On April 14, 2019, the documentary Eating Up Easter, by Sergio & Elena Rapu, was screened for the first time in Minneapolis at the annual MSP Film Festival.
I spoke with Sergio several weeks before the screening, and our common mission became clear: if we want our children and their children (and children of all species) to have quality lives – whether on a tiny island miles from nowhere in the big blue sea, or elsewhere on a tiny blue dot hurtling through outer space light years from elsewhere – we must transition to an entirely different (yet in many ways, not new) way of life.
Our future (and our future’s future) will play out based on the actions we choose to take now.
I pulled together several resources for film goers motivated to begin taking different actions in the immediate wake of Easter’s powerful message, and I’m sharing them with you all here. Enjoy! -Julie
Tools & Tactics for personal action:
Junket’s work (how can we help you?):
Some additional context:
Single use plastics perpetuate two distinct & different public health crises:
1. Widespread Plastic Pollution
Much of Eating Up Easter‘s power is in the story it tells about visible presentation of the enormous and global impact of our economic system’s waste byproducts upon a tiny island (this, a powerful microcosm for the still-technically-habitable planet that keeps our species and others alive).
As our oceans and land masses are overrun by ever more non-biodegradable garbage (plastic & otherwise), we’re learning – the hard way – about the life, health & safety ramifications of having unwanted plastic particles permeating everything from pregnancies to foodstuffs.
2. Climate Change
While baled-up beverage containers and cast-off product packaging and tree-caught plastic bags are hard to unsee, an even greater threat exists upstream. Plastic is made using fossil fuels. Factories that make plastic are run using fossil fuels.
‘Disposable’ plastics are a double threat with respect to climate change, because converting energy and matter into intentionally useless byproducts produces worse-than-useless CO2-e emissions, while volume sales of these same materials fund the same industries and lobbying groups that have been actively impeding social efforts to respond meaningfully to the climate threat.
What can we do about this?
Choosing to preemptively avoid the purchase of plastic and/or plastic-wrapped new products is a great start. It’s also difficult to do (here are 100 tips to get you started).
Choosing to extend the useful life of existing plastics helps keep waste plastic from winding up in our oceans, landfills, and elsewhere.
Choosing to talk openly and frequently during everyday conversations about the actions you are taking helps to shift what’s considered culturally normal. Share your failures *and* your successes!
Often, when we decide to go plastic free, we become eager to get it out of our houses and our lives altogether. While that’s a common inclination (it’s plastic, after all), replacing it is not the best environmental choice: already-manufactured things (yes, even ‘single use’ plastics) represent embodied energy and care should be taken to maximize the energy & matter that went into making those materials in the first place. If you do choose to replace those plastic drinking cups, the best replacements are *secondhand* items in glass, ceramic, or metal.
When you adjust your mental model, making behavioral adaptations (and noticing when it’s difficult to do so) quickly becomes intuitive.
We have been conditioned to see only the benefits of accumulating ‘stuff’ (anyone wanting to downsize – or anxious about a parent’s hoarding house?).
The easiest/fastest way to flip this script is to choose to see all the ways in which saying ‘yes’ to things creates trade-offs in other ways (more hassle, less time, more cost, less space, etc.).
You are invited to wrap your brain around this!
And then, ponder how messed up it is that advertisers have more control over what goes in your mail box than YOU do.
If you’re still scrolling, here’s that list of 100 plastic-avoiding strategies. There are more. If you’ve got ’em, feel free to share them!
100 Ways to Eliminate Single Use Plastics
- Pay attention when making purchases: most single use plastics come into our lives when we buy stuff.
- Second guess your shopping impulses: what are you trying to solve with that purchase? Asking 5 whys is a great way to get to the root issue: “Why do I need the thing?”(Because X) “Why X?” (Because A) “Why A?” (A-ha! I actually have everything I need at home to solve that problem).
- If you must make purchases, shop secondhand first, where most products don’t come wrapped in plastic. While thrift and vintage shops are a no-brainer if you’re in a city, this is even easier to do online, as well: with ebay, you can refine your search by the ‘Condition’ option (pick ‘used’). With Etsy, you can search ‘vintage.’ Shopping ‘used’ on Amazon is not recommended: they prioritize their own ‘used’ goods in the search (product returns), and from our experience, they don’t appear to QC the returned product before sending it right back out again.
- Sign up for an app to gamify your efforts. Example: https://mylittleplasticfootprint.org/
- When you do shop online, stick with small businesses, and ask them to send your purchase in secondhand packaging instead of inheriting a bunch of made-for-you heat-sealed air bubbles from Amazon. eBay and Etsy are just two of many easy-to-find places to support small sellers online.
