donate buttonThis is Mike’s last entry in the series “Grist dared me to make a change.” Read the first, second, third, fourth and fifth here. And support his dare with a gift to Grist!

types of plasticThe good (computer, camera), the bad (storage containers), and the ugly (plastic bags)Photo: Mike SanClementsIt’s the end of my two-week plastic purge, and here’s what I’ve learned: Plastic is, indeed, freaking everywhere. Even hiding in things like the lining of your seemingly cardboard milk container. And you can’t see it until you dive into an exercise like this, where you’re actually looking for it. I hope that I was communicative enough, as your official Grist guinea pig, that the people who have read my posts (many thanks!) are a little more aware now as well.

My girlfriend and I both lost weight. Weird, right? Turns out that skipping plastic is like a diet. How about that? The No Plastic Diet. I am declaring this my idea here and now. The book’s in the works.

Likely it’s because our shopping shifted from trying to do things the same old way, minus plastic, to completely changing our purchasing and dietary habits. We still haven’t bought more cheese. Or milk. Lunch has been hummus, baguette, and cucumbers. Breakfast is now a banana and cup of coffee. For dinner, we have been buying the ingredients for each night’s meal that same day. We have been making simple meals — things like grilled chicken, risotto, and salad. It lasts a couple days and is yummy. (Thanks for the food storage tips, everybody!) Would this be the same if we didn’t have an organic market two blocks from out house? Don’t know.

Mike's fridgeFrequent shopping means less plastic in the fridge.Photo: Mike SanClementsBack to the big picture. In America today, it would be nearly impossible to avoid plastic entirely unless maybe you were homesteading in Alaska. Even then, I think you’d be hard pressed.

I think that we can divide plastic into three categories — the good, the bad, and the ugly. The good is your phone, camera, computer, medical equipment, ski bindings, etc. These things last a long time and using plastic makes possible, or greatly improves, their performance. Backpacking with a canvas tent? I’m cool with nylon, thanks.

The bad is stuff like plastic food storage containers. It gets reused over and over but while you are using it, who knows whether or not it’s leaching nasty chemicals into your food? It’s nice to know that in some instances, like water bottles, BPA-free plastics are now available for purchase.

The ugly is what I call lazy plastic — single-use plastic that’s easily avoidable with almost no effort required to find a substitute. Plastic grocery bags are the king of ugly plastic. There is never a need to get a plastic grocery bag at the store. They should be banned. You can bring your bags and you can also bring your own bags for produce. It’s easy!

So will I use less plastic going forward? You bet! And truly, there are so many places to easily cut plastic consumption from our lives. And it could get even easier, if we as consumers begin to demand a reduction in plastic packaging.

Thanks again for reading everyone! Now, fork over some money to Grist.