Stephanie Denman: Clear As Plastic

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The world is drowning in plastic so Stephanie Denman tries to zero-out her contribution to the problem.

I recently joined the global movement to go plastic-free for a month and discovered a few things.

First, plastic is everywhere. We’re wrapped, coated and contained in it from edible to sanitary products, first-aid to flowers. Try buying plastic-free pasta or anything in a grocery bakery—impossible. So, I started going old-school. I baked bread, paid extra for yogurt in glass jars, brought mesh bags to buy produce. I switched from liquid to bar soap and used newspaper to line my trash cans. COVID boosted plastic usage with our need for takeout and individually wrapped items. It also eliminated our ability to buy in bulk for a while, another great way to avoid plastic. If I took out, I asked for paper plates, aluminum foil or cardboard. Salsa in those tiny plastic pots? Nope. Instead, I poured it directly on my chips before leaving the taqueria.

Second, I had to slow down. Grab n’ go was a nonstarter. I had to ask the butcher to wrap my chicken and wait. I ordered lunch meat from the deli counter. I dined in as much as possible. When I told people I was trying to avoid plastic, we brainstormed workarounds.

Third, I learned about interesting alternatives. Laundry detergent strips, perfume fountains where you can refill your bottles and natural silk dental floss. Stumped by options for bottled dish soap, my Italian brother-in-law suggested adopting his mother’s tradition of using drained pasta water. I’m still noodling over that one.

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Going plastic-free is tough. But now that I’m plastic woke, I can reuse reusables, avoid plastic water bottles and straws, bring my own coffee cup and, to my family’s delight, bake more at home.

With a Perspective, I’m Stephanie Denman.

Stephanie Denman is a communications consultant living in the East Bay with her husband and two teens.