The Graduate Was Right

This Sunday is Earth Day and I have an idea for something low-key that folks can do to celebrate.

Choose one day to be obsessed with plastic. Why plastic? Because you can’t make it without oil. Since we’ve used up half the earths supply and are rapidly increasing the rate at which we use it (as other countries industrialize), it is likely that in our lifetimes it will run out. This will impact our lives in many ways besides the fuel to commute from the suburbs, and plastic is one of them.

Take some time to really notice just how much plastic is part of the American life. How much of the food you eat comes shrink-wrapped or in resealable bags? What about the cables and cords that electrify our world? Hospital equipment is often plastic. My printer. My monitor. My stereo.

Whether you see it or not, most things arrive shipped in plastic. Even at the hat shop, every hat we sell comes wrapped in a plastic bag. These don’t get reused or recycled. We fill a trash bag every day. When you buy something new, it probably arrived in a plastic bag and will go home in a different plastic bag.

Take a moment to look around the room and see how many things you can see that are made at least partly of plastic, or used plastic as part of their shipping process. Because that’s something we may not have when oil is finished.

What generally strikes me about this little exercise is not how much I will miss these items. My usual thought is, what a waste. The world is running out of oil and we are wrapping rubber and plastic Barbie’s in paper and plastic boxes. The world is running out of oil and we are eating off of disposable plastic forks. How will we explain to our
children that we used our most precious resource for disposable toothbrushes? When there is no oil, how will we justify glossy magazines with plastic-infused pages?