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.