Can you go plastic-free for three days––better yet, forever?
When we received our monthly pitches for the latter half of September and I saw this assignment pegged under my name, I immediately took to our team’s Viber group to do some investigating.
“Hellu!,” I began (Hellu? A clear sign of distress). “Just want to check whose pitch this is,” I continued, following up with a screencap of the story in question and a smiley. A smiley. That passive aggressive one with a space in between the eyes and mouth : )
Alright, by now we’ve established that I was a little iffy to take on this assignment––but it’s not because I hate challenges or the environment, okay. I, for one, love challenges and the environment too, but I’ll be the first to admit that I’m not exactly conscious of my plastic consumption. I mean, I bring lunch to work every day and I’d like to think that goes a long way in reducing the plastic waste I could be generating. I pray for the environment? Um, I segregate?
I’m not the best at this, so I apologize to anyone who identifies as a plastic hater or subscribes to the cult of metal strawism.
With this assignment on my lap, I committed to three days of plastic-free living. I knew right off the bat that this would be difficult to say the least, so I left myself a little wiggle room. In moments where I had no choice but to use plastic (or let’s be real, the times when the challenge completely slipped my mind), I would have to give the consumed waste a second life. As this article progresses, you’ll see that this happened… quite a lot, but we’ll get to my growing collection of makeshift pen and paperclip holders later.
My everyday lunch, which our helper prepares with love every morning, is packed into reusable plastic tupperwares and gravy containers from KFC. The protective layers that prevent any in-the-bag spills? Reused ziplocks and plastic bags.
Day two got off to a promising start.
I didn’t purchase coffee in the morning, settling for the lukewarm brew I brought from home. I had a denim tote (made of upcycled Uniqlo fabric scraps!) with me at all times, with the intention of stuffing any purchases in there as a substitute to plastic bags.
Lesson learned: You can’t rely on others to fulfill your sustainable living agenda. Chances are, vendors won’t ditch packaging protocol for you, so pay attention.
On the right is a snap of me atoning for my sins. This plastic bag, which I painstakingly scrubbed of all traces of chili oil, has joined my tupperwares and ziplocks as baon packing gear.
Let’s cut to the chase: I think I failed monumentally on day three of the challenge.
The milk tea cup of shame now sits on my desk, washed and wiped, waiting to be turned into yet another stationery container.
If my three-day diary of struggle and spacey memory is any indication, the hardest thing about parting with plastic isn’t the act of giving it up. There are countless substitutes: a tote bag for a plastic bag, home-packed utensils instead of plastic ones, metal straws or heck, no straws (except maybe for milk tea). The plastic we do end up consuming can be reused or stuffed into an ecobrick.
The difficulty lies in being conscious of our consumption at all. It doesn’t take a challenge like this to know that plastic is everywhere, but this experience was eye-opening to say the least. What I experienced throughout these three days are the necessary evils that come hand-in-hand with brave lifestyle changes. Growing pains, part of the process.
So, what now? I can’t say I can commit to a plastic-free way of life just yet, no. But what I do know is this: Plastic follows us from our homes to our offices, from our morning coffee to our dim sum lunches. I’m not about to let it get the best of the environment, too.
Art Alexandra Lara