So as most of you know, last year we did this thing where our family didn’t buy any plastic. For four months, really more like six, we acquired only the teensiest amounts of plastic–exact amounts can be found at my end of month reckonings–during what turned out to be a life changing experiment. The posts from those months are a celebration of my joyful discoveries of Life Without Plastic.
Since then, though, I’m not even sure I’ve mentioned plastic at all on this blog. I just didn’t know what to say. Recently inspired by a number of posts written by friends in blogland ranging in topic from money to miscarriage to compromise, I have been thinking about transparency and figure it’s long past time to give a full accounting of our lifestyle these days, to reflect on life after no-plastic. Post-post-plastic, if you will.
So I have to just say it out loud: the fast that was so celebrated in this space ended in May. Since then, we’ve been buying plastic. Sometimes a lot, like when my in-laws came to town and I just went to Trader Joe’s and didn’t bat an eye at the cart filled with packaging (though I felt sick when I saw it filling our trash can, later). Generally it is a lot less than when the trips to TJs were a weekly extravaganza (that’s right, I was a pretty careless, if all-organic shopper before we started the fast), but certainly it’s more these days than when it was almost nothing.
There are various reasons for all this. Economy is one of them. I have been working hard to get our budget tightened up. I want to keep staying home with my kids, and that means really learning to live on just one income. Could I really keep spending over $10 for a gallon of organic milk just because it was in a glass jar (that doesn’t include the deposit). Did it make sense to take a special trip across town to one of the big box health food stores for, I dunno, Braggs in bulk?
There was also my picky-picky little one, who essentially stopped growing once weaned. I needed to be able to buy her whatever I thought might help her eat more–whether it was a hot dog or frozen blueberries to top her (homemade) yogurt with. And then there was me, pregnant and needing to be able to walk into the kitchen and eat something right this second, which kind of interfered with my made from scratch ways. I started stocking the fridge with basics like tortillas.
Lastly, my attention was diverted from my extreme eco ways by the intensity of mothering a two year old. I devoted myself to finding my parenting legs (so different from the mothering legs we get when our little baby is in arms!) and this led me down a wholly new and unexpected road to a fabulous realm I call Steiner Land. Furthermore, I wanted to spend time learning to sew, making things, out in the garden, living. I didn’t yet know how to do all that and never buy a plastic bag.
I think I’m much closer now. I feel everything coalescing, all the skills I’ve spent the last year learning, the inner work I’ve done, the growth I’ve experienced as a mother, and the somewhat miraculous (and ongoing) organization and de-cluttering of our home. This has, happily, brought us full circle. I have the inner and outer resources–the drive and the skills–to go back to a life that is in line with my values. I have a sense of what is the right balance for us, the things we need, the things we don’t need.
I have to say that the most powerful thing about our plastic fast wasn’t that we didn’t acquire plastic during that time, but that we discovered out capacity for change. That we broke out of a system that we took so for granted we didn’t think there was any other way to live. Plastic isn’t the point (which I think I made clear even back in the day). The point is to live as carefully and consciously as we can. This means balancing many different parts of our lives, of making sure we are joyful in our efforts rather than resentful. It means resting when we are weary, and taking up the staff to keep walking when we are ready to keep walking.
ps–I just revisited the path we forged last year during our fast by meandering through the archives here at Old Recipe. Dang, did I really do all that? I’m so inspiring I just inspired myself. Cool.