Series: Sustainability and You
By, Laura Estrada
Have you ever attempted to change something about yourself because you knew that it would better something or someone? For a class project we were challenged to change a behavior in our lives that has a negative environmental impact. Environmental problems seem to be more prominent now and people appear to be more aware of them. While it is easier to generate theories on how to solve environmental problems, it is much harder to implement them in action.
My chosen behavior was to reduce my plastic consumption when packing my lunch. I chose plastic because of the negative toll it takes on our earth affecting our resources and other habitats. Plastic, a synthetic polymer, is a lightweight material that is durable, convenient, and disposable. The problem with plastic is that it requires natural gas, coal, crude oil, cellulose, and many other additives. Its process releases a substantial amount of carbon emissions when it gets produced, transported and discarded. For decades it does not bio-degrade, contaminating water, air, marine and terrestrial life.
Plastic, as we know, is the most common material in our lives: we see it from tupperware, plastic bags, bottles to computers, cars, and planes. To be able to change my behavior, I began to pay attention to how much plastic I use. I realized that my lunch is the part of my lifein which I utilize the most plastic. This was due to my days away from home for a long period of time. From Monday through Thursday, I would be in college from 10am to 8pm and then work until 10pm. For this reason, I would bring my lunch and snacks. My mother usually packs my lunch in a container with plastic wrap, plastic bag, along with snacks such as fruit cups or Jell-O. So from Monday to Thursday, I would use a total of 23 items that contain plastic. I began to track my plastic usage recording things I would use for my lunch and begin to look for alternatives to replace the plastic with other materials that are reusable and more long-lasting. To achieve this, I started to get involved in packing my lunch: I used reusable bags, portable utensils, diminished the use of plastic wraps, and changed the containers to leakproof tupperware. I used a small cloth to prevent my bag from becoming a mess when something leaked. With fruit cups, I would save some of the containers to create decorations or make them into a project for my other class. With these changes, I was able to decrease the use of plastic from 23 items to 7 items a week.
The change was quite difficult because in the beginning I had to carry the containers and bags around all day. I have to do more washing, so there was more effort that I have to put in. Luckily, I had the help of my mother and my whole family because they also began to change the way they pack their lunches. Also, they changed other behaviors like using reusable bags for their groceries and changing the way they used plastic in general. I am very grateful to have a family that would join me and it’s great because it makes me feel hopeful. If we all changed a few behaviors and influenced our family and friends, it could have a great impact on a larger scale.