- If you can’t avoid acquiring plastic, make a point to consider how you could reuse the plastic at least one more time before you buy the product encased within it. Example: food sold in resealable bags = resealable bag that can be used over and over again.
- Replace cling wrap with beeswrap (or, cover that bowl of food with a plate. Or, put your food in a lidded jar or bowl or tub. Or, put it in a bag that might otherwise have been thrown away, or use a napkin and a rubber band).
- If your condiments come in plastic jars, seek options in glass or metal, instead (and then, reuse those). Or, clean and reuse the plastic ones for bulk purchases of similar items.
- Say ‘no’ to straws. Yes, people with maxillofacial complications who need them should continue to use them without shame. Let’s not judge (because who’s to know?).
- When buying flowers, ask the florist to skip the sleeve.
- Bulk purchase is your friend – but bring your own containers (and, this is actually a double opportunity: save and use plastic peanut butter jars, etc. so you can avoid picking up new plastic bags). Write their tare weight on them using a sharpie so you can use them over and over again. Pop them in an easy-to-reach tote between uses.
- Send a pleasant request to your Instacart shopper: “I know it’s Insta policy to put every single piece of produce in a plastic bag, but I’m trying to avoid plastic (insert reason), and I’d really appreciate if you’d skip that step for my order. Thanks!”). Tipping well will help ensure they’re willing to do it again (for you or someone else).
- Have you found an ongoing use for a specific previously single-use container? Reach out on Next Door or FB to ask others to collect them for you. #SecondUsePlastic for the win!
- Buy bread from bakeries or bulk – bring your own bag (a clean pillowcase is good for those longer/larger boules)
- Do you use a food vacuum sealer? Test single use plastics to see if they can be reused instead of buying new rolls.
- Ditch the zip locks: or, if you must, use them over and over until they break.
- Make your popcorn from scratch.
- Don’t buy new stuff wrapped in plastic just to avoid buying other things wrapped in plastic. Source your zero-waste/zero-plastic solutions secondhand!
- Don’t buy products or systems that require you to continue buying parts and materials that are – or are wrapped in – plastic.
- Make your own condiments! Handmade ketchup, BBQ sauce, jellies, chutneys… there’s just something about eating the fruits of your own labor that makes them taste extra good! Pick recipes where you can freeze or can the extra yums.
- Hire a diaper service and go for reusable baby wipes (you can even cut down an old flannel or some cotton tees for those wipes). You’ll save not only single use plastic but also lots of trees & water if you consider using cotton wipes and a ‘diaper pail’ solution for the other people in your house, too.
- Ditch single use latex gloves if you don’t have a medical/hygienic reason that requires their use. Dishwashing gloves can be used over and over. Put ’em through the laundry with everything else: cold water, drip dry.
- Use gauze or let your wound breathe instead of using band-aids.
- Make your own baby food…puree, freeze in ice cube trays, and pop ‘em in a Tupperware container.
- Keep plenty of storage containers on hand at home. Rather than buying new ones, be strategic when grocery shopping: which product comes in a reusable container (even if it’s plastic)? Better yet if it’s see-through – but you can always keep a grease pencil on hand to label/date things so you know which plastic yogurt tub *doesn’t* have yogurt in it.
- Hang onto chip & bread bags to use as trash bags so you don’t need to buy rolls of plastic waste bags. If you compost & recycle, the larger ones will be overkill, anyway.
- Compost your own food waste (those bio bags are still plastic).
- Bite the ‘easier’ bullet and choose to systemically eliminate plastic utensils, plastic bags, and plastic containers from your small business. You might need a dishwasher. Be strategic about how to participate in the solution instead of perpetuating the problem.
- When wrapping gifts, use ribbon or cord instead of tape!
- Carry a water bottle so you can refill it as needed.
- Forgot the water bottle? Choose to purchase a drink that comes in a glass or metal container. Better still if it’s reusable (then, *reuse it*).
- Potty training the pooch? Find a solution where you can use newspaper instead of plastic pee-pads.
- If you’re a tampon user, choose the ones w/ paper wrapping & cardboard tubes.
- Instead of pads w/ plastic backing, invest in a different solution: Thinx-style underwear or washable cotton/flannel pads are both great options.
- Makeup: avoid products sold in plastic dispensers, period. Question why you’re wearing it in the first place. Does it serve you?
- Keep a spare set of utensils in your purse or backpack (even better, keep them in an enclosed container/holder so they can go right back in your bag on the fly).
- Ditch your Blue Apron subscription (or any other meal delivery service where portions come in sealed plastic). From our research, it appears that nearly 40% of the total weight of a Blue Apron box is not even food (cardboard, plastic, ice). These things are being sent to us on planes (which produce 10x the emissions of ground transit), which means that the eco-footprint of these ‘life made easy’ services is appalling in more ways than one. And while local food waste isn’t great, either, at least it biodegrades. If getting out for groceries is a challenge, Instacart is a much better choice.
