Usually the start of a new year brings me such inspiration. I feel renewed possibility in my ability to meet my goals, I feel more alert and aware of what I want to change in my life, and I feel the strong motivation to actually make those changes.
This new year, I didn’t feel that way. I felt a heaviness, a sluggishness, a sense of distinct failure.
Before moving in late November, I had a sort of comical feeling about my choice to keep all of my plastic for one year. I’d look at my growing pile of bottle caps and straws and plastic baggies and feel slightly intrigued, even amused, by how much I had accumulated after trying so hard not to. But once we carted our lives and belongings over to our new apartment, plastic and all, I stopped feeling that amusement.
All over my apartment, on top of dressers, tucked behind the bathroom soap dispenser, sitting on the kitchen counter, are bits of plastic that I’ve promised to keep. After an exhausting move, after weeks of living in disorder and surrounded by plastic trash, I’m getting really tired of this endeavor and, honestly, a little depressed by it.
At the end of December, I thought seriously about quitting, telling myself it was incredibly stupid to begin this project in the first place. It’s so tiresome to still be tucking straws into my purse after being given them in restaurants. It’s draining to go to the grocery store—to any store, really—and attempt to avoid buying what I really want because it is sealed in plastic. Then, it’s extra discouraging when I later have to keep the plastic I didn’t have the will to resist.
My days of feeling like a champion as I proudly carted around my red reusable bag are over. I’m tired. I want to throw all this plastic away. I’m overwhelmed by what I’ve already accrued.
But I think, beyond the exhaustion, what’s really difficult for me is this feeling that I’ve failed—on a gargantuan scale. A few friends shared with me this video about a woman who has found a way to live without trash. For the past two years, she’s kept what she couldn’t compost, donate, or recycle, and it all, every piece of it, fits into a modest mason jar. She’s done what I’m trying to do, but she’s actually succeeding.
Her trash pile would be greater if she were holding onto all of her recyclable plastic like I am—I know this—but still, I can see that her efforts are more fierce and dedicated than my own. For example, she makes her own toothpaste. I haven’t taken a single day out of my averagely busy life to make my own soap or toothpaste or deodorant. I have no excuse other than I have trouble finding the time.
This leads me, I guess, to a deeper truth about trying to live a life without plastic: it takes Herculean devotion, extreme creativity, and lots and lots of time to do something as amazing as what this woman has done. It’s possible, but for the average person like me, it seems a superhuman effort. I don’t want it to be this hard to reduce or eliminate plastic because that means that most of us won’t be able to that drastically change our lives, thus, we won’t drastically alter our planet.
On my days off, I want to work on my novel, I want to take long walks with my husband, I want to make lasagna. These diversions seem to mean that I won’t ever totally overhaul my life and truly fight my war on plastic because I just won’t have the time. If I wanted to make lasagna, for example, and use no plastic, it might take me several days: I’d have to make my own noodles, I’d have to make my own ricotta, and I’d have to forgo the sausage (or slaughter my own pigs—uh—nope). All of these items come in plastic—I’ve not been able to purchase them without. Try to find noodles that don’t have a plastic “window” in the box. If you do, please tell me where to buy them.
I know that I still need to seek out stores that that offer plastic-free alternatives. I know those alternatives must be out there. And I know that I need to try making my own products or otherwise step up my plastic-fighting game. But again, my energy is waning. My devotion is slipping.
Yet. In spite of this blueness, in spite of my self-pity about the ways I’ve failed this year to truly and completely give up plastic, I have to admit that this video filled me with a quiet spark of re-dedication. It made me feel a sequin of hope about our planet’s future, knowing that there are people in our world like this woman. People who have this amount of commitment and positivity and force of will and time to make substantial changes. This video reminded me that I can do better, and that there are always people out there who can give me the inspiration.