brown cardboard box on white table
The Way Forward

Single-Use Plastics, Multi-step solutions

One of the mental fallacies I’ve worked on reframing has been the idea that every change I make must be all or nothing.

  • I’m either sedentary or I’m walking for 30 minutes every single day.
  • Eating fast food or cooking wholesome healthy meals three times a day.
  • Not drinking any water or drinking some complicated formula’s worth of ounces each day.

This approach has never worked for me. Not once. And I tried for decades. Either because I’m a slow learner or I’m stubborn. 😉

It has helped me realize that there is a third way, a middle path, for almost everything. And that the more measured approach can lead me to where I’m wanting to be in a more consistent, and ultimately doable, manner.

The Way Forward requires that we break out of binary this/that thinking and explore many solutions and approaches. Climate Change is complex, overwhelming, and can be downright demotivating.

Doing only the easy stuff will never solve the problem. Blue bins full of plastic sitting curbside aren’t, ultimately, part of the solution. Not really. But that doesn’t mean we should go back to tossing stuff into landfills. We need to do the harder work of reducing the amount of plastic we are producing. There’s a reason why the original motto wasn’t just a singular arrow with the word “Recycle” written on it.

Reduce. Reuse. Recycle. We went right for the easy one as a culture and many of us stopped there.

Two of my actions from the Punch List focus on eliminating single-use plastics, one from the kitchen the other from the bathroom. When I read the goal “Eliminate single-use plastic in the bathroom,” it’s overwhelming. I’m not sure where to start. So I went to someone who has done the work already and is virtually plastic-free (check out the bottom of this post for another resource if this one doesn’t jive with you):

For the bathroom, I’m focused on items 28 – 42. That’s it. I’m not thinking about the rest of the list. And if one of the items in that section feels undoable for me right now, I back-burner it. Sure, baking soda deodorant sounds eco-friendly but I’m skeptical and am going with the switch in toilet paper and toothpaste first. Not only but first. When I change my approach from “eliminate single-use plastic” to actionable, doable steps, I get excited about it.

The next resistance that pops up for me once I get past my personal all/nothing thinking is this:

Does it really matter if I switch toothpaste when everyone else on the planet is still using single-use plastics?

A. I’m wrong. Not everyone is. Individuals all over are doing what they can. One of the folks I housesit for uses plastic-free toothpaste and toilet paper. They are part of what motivates me. And there’s power in keeping that motivation going.

B. I’m also wrong because other people’s behavior doesn’t absolve me of my personal responsibility. I can’t choose what my neighbor does. Or even what my spouse does, ultimately. But I have agency over my own actions. Who do I want to be in the world? How do I want to move in the world? What can I do? Do that.

C. Doing nothing isn’t doing nothing. It’s making things worse. It’s contributing to the problem. It’s siding with inertia and choosing convenience over responsibility. Doing nothing is contributing to climate change.

One action chained with another action that inspires another person to take their first step… that’s how we make sustainable changes. That’s The Way Forward.

Which item on the list will you focus on first?

See also

Featured Image by Marcell Viragh on Unsplash

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