What We Learned from Our Pledge to Give Up Plastic for Lent

Body: 

During the 2022 Lenten season, many Dumbarton United Methodist Church parishioners pledged to give up as much as possible buying and using plastics designed for a single use before disposal.  We learned a lot about what a global threat plastic pollution is to our health and the environment, and how hard it is to reduce our use of single-use plastic bags and containers -- largely because they're so ubiquitous as to be practically invisible to most consumers in everyday living.  But we did learn about twenty-five workable actions you can take to reduce your use of plastics now and in the future.  We also learned about products with plastic-free or minimally-plasticized packaging, and about substitute products for things like food storage and even dental floss.  We found a surprising number of places where we could buy these products locally or online.  And we discovered several online resources to learn more about the extent of the problem and what we can do to change both our personal habits and public policy to mitigate it. Here are the highlights of our lessons learned:

Big Picture Lessons:

  • Plastics Production is in Overdrive, both in the U.S. and the World 
  • Plastics Do Not Break Down in the Environment 
  • Plastics are a Major Contributor to Climate Change 
  • Plastic Waste Is a Global Problem – Especially for the World’s Oceans 
  • Plastics Aren’t Just in the Environment.  They’re in Our Bodies.
  • Recycling Isn’t the Solution.  It’s the Industry’s Rationale for Perpetuation. 
  • Americans Are By Far the Biggest Plastic Polluters World-Wide

Lessons Closer to Home

Trying to give up plastic for Lent opened a challenge that brought us new awareness.  We’re sobered by what we learned, but grateful going forward.

  • Our efforts to reduce or eliminate our use of plastics mainly made us hyper-aware of how much plastic is in our lives, and how easy it is not to notice.
  • It can be easier to give up more plastic if you have the money, but it doesn’t cost that much more.  It does cost more time, however, to wash things for re-use, re-order non-plastic consumables like FreshPaper and beeswax wraps, and shop vendors that offer no-plastic or minimally-plasticized products.  On the other hand, if you have storage space, you can get lower prices buying in bulk.
  • Most of us who participated plan to continue pursuing ways to cut down our purchase of products that come in plastic wrap or containers.
  • Many of us made more changes than we thought we could, but realized how much our reduced plastic consumption was still just a drop in the bucket.

 

To read our full report, with more on each of the big picture lessons learned, more on what you can do, more on plastic substitutes and where you can buy them, and more online resources, click here: File Lessons Learned from Lenten Plastics Pledge.