An Italian project strives to educate people about plastic pollution through talking about ceramics in the home.
The anti-plastic movement is gaining strength as more people realize the folly of using a material that not only leaches chemicals into our bodies, food, and environment, but also does not biodegrade. The movement has taken many shapes and forms, from no-straw campaigns to the zero waste lifestyle to more natural-fiber clothing.
As someone who enjoys writing about the plastic-free revolution, I was pleased to learn about the “More Clay, Less Plastic” project, which uses art installations, school workshops, and an active Facebook group to encourage people to embrace ceramic and other non-plastic kitchen utensils and dishes in their homes.The project is based in Italy, where it was founded by potter Lauren Moreira, but it has participants and vocal supporters in ten countries. Its symbol is the colander, an essential tool in every Italian kitchen that used to be made of clay, but is now always found in plastic form.
Moreira strives to create awareness, particularly in school classrooms, about the detrimental environmental effects of plastic and the practical, beautiful, and much more ecologically-friendly alternatives that do exist. She spoke about her travelling exhibit, ‘More Clay, Less Plastic: Change is in Your Hand,’ with the Plastic Pollution Coalition:
“The visitors are attracted to the ceramic utensils, some of which they have never seen before precisely because they were substituted by plastic. We talk about why we are proposing a step back to natural materials and the audience is very interested, especially kids when they see the pictures of the animals trapped in plastic or killed by plastic.”
Kids are the key to the future, in Moreira’s eyes. Once kids’ habits change through education, they will influence their parents to change, while holding them accountable. Moreira likes to show kids how to make a mug of their own out of clay, an unforgettable experience for many: “It has a special value and anything that will be drunk from that cup will taste better!”
The wonderful thing about ceramics is that, no matter how long they last, they will not hurt the environment, if made with food-grade, lead-free glazes. Buying ceramics is a way to support local artisans, much as you might support local farmers to buy the food that’s served on those plates.
Talking about clay and getting people thinking about clay, is “a means of starting the conversation about plastic pollution,” Moreira says. She’s bound to find listeners a-plenty, as there’s something alluring about clay, perhaps because clay was once so fundamental to our ancient ancestors’ lives. It’s also becoming very trendy, according to Bon Appétit:
“Nowadays, meals from Noma in Copenhagen to Husk in Charleston are served on gorgeous handmade dishes—often thrown by a ceramist the chef knows as well as his butcher, farmer, or forager. And why not? It’s all part of that ‘artisanal’ experience.”
Finally, a trend that’s not hell-bent on destroying the planet! That’s something many of us can get behind quite happily, as Moreira’s message spreads further around the globe.
Keep in mind that handmade ceramics aren’t the only option available. You can buy glassware, wooden dinnerware, and traditional china, but it’s important to look for brands that clearly state they are lead-free. Steer clear of all plastics, including melamine; all can leach chemicals into food while served, stored, and microwaved (even if it says microwave-safe).