Convenience. We love it, we expect it, and boy or boy is it hard when it’s not there. I was truly in love with convenience and we had one of the best relationships. Not having to be prepared for a quick bite to eat while doing errands, I could pop in anywhere and get a drink with the proper accessories, and I was given whatever method was needed to carry my goods. How on earth could I break up this relationship?
So a bit about me, my husband and I are first time home buyers, just starting in our careers and trying to be the best we can be. We can’t afford the luxurious ‘eco’ products always but we try to make our purchases count. My education consists of multiple environmental degrees. I am passionate about the world we live in and have made it my mission to share this knowledge with others. In my eyes, the best way to achieve environmental progress is through conversation and understanding; it is arming people with this knowledge and understanding that we can really drive change. Please read about how mine and my husband’s once happy relationship with convenience and plastic became complicated very quickly. So how did this perfect relationship start to unravel? Well sit back and take a read.
Going through a post-secondary education in Environmental Studies one would think that I would have become a super environmentalist that would cast shadows on all those who didn’t follow the environmentalist ways. Well, that wasn’t it. This is not to say that I didn’t care for the environment, I consistently brought it up in conversation by telling people what they could do to lessen their “environmental footprint”. At the time I felt as though I was creating a tremendous positive change for the state of the Earth by sharing all my knowledge of climate change and pollution. However, life showed me otherwise, my words were not enough.
It wasn’t until I trekked onto my second post-secondary adventure that I realized how oblivious it had been. It wasn’t in a classroom that I became enlightened but it was through the simple act of having access to a water fountain that counted the number of water bottles saved. It was incredible to watch what the simple act of refilling a water bottle could do. It was at this instant that I realized how clueless I was to think that I was actually changing the world. So, my personal realization and quest to do more started with the purchase of a reusable water bottle so I could simply watch the number of saved plastic water bottles go up and up.
So fast forward a couple years – yes it took me years to quit my relationship with convenience– to when the global plastic conversation really took off. I’m talking about the plastic bag bans, the straws (oh, the straws), the disposable cutlery, and the one time use packaging (to name a few). This is when I started to take action. First, it was telling my partner that we needed to lessen our impact. But then it was figuring out where do we to start? We had the not buying plastic water bottles pretty good, so we expanded to warm beverages (FYI there’s some great thermal mugs out there).
What was next? How did we continue the difficult break up? It was coming to terms with plastic bags, the multitude of bags that we accumulated under the sink or in the laundry room. It was about silencing the voice inside my head saying “we’ll need the bag, we have kitty litter to clean”, “oh we need the bag to hold our meat”, and the classic “but convenience” which was the champion boxer in the ring. Luckily, my heart was persistent and was determined to quit and replace any plastic loving thoughts with: “there are alternatives to deal with your kitty litter”, “eat less meat – or clean the reusable bag that you use to carry your meat, it’s really not that hard”, “you can do it, remember that you’re not just doing it just for yourself but for the health of the planet”. Through our perseverance, we ended up investing in a green shopping basket, from President’s Choice. This ended up being one of the greatest purchases we had made to help fight the fight against plastic bag use. Yes, we are human and sometimes forget our basket, but you can now catch my husband and I trying to shove everything into our arms or purse to make it to the car without a bag.
So now we had conquered plastic water bottles and bags, that was huge! But what else could we do? Well, we became the proud owners of metal straws which we didn’t often use because we were quite capable of bringing a cup up to our mouths (not to mention we actively reduced the risk of getting wrinkle lines around our lips). So you may ask what we do when we are out and about and forget our reusable water bottle? We try to only purchase beverages that come in glass containers which sometimes results in us waiting until we get home to quench our thirst because the choices can be a bit limiting at times. As for grocery shopping, we’ve resorted to baking our own bread to reduce the plastic that comes as bread packaging, we’ll choose an item that is in a recyclable clamshell container rather than one in plastic wrap. We’ve also bought beeswax wrap to avoid the use of plastic wrap all together.
Needless to say, we are well on our way to totally severing our ties with and the convenient single use plastics. We are finding a whole new level of convenience in being conscious about our purchasing and behaviour habits. Sometimes we do falter, we are only human, but if we all take one step closer to being more responsible global citizens, that can be enough to drive change. We’re trying to make single use plastics – which provided unhelpful convenience in the grand scheme of things – a part of our past while recognizing how strong this relationship was, but realizing how much better off we are without them and how much we can actually help the environment through this. Let’s not wait for the plastic bans to find us, let us realize what we can do ourselves to make our lives healthier, smarter, and help mother nature be as wonderful as she can be.
By Kelsey Amlin