- Buy seedlings/plants in biodegradable (peat, etc.) containers.
- Open bubble mailers and other plastic/tyvek envelopes carefully at one end so you can use them again. Then, use them again.
- Leave any unavoidable plastic food packaging at the grocery before you go home (come prepared with containers, etc.). Ask if you can pop ‘em in the grocery trash or recycling receptacle. This creates awareness while pushing the waste costs closer to where they belong.
- If you’re hooked on products that are only available in plastic wrap, contact the manufacturers – let them know you want plastic-free options.
- Shop at and support companies that make a point to sell products that aren’t packaged in trash. Again: secondhand is a great way to avoid not only plastic, but the upstream emissions & resource use attributable to new manufacturing.
- Call your representatives about packaging/plastic-related legislation (if there isn’t any specific legislation, ask them for it). Find others interested in the same. Organize!
- If you’re a casual artist, opt for watercolors or colored pencils over acrylic paint.
- Are you a business owner? If so, choose NOT to package or serve your items in/with newly manufactured plastic: your commercial decisions are what makes it so difficult for all of us to make better choices. If you’re not in charge, ask your company to make the shift. Keep asking. Encourage your colleagues to keep asking.
- Instead of stick deodorant, try using a lemon slice. Wipe it on, let it dry, off you go! Also, you can reuse the same slice as long as it’s still moist: pop it in a saucer in the fridge for future use. If you’ve other people in the house, maybe let them know so your armpit lemon doesn’t wind up in a cocktail or something… And yes, if you cut yourself shaving, it might sting.
- Bring mason jars to the co-op for bulk detergents, syrups, vinegars & oils. You can put them in mittens or wrap them in tea towels to keep them from clanking into each other in your backpack.
- Leave your produce naked in the shopping cart: every plastic bag is money for #BigOil. Bring your own produce bags for small multiples (loose Brussels sprouts and baby potatoes come to mind).
- Hang onto extra plastics that aren’t easily reused in other ways for use as packing materials.
- Buy pet food and supplies in paper bags/cartons or in bulk.
- Make it a game! Avoiding plastics is a creative problem-solving opportunity.
- When you go for walks, make it active: bring along a plastic bag or other receptacle and pick up others’ plastic waste as you go (it might be yours, anyway, if it flew off the back of a garbage truck).
- Get involved in pollution mitigation organizations: volunteer your time for policy, activism, clean-up.
- Celebrate each better choice: it feels good to make more ethical decisions!
- Make a point to understand the system we live in: plastic production enriches the same companies that have been misleading us about climate change for longer than many of us have been alive.
- Decide – choose – to hold yourself accountable for the full life-cycle of the things you allow into your life (including, but not limited to #SingleUsePlastic)
- Every single time you reuse something plastic that already exists instead of buying a new copy (this goes for single use and everything else plastic), you withhold funding from the fossil fuel industry. Small choices add up (spread the word!).
- Portion your own ‘100 calorie’ snacks. Put them in small mason jars to avoid a bunch of tiny plastic-foil garbages. Fastest way to knock off the single use snack packs, make your own fruit snacks.
- Recognize your immense privilege: if you have the head space and time and energy to focus on reducing your personal plastic use, you’ve got more brain space available for this sort of thing than many others do.
- Talk with friends and neighbors about what you’re working on. Share your challenges (transparency instead of perfection!) on social media. Help make it easier for others to get on board!
- How can you expand your impact beyond your own household? Consider your resources and opportunities. Get creative!
- Find organizations that can legitimately use plastic items that are unavoidable or that you may not need. You can find some Twin Cities options here: https://shopjunket.com/resources/for-donors/
- Pill bottles are great for storage and organizing of small things. Label the bottles colorfully so they’re easy to distinguish from each other on sight.
- When buying products in glass bottles or metal cans, check that the labels aren’t made out of plastic. Thinking you’ve done the right thing and then realizing you’ve bought plastic, anyway, is a buzzkill.
- The bags inside of cereal boxes are semi-transparent and easy to reuse for other snacks – just use a clothes pin or a binder clip to keep ‘em closed.
- Dog poo bags: if you can, use them for more than one round. And, of course, fenced yards are a nice alternative to daily bag use.
- Ask your service providers about their plastic practices: hair stylists, dog groomers, cleaners, yard work: not only can you use this as a selection criterion to support businesses that are paying attention to the same things you value, but you’ll also let them know that this is important to you (and if they hear it often enough, perhaps they’ll make a shift…). When finding a new service provider, ask *before* you commit.
- Going out for ice cream? Buy it in a cone. Or, bring your own bowl & spoon and something for containing your dirty dishes afterward (bread bag & twist?).
