One can never truly know what impact their actions may have on other people or on the future.
I realized this recently when out hiking with a friend. I happened to be in a sad mood that morning, feeling demoralized about the climate crisis and ineffectual in addressing it.
“But you’ve already helped me,” said my friend, who proceeded to remind me of a lunchtime talk I gave fifteen years ago to colleagues at the medical center where we worked. At the time, I was a volunteer member of an environmental non-profit that sponsored different monthly actions. The slideshow talk I gave was part of an educational action on the harms of plastics – single-use plastic bags, plastic water bottles, etc.
“Ever since then I completely changed the way I live,” she said. “I make sure to always use tins instead of disposable take out containers. I don’t buy as many foods packaged in plastic.” She went on to describe a number of other lifestyle changes she’s made on behalf of the earth, all apparently initiated as a result of attending that lunchtime presentation. I almost cried.
Just when you’re ready to throw in the towel, assuming your efforts to be but a tiny inept drop in a large plastic-filled ocean, there comes along some evidence to the contrary. What we do does matter, even if it’s making a difference for just one person. I think of all the plastic kept out of the landfill as a result of my friend’s conscious behavior over these years.
And now she was re-inspiring me, as I had first inspired her. I decided to clean up my plastic use, which, I’m embarrassed to say, had snuck back under the radar during the past decade, while at the altar of the consumerist deities of Comfort and Convenience.
So here’s what I did as a small start: rather than continue to purchase and throw away (albeit, recycle) large plastic containers of dish soap and shampoo, I brought the empty containers to the local grocery store and refilled them from the bulk section. The quality and price of the product was comparable to buying the items in new containers.
As the trip to the store would have happened anyway as part of regular grocery shopping, the amount of time taken for this action was only about an extra 3 minutes to refill the containers (plus the 30 seconds it took to write myself a note at home to remember to bring the empty containers in the car). 3.5 minutes total.
I realize that not all stores offer this in-house refill option. You can also order bulk quantities on-line, or simply switch from plastic-packaged products to ones that are manufactured differently (for example, see https://www.grove.co/s/grove for options). It’s worth it.