recycle it, I "threecycle" it.
"Threecycle" is what I now aspire to!
I only just quit getting the paper paper.
I now get a picture of the newspaper on my tablet. I can still read it when I do my morning, erm, "routine", and I no longer have to search for it in the gutter. My recycle bin has that much less in it.
Your, erm, routine is much longer than mine.
IN DC we have a 5-cent-per-bag "tax" on plastic bags, which is a great incentive for bringing one's own or selecting 'paper'. We are told that the bag-tax money goes toward cleaning up the Potomac River and the Chesapeake Bay. We too tend to average one Amazon box per day, and I carefully break down the boxes and put them into the recycle bin — but I always wonder how much of that cardboard actually ends up getting recycled?
ONE A DAY?
Uh-oh? Does this mean too many? Not enough? At this point, James doesn't leave the house except for doctors appointments, so instead of asking me to pick up things like glass cleaner, half-caff coffee, and Aged Balsamic Vinegar from Modena, he usually just clicks away and Amazon Prime makes it come in 24 hrs or less….I don't mind going to a store and buying things, but he likes to know *exactly* what he's getting….(le sigh)
Which, if you're not freaked out by packaging, makes plenty of sense.
Amazon does let you set up a once-a-week delivery day … in theory, all your purchases arrive at once. That said, I haven't used it, so who am I to talk? Besides, not all things ordered on Amazon come from the same place.
Huh! I'm not sure I ordered anything from amazon all year.
I'm with Murr. I've probably had two or three Amazon deliveries in my life. Now…WalMart is a different story. Since the virus hit, I've probably received on average one box each week or two. They do tend to split one's order up into multiple boxes, though (plus the occasional DoorDash delivery).
I have avoided amazon AND Walmart for similar reasons, but probably if I knew more about other outfits I'd avoid them too.
I use the thin produce bags over my hand when I pump gas. Nasty nasty pump handles.
No gas pumping here!
I use copious amounts of hand sanitizer after pumping gas. I travel with the one-liter size bottle, because gawd knows what I'm gonna touch when I show property to buyers. Initially tried those purple Nitrile gloves, but (Murr, are you listening?) I hated the idea of throwing away plastic gloves on a regular basis. So in lieu of plastic, its hand sanitizer whilst out in the field, and then a vigorous and thorough hand-washing when I return to chez moi.
That's my boy.
Had to smile at the arrival of all those empty boxes. Our supermarkets sell packaged mushrooms, packaged sliced mushrooms and loose ones with paper bags handily stacked nearby for those who prefer to choose their variety and how many. I used the same brown paper bag for months every time I bought one or two mushrooms.
I'm astonished that you can get Benadryl in such large amounts. any chemist in the land here would query such an order. I buy antihistamine which I need all year round for allergies and can only buy one box of forty at a time. They absolutely will not sell two at once.
I will happily send you most of mine!
Here, I could buy all the antihistamine I want, but nasal decongestant (Sudafed) is another matter. One has to see the pharmacist, sign for it, and show ID. Fortunately I do not need it often.
Gads- where is that? We have a similar thing with Sudafed, and a lot of OCT items other places need a pres eruption here… keeps prices up and people working I guess.
It's in Delaware. I think they may do that all over the US now. Apparently one can make meth quite easily from nasal decongestant, and they were afraid that it may be my side hustle.
Drat spellcheck- it really IS O T C, as on "Over The Counter."
We were trying, really, but since last March we have gone through about 1,000 disposable gloves (a whole case). A bit more than that, now that I think it over, maybe 1,400. And your antihistamine packaging — I don't take them since the allergist told me that what I have is vasomotor rhinitis, one of the five or so types of non-allergic rhinitis — same irritants, same symptoms, but totally different biochemical pathway which they've no idea how to deal with – but I have the same packaging issue to deal with when buying Omeprazole. And the HMO just switched my blood-thinner packaging from a bottle holding a month's worth to a gazillion blister packages holding a month's worth. I do applaud your efforts.
Oh, my efforts are entirely on hold. The only thing I take Benadryl for is mosquito bites or hornet stings but Dave is much more susceptible to mosquitoes and also takes them to sleep better sometimes. 600 is most definitely a lifetime supply.
We are familiar with the issue of mosquitos'(-oes?) human-preferences! I can avoid mosquito bites just by sitting outdoors next to my wife. Cats, too, prefer her. But the voice-recognition software in the TV remote does not like her at all.
Jeremy, it's crazy! I wish I knew what attracts them so that I can do the opposite, if possible. A few years back, my husband and I had another couple over for a cookout one evening. Her date and I got hundreds of bites. Both she and my husband — not a single one! WTF, mosquitoes?!
Dave is our decoy.
It's really hard — impossible? — to escape plastics. I'm typing on a plastic keyboard, wearing plastic-framed reading glasses. There are a couple of plastic-sheathed pens on the table. I'm pretty sure my clothes are at least partially plastic — isn't polyester plastic? Aren't those ubiquitous disposable face masks made of plastic? We're all breathing microplastic fibers in our attempts to avoid COVID-19. We buy our pets plastic-packaged food and treats. Even toilet paper comes in plastic packaging. Our rugs and carpets: mostly fibers made from various plastics. My bath mat is plastic, as are the shampoo and body-wash containers. The squeegee I use to clean the shower enclosure. Even my toothbrush. Even my nail brush. Woe is me! Woe is us!
I know, I know. I was so bummed the year I found out about polar fleece. HEY! Our TP does not come in plastic. WHO GIVES A CRAP toilet paper–highly recommended!
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