A Worthy Social Experiment: Abstain from Plastic for a Month


Photo credit: epSos.de via Flickr/CC BY

So many gimmicky sustainability "challenges" have arisen during the mainstreaming of green over the last few years that I truly thought that I'd never want to hear about another one again. But Rodale's Plastic-Free February is an exception -- free of the pomp of No Impact Man-style displays and embracing of an important central conceit, we might stand to learn something about our consumer habits by participating in an effort to eschew plastic altogether. I, for one, plan to participate. Here's the impetus for the experiment (besides a little free publicity) via Rodale:

Why go plastic free? There are plenty of reasons to cut down. It's made from either petroleum or natural gas, two nonrenewable resources extracted in ways that pollute our air and water. Plastic manufacturers add chemicals to certain types of plastics that can be highly toxic, like bisphenol A and phthalates. And very few types of plastic are widely recycled.
That's putting it lightly (though Rodale's is specifically ditching plastic for the sake of personal health). Plastic takes forever to break down, and when it begins to, its particles can end up contaminating groundwater and ecosystem food chains. But more importantly, it's being produced in astronomical excess -- nearly every product we buy is comprised, at least in part, of plastic. As such, it's clogging landfills and waterways, floating around in the ocean, and littering the streets.

Which is why this simple month-long experiment is one worth attempting -- I'd wager few of us truly understand the role plastic plays in our daily lives, our actual relationship to the stuff, and just how integral it is to the modern iteration of consumer culture. Until we banish it, that is. So let's give it a go, shall we? Here are the rules:

1. No buying or acquiring new plastic.

2: No cooking with plastic or storing food in plastic.

3: Minimize all other plastic use.

Adhering to these rules fore even a month should help us envision a life in which the bulk of the products we use aren't disposable (no plastic bags!) -- good luck.

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