Not quite two years ago, I wrote this really long post on why replacing disposable plastic matters, and ways that they can be replaced in the home. I’ve also written a bit on how we pick up trash at our stretch of beach, as an active devotion to the place where we live (since we worship it as if it were a deity).
A few weeks ago, I was reminded of why this matters.
If it comes in a single use, disposable container that isn’t reusable (or that you won’t end up reusing), biodegradable, or recyclable (or that you won’t end up recycling), you can refuse it.
The simple fact of life is that plastic ends up in the ocean. From here on out, every time you see a juice bottle, a soda bottle, a water bottle, a container of body wash, a milk jug, shampoo and conditioner, throw away lunch containers, Styrofoam, lighters, shopping bags, produce bags, or anything else you can think of, I challenge you to think the following:
This is going to end up in the ocean. If I were an albatross, would I want my baby to eat this? If I were a minnow, would I want my stomach full of this? Do I want my food chain filled with the same chemicals parent’s won’t allow in a container their child drinks from? Should our children (or ourselves) have to play on polluted beaches, building castles from plastic sand? As a Pagan, what kind of reverence am I showing (and teaching my children) for the home of the gods we worship (not to mention the home we share with every other living thing)?
I get it, sometimes its just not convenient, efficient, or effective to eschew the plastic-wrapped whatever. I’m certainly not perfect–I’ve been known to pick up individually packaged applesauce for pint-sized guests (less dishes, and apple sauce containers make awesome jello molds and paint containers). And sometimes there’s just no alternative–I’ve yet to find certain products that aren’t in plastic packaging (medication) or I can’t afford the alternative as part of my shopping habits (milk in glass bottles is about twice as expensive as milk in a plastic jug). Just as often though, its an easy change to make–pick up the eggs in the cardboard carton instead of the plastic or Styrofoam one (plus, when you are done with them you can make fire starters from your dryer lint in them or use them for noise reduction).
But I think that as Pagans, we have the duty to be what my bloggy friend Deb calls “lessatarian”. To examine our privilege and its accompanying consumption habits (as individuals and in our communities), and to make conscious decisions about the resources we use and the waste we create. If we don’t do at least that, how can we claim to either be revering the Earth itself or celebrating the cycles of the Earth? How can we claim to be paying homage to the Spirits of a place we’ve treated like a dump? How can we claim to honor the Spirit of the Bear or the Fox or the Turtle, etc when we are destroying the habitat and poisoning the young of bears and foxes and turtles? How can we claim to be respecting our ancestors when we fail to preserve a legacy for our children? How do we claim to be worshiping gods that represent the forces of this world, our world, if we aren’t respecting that world?
We need to start asking ourselves: Is this necessary for our physical existence? Is it necessary for our mental or spiritual health? Is this a luxury that is worth the cost of its production? Can we get it used? Is there an alternative with less packaging, or more product for the package? If there is not a feasible alternative, is it reusable? Is it recyclable, compostable, biodegradable? If not…why the heck are we buying whatever it is? And if we aren’t buying it because of how its made and how its packaged (or if we have no choice), why aren’t we letting the company in question know?
I’m not calling on us to be perfect. I’ve already admitted that I certainly am not. I’m not pointing fingers, and I’m not making any claim to moral or ethical superiority. I am calling upon us to do better when and where we are able. I’m calling upon all of us (myself included) to be honest with ourselves, to admit when and where we are being hypocritical, and to commit to a future where our purchases are made with more than just ourselves and our convenience in mind.