- Takeout: Ask if you can bring your own containers (this goes for plastic, but also any other single-use containters). If not, choose a different restaurant or make dinner at home. Extra credit if you’re told that the restaurant *can’t* use your containers because health code: what are your city’s ordinances about this? Do they make sense? Maybe call your representative. Or, see if restaurants in your city are doing (or would consider) something like this: https://durhamgreentogo.com/
- Question whether gifts are as great as we’ve been led to think they are: if you’re gifted something encased in single use plastic, is that really a good gift for someone who cares about things like these? We need to rethink the relationship between ‘gifts’ and perceived virtue, and this is one way to wrap our heads around it. Also: ask before you give someone a gift that comes wrapped in #SingleUsePlastic. Handmade is lovely. Reuse is environmentally ethical. Something that genuinely resonates with the receiver is imperative if you’re doing it right.
- Send it back: did you buy something that came wrapped in an obscene amount of packaging? Send it back with a letter. Ship it in one of those bubble wrap packets you’ve been saving from a previous order. Send it via ground shipping, of course.
- Use paper sealing tape instead of plastic when shipping packages
- If you’re hooked on Q-Tips, use the biodegradable ones with a paper stick. Or, see if using a warm cloth or reusable tool designed for this purpose work for you.
- Use dental floss from a roll (none of those little plastic pick thingies).
- Invest in a metal razor w/ replaceable blades. Or, choose not to shave (hey- it’s for the planet!). There are some great vintage options out there: recommended!
- Replace paper products and household consumables (paper towels, tissues, cotton balls, etc. that are invariably packaged in single use plastics) with reusable versions (napkins & hand towels, handkerchiefs, old clothes rags, etc.).
- BYO Bag (yeah, you’re already on it, go you!).
- If you buy soda or beer, get your cans in cardboard instead of plastic-strapped 6-pack
- Smoke? Get a refillable metal lighter and follow instructions on YouTube – even better if it’s vintage!
- Stop crafting in new plastic. If you make/sell your goods, update any of your product offerings to eliminate plastic from both product & packaging.
- Avoid buying melting plastic crafty things (shrinky dinks, fuse beads, Makit & Bakit, etc.) in particular!
- Skip the kids meals w/ toys & plastic-wrapped fruit. In fact, skip those restaurants if you can (many food options at fast food restaurants come wrapped in papers that are plastic-coated).
- Avoid replacing your old single use plastic habits with new silicone products. Stick with non-polymer products like glass, wood, metal, cotton, leather, you get the picture.
- Prefer to drink your wine a glass or two at a time (and not waste the rest of the bottle)? Try some of the offerings sold in 12 oz cans – they’re good, and a great alternative to the boxed wine with their plastic bladders.
- Don’t buy new clothing with poly/nylon/lycra (sure, it may be multi-use, but the first time you wash it, you’ll be sending micro-plastics into the water system).
- Go paperless billing to avoid getting a bunch of envelopes with plastic windows…
- Frequent restaurants that don’t pre-plastic-package their condiments. If your favorite restaurant does it, ask them to change their practice.
- Avoid plastic office products & labels. Those little ‘Sign Here’ flags? Plastic.
- Post-it notes are sticky because of a polymer-based (plastic) adhesive. Rediscover magnets, paper clips, and string tied around fingers…
- Duct tape’s frequently made using a polyethylene (plastic) coating. Do you really need to make stuff out of it for fun?
- Buy gums, mints, and candies in recyclable paper, reusable metal containers, or in bulk.
- Consider your habits: which of them involve plastic that we haven’t listed here? Could you shift them?
- Use chip bags and bread bags for garbage (compete with yourself to see how long you can use a single bag before you need to take out the trash).
- Share your enthusiasm for cleaner living with anyone who’ll listen: Lyft drivers, Tinder dates…be authentic, share your values, it’s contagious!
- Speaking of dates: be strategic about that first date (just in case): make sure it’s somewhere with a social presence you’ll feel good about supporting if that place just happens to be The Place You Met (until the end of time).
- Involve your kiddos in the plastic-free effort. Make plastic-free part of their chores or allowance (bonus: they’ll keep you in check, too).
- Build in rewards for yourself! If you make it a week without plastic, what will you do to celebrate? Make sure it’s motivating (and that it’s plastic free, woot!). Increase your targets as you get better at this.
- Make your own energy bites or bars or gel (small reusable flasks for the win)
- DIY popsicles
- Remember that this isn’t a purity test or a way to protect your body (we’ve passed that point with microplastics in the food supply & BPA in cord blood). Instead, this is about the greater good, wherein we do our best, learn from the process, and take time to understand how we got to this place so we can participate more effectively in solution-seeking.