The 18th March Project – Post 8

Plastic Free July part 2

Medicine comes in plastic. I don’t only mean pills, I mean the ingredients for ‘natural’ remedies too.

Maybe not if you have your own kitchen garden, or frequent a grocery store where the grocer funnels your purchases into a little paper cone that he ties up with string.

I’m recovering from an allergic reaction to something – I don’t know what the trigger is yet – and I chose not to go to the doctor unless I really felt terrible.

Why? Because I pop a lot of Panadol, for my rather frequent headaches. I figure, at least once in a while, I owe my body a chance to eliminate the problem without the aid of something synthetic.

So I drank kokum juice, a remedy people from the Konkan coast recommend. The syrup came in a plastic can.

I made a decoction of jeera aka cumin. Again, the ingredients came in plastic.

I slathered Lacto Calamine on the bumps. Guess what kind of bottle that comes in? (Alright, hardly a ‘natural’ remedy… )

The good thing about using these ingredients is none of them will go to waste even if I never again need them to calm my skin. And I suppose I can recycle the bags, etc. that they came in.

Please don’t misunderstand me- I’m not saying one should put oneself in harm’s way just to cut down on the amount of plastic one brings home.

I’m an adult who monitored her state closely for the duration of the reaction, and one who is lucky enough to live in a place with good emergency services.

It does make me think, though. If I’d been ill enough or scared enough to go to the doctor, would I have verified with the doctor if I actually needed all the medicines prescribed? Would I have considered asking the pharmacist to give me only as much medicine as I needed instead of the whole box? Would we have discussed what I could do with the ‘extras’, how to dispose of them properly?

Probably not. Maybe I should. Next time.

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The 18th March Project – Post 7

July is Plastic Free Month.

Is it even possible to live without plastic? The keys I’m tapping on, the gallon tank my drinking water comes in, the cover of my lunch tiffin, the card I use to pay for (almost) all these things – these are all plastic.

I look around my house, and it’s filled with things I can’t reuse, many of which I’m not even sure can be recycled.

Plastic has been a boon to humanity – it’s made hygiene easier to achieve, or at least sold us all on the belief in hygiene and sterilisation. It’s made everything available in a package that is convenient to carry around. It’s disposable, and we don’t need to worry too much about cleaning it.

Or so we believe.

The thing about advertising is, if done right, it can make you believe anything.

And we’ve been made to believe that nothing can replace plastic, that we have no alternatives.

Hold on, you say to me, you want us to go back to a time before Plastic, when we couldn’t sample Triscuits from the US or a flavor of Kitkat that is sold only in Singapore? Let me just take a look in your fridge and see how many different sauces and spreads you have that are definitely not local produce, and maybe don’t even come in glass jars.

And I would have to fold in upon myself in shame. Of course, I’m as bad a consumer of plastic and the non-renewable as most people. I reuse when I can, and I segregate my plastic waste (and cardboard and glass, from time to time) from my landfill-bound rubbish. But I don’t make as many conscious decisions as I’d like to, or as I believe a steward of the Earth should.

There are people in the UAE, where it is very easy to live a consumerist lifestyle, who are actually making Zero Waste and Permaculture work.

How are they doing that?!

This month, I’m going to buy less, and buy better.

The highest spend for me, after rent, is groceries. So what can I do to reduce the amount of plastic I bring home? First of all, I should buy only what I need. No point in adding food waste to the cocktail that makes up my carbon emissions. Second, reuse packaging if it can’t be done without: got cheese in a container that could be used again? Why not use it again?

Third, look for places that are willing to put items in containers that belong to me and don’t look like the generic clear plastic cuboid. I feel ashamed/shy to ask the staff if they can/will put the 100 grams of olives or mozzarella in my little Tupperware or metal tiffin. I don’t think most grocery stores in the UAE have reached that level of consciousness yet.

Well, one must begin somewhere. And at some time. So why not here and now?