A couple of weeks ago, I rescued a goose from a plastic six-pack ring. If you follow my blog, www.lifeontaboga.wordpresscom, you may have read the story. If not, check out the photos!
In short, I was walking down the dock where I live at Shilshole Bay Marina in Ballard, and came upon two geese, one of whom, the female, was drinking water that had accumulated in an upside down, somewhat deflated dinghy. The male was standing guard, chest out, head up, on alert. My heart seized as I saw twisted around her neck the six-pack ring that she was nibbling at and fussing over between sips of water. It was yellowed and the bits that extended from her neck were frayed. As they began to walk down the dock I could see that the ring was tight around her neck, feathers sticking out above and below where it was attached.
My mind racing, I dashed back to my boat and grabbed a piece of bread and a pair of scissors. My plan was to entice her with the bread, grab the plastic ring and quickly snip. It was a long shot but I had to try.
The couple had waddled down a side pier by the time I returned. They were very interested in the bread and came close. But as soon as I reached out towards the female, the male began hissing at me and sticking out his weird little pink tongue. I knew that he would not hesitate to attack. While deliberating my next move, the female grabbed the bread out of my hand, leaving me with just a bite’s worth, and waddled smugly away.
Fortunately, my neighbor was home. He poked his head out to see what was up and without even exchanging a word, he donned rubber gloves and joined me, working slowly toward the female. I blocked the end of the pier so she wouldn’t go in the water. Suddenly, my neighbor had her! Wings flapping, feathers flