Accounting for my plastic campaign – Week 1

Week one is done! Starting strong is natural, finishing strong is certainly a challenge.

My self-imposed rules were set last week:

  1. Commit to change
  2. Do my best
  3. Go easy on yourself – I don’t have to be my own worst enemy
  4. Do not beat up others who are slow to join campaign
  5. Be accountable

I know it is the training phase and I need to establish my baseline. I figure it is the same as getting on the scale for the first time in 3 years, so expect a shock.  I also must follow rule 5, be accountable: be truthful and embarrass yourself.  Yet to do so puts me at odds with rule 3, which advises not to beat myself up. Full disclosure is a fallacy and leads to boredom for anyone reading the blog, and given the embarrassing result could imperil rule 1, committing to change. CHANGE IS HARD!

Mo’s Baseline Report

My journal was indeed placed on the counter above the garbage and I recorded the plastics that made their way into the garbage. Of course, this is the plastic our municipality does not accept as recyclable. It includes cellophane, plastic bags of all description, styrofoam trays, those sort of things.

Truth.  I only recorded one full day. It took me a while to relocate the journal.  I entertained my family on Day two and cleared the habitual junk off the counter before anyone arrived.  So the accountability exercise was then forgotten. I wish to invoke rule 3. I wish to be easy on myself. I may wish to redo this exercise commencing tomorrow for a period not to exceed Monday to Friday.  I think the data is incredibly important, but I acknowledge what I end up with will be incomplete, yet telling. (You know I will stuff the journal away again, don’t you.)

My list included the following for Day 1:

  • lid to cereal container recyclable and later removed
  • Plastic protector on new cereal box – garbage
  • Toothpaste tube – garbage, toothpaste cap – recyclable
  • 3 baggies used for left overs – garbage
  • Shake and Bake bag – garbage
  • Plastic ice cream wrapper – garbage
  • ripped doggie poop bag – unused – garbage
  • Enormous plastic lawn fertilizer bag – garbage
  • Enormous soil bag required for planting tulip bulbs – garbage
  • Plastic wrap from left overs (never even ate the left overs) – garbage
  • 2 outdated cranberry juice containers, cleaned but stained – recyclable and removed from garbage
  • Also, used the municipal garbage container, which now contains two used doggie poop bags, however I retrieved one unused poop bag from the bog in the park, so net harm is less than one bag. It is “less than” because otherwise the plastic bag in the water would have broken down into micro plastics and polluted the water habitat in short order. This has longterm impacts on birds, ducks and fish and possibly insects and I do not know what else.

In spite of all that horrible plastic, I was quite pleased with my performance. I told the truth for one day. I did not unfairly blame my beloved husband for picking the accountability week/ day to do his gardening, as that would be so unreasonable. I could heap praise falsely on the lack of regular plastic garbage, so as to hide the fact that I postponed cleaning the rest of refrigerator after the cranberry containers made the list. That would be so misleading, so I confess.

In truth, I felt severely guilty at my propensity to buy things in plastic containers.  A case in point was hand soap.  We have three bathrooms and of course the kitchen sink.  I could understand if I had four containers of hand soap and even four more in reserve for replacing them.  I had twelve plastic containers of hand soap and no inventory of replacements. I also had matching hand lotion, that is seldom used, to match the twelve hand soap dispensers, all with matching shapes and design and often with cute plastic trays for the hand soap and the hand lotion to sit in.

But there is always more behind the story

Have you ever counted the plastic containers in the expensive cabinetry we have placed in our bathrooms and kitchens?  These are the places that we have to lock when toddlers come to call. They are filled with cleaners to get rid of the scum that accumulates in the sink from the hand soap and hand lotion, etc.  Often toxic, they come in thick plastic containers.  So I counted all those. I have 40 plastic bottles in that category.  Most of these products are discontinued.  Many of the containers have less than an inch of product peeking through the bottom of the plastic cylinders. They are sitting there because of the time and water required to wash them out so that I can dispose of the containers.  I don’t want to use the products because they are old and I most likely have replaced them already with other bottles. Sigh!!!!!!!!

The worst and most egregious count must be disclosed. Bath soap, shampoo, conditioner and body lotion, face cleaners and face creams in plastic containers only. We have 44  containers for two people. We also have to protect our skin from the sun! There are at least four such plastic containers and two more for insect repellant. I have two drawers dedicated to travel size jars and samples from the cosmetic aisles that I would rather just estimate as 100 plastic items.

Report Analysis

So as you can guess, I need this plastic purge in the biggest way.  I am not a hoarder qualified for the America Most Wanted shows, but I am unimpressed with my habits.

If I recycle all the excess, is that a net gain or net loss?  The plastic exists now, harm is done, so I am not adding to it if I give them to recycling.  But will I just go mad and replace it all again?  No, the point of this exercise is reduce plastic purchasing by buying what you truly need and if possible in packages that do not use plastic.

Help please!  What else does shampoo, conditioner and lotions come in? Research is required!!! Buying in bulk means thicker plastic containers. Does bulk buying help here?

Rule 3 Go Easy on yourself

So what is a girl to do after such a reckoning!  Seek out nature – walk the dog. Calm the mind. Ummmmmm ahhhhh.

