You’re at a social gathering meeting friends of friends, everyone is super nice, but now it’s time for that awkward goodbye. Maybe your significant other knows more people than you, he or she is now giving hugs, shaking hands; your standing awkwardly, it’s almost your turn. Should you just hop of the hug bandwagon or just Irish goodbye and GTFO? This along with a million other things in life might make you sweat or at least cause you to say “uhhh” whether in your head or out loud.
What shouldn’t make you feel awkward is refusing plastic.
As of July 20th I made the commitment to stop using plastics bags for good. As a responsible human, taking up space on this planet, I need to conserve and reduce my carbon footprint for the betterment of the environment. In the time before publicly making this decision, I thought about all the places I normally use plastic bags like the grocery store, mall, and drugstore. I knew that I would need to be prepared with a reusable option to carry purchases. I stockpiled my car with tote bags because being ready would guarantee my commitment. There wasn’t anything else to consider. I was going to do my part, I was prepared, and this was a lifestyle change for me. What I didn’t think about was the habitual act that the majority of people have towards plastic. Plastic has become second nature. You buy something and that something goes right into a plastic bag and you’re on your way.
It was never a thought of mine that not using plastic bags or refusing other plastics would be uncomfortable or make others give me a second look. I wanted to share 3 encounters I’ve had since the 20th. The first was at Walmart where I approached a worker and asked for paper bags.
She looked at me as if I had 3 heads and said “no?”
First I was surprised that Walmart, or at least the one by me, didn’t provide another bagging option, and second that the women reacted as if I asked something outlandish. My second encounter was at McDonalds, where I said I did not need a straw, was given one, and then had to hand it back. I found myself over explaining to the women why I didn’t need it, as if I had to convince myself that it was okay to not take the straw and use it. The last encounter was at the Chinese restaurant where I frequently grab takeout. My food was ready to go bagged in a paper bag and then a plastic one. I gave the plastic one back but I actually felt bad and uncomfortable doing it. Why though? In all these situations, whether it was me feeling weird or the people I spoke to, why did I feel the need to over explain my actions or feel bad giving plastic back?
So here’s the reason in my opinion; plastic is a way of life and it’s normalized to the point that not using it is like going against the wheel, but it’s so incredibly necessary to stop. After these encounters and taking a step back to look to the future, I don’t care if I have to hand back a million plastic bags, never use a plastic straw, carry a reusable tote everywhere. So be it. Creating a better future with a cleaner earth overpowers any questioning look or argument some might make about how it isn’t so important. So when I’m sitting on a clean beach, looking at unpolluted water, seeing sea creatures live instead of die, I’ll feel even more proud that I was a part of breaking the plastic wheel.
So to feel awkward or to save the planet? Save the planet all the way.
Written by Eva Gerrits