Jersey and I left the house ready for a new purpose.  Breathing in the fresh air, we started walking up our town road, passing through one road in the subdivision to access the nature trail.  When what to my wondering my eyes should appear, but a super sized garbage bag, empty and near.  It was a sign!  A means to save my wicked soul! Penance! I jumped at the chance to clean the road side as we walked through the neighbourhood and the trail leading to our nature park.  This walk can be trying on my evangelical nature.  I silently growl and curse the littering public. I now know that I am every bit as bad as those littering, I just hide the stuff at home. So, why not give those littering a helpful hand, a good example, a clean environment!

Jersey enjoyed the activity tremendously.  She sniffed and pawed at the ditches and road sides as I proceeded to fill up the garbage bag.  She rolled in mud and who knows what.  While she was readying herself for a big bath later, I was similarly smearing dirt and mud from my head to my toes.  Of particular note were my favorite red leather gloves and the cuffs of my favorite down jacket! I donated the gloves to the bag at the end of litter drive and did the laundry including the coat.  It was a cold and overcast day, so we did not meet a soul, thankfully! Nor did I motivate others to the cause with my service to the community and the environment.

Actually, I was sad when I finished my task and tied up the bag.  There was so much left to do! I abandoned the bag next to the underpass. Do not despair.  After we had completed our walk, I drove back to the spot, retrieved the bag and brought it home.  It more than filled up the space in our garbage container. Zero harm! The garbage bag was thrown away unused anyway, it would have broken down after several years and turned to micro plastics in our water shed. At least it was used to clean up and not left for the ducks and geese to choke on.

One might think I did a miserable job with plastic and waste to look at our garbage bin this week, but I felt really good about it.  I gave back to the community by cleaning up.  I know what I threw out, which improves my mindfulness, and it has sparked my ambition to do less harm and even make my own compost.

The remainder of the week was focused on minimizing garbage until garbage collection day.  I composted!  I have my first bucket (small bucket albeit) of compost material. Jersey and I will do another few walks to finish the clean up before the snow flies. Once again, we will commit to plastic research and plastic reduction.

Did you know compost containers also come in plastic?  Oh…. my head hurts!

Week One concluded.







Mo’s Place to Write

Years ago I was obsessed with handwriting!  I must admit I love writing with paper and ink.  There is a lot to be said from the script. If you are absent minded, it shows. If you are feeling happy, the cursive writing is pure and beautiful.  When you are sad, you can detect slow and deliberate lettering. Writing while vexed can look chiselled into a page! A silly mood results in playful stylish curves, going crazy with indentation and sliding down the lines. There is a lot to be said with the stroke of a pen.

Writing with pen and paper was liberating! Best of all, you didn’t need to be at the whim of a battery or plugged into wall. Paper and journals were (are) my most important  travel companions. I could sit on the bank by the ocean. It could be a scorching day, my paper and pen still functioned, unlike a temperamental Ipad that cannot take the heat. I could place my sturdy journal on my lap on the plane, even during take offs! Flight attendants were fine with an open journal, but not a laptop or a phone.  If I was alone, I could sit at a café, head bent above my journal and no one bothered me.  I might glance at other unsuspecting patrons, capturing their mood and conversation on the page and I was rarely caught.  Most people assumed I was lost in thought. Every now and then, something beautiful, meaningful or wise would strike me in the middle of nowhere. I would take my journal and pen from my bag and quickly write it down. I couldn’t help feeling smug afterward, knowing it was pure genius to have paper and pen handy.


Today’s question is where do I write today. I have become a curmudgeon. I sit down in my home office in front of my desktop and click away at the key board. I am surrounded by books, notepads, pens, highlighters, binder clips and sticky pads. I feel the connection of the old and new.  My recent photos are all on the desktop. Visuals are essential for writing today. I keep my door open so I hear my husband as he busies himself at one thing or the other. He will often walk down the hall, look in at me sitting on my exercise ball below the computer desk and declare lovingly, “Blogger!” He carries on with his project. P1010908

Above my computer on the wall are black and white photos of my great grandparents and my beloved grandmother.  The pictures were taken around 1883 when my grandmother was one year old. I am unsure if it was the fashion not to smile in those days, or if it was the Baptist way of expressing yourself, but they are three serious people overlooking my endeavours.  My grandmother taught me everything I needed to know about life! She was the sunshine and the purpose of my day.  I miss her to this very second, but I feel content I can see her everyday and that she watches over me! Behind me is a collage of my father’s parents and relatives.  One photo has my paternal grandmother with Taoiseach de Valera. It was a very big privilege to have such a photo, our family pride in a frame. My father’s family has my back!  They were formidable Roman Catholics. My father was the eldest of 22 children. They taught me everything from the importance of family to the importance of being dedicated and professional. Knowing they are there watching over my work is deeply comforting.P1010910

I no longer carry a large purse or a tote.  I do carry a phone.  This phone captures ideas quickly and accurately. Photos can quickly be taken of a page in a book. There is no need to painstakingly rewrite the page in a journal. I plug the phone into the desktop and all my photos are securely saved until I need them.  But the best feature of my phone is the journal! Once more my electronic journal lets me sit at a café and write a note.  I can still write down observations about people, young and old, while looking pensively toward them. So far I have never been called out for writing up my observations. Someday I will use them to inspire me.  I hope to make those people proud.

Time will let me fully embrace the excitement of electronic writing, but I am also unwilling to let go the beauty and enjoyment of writing with a paper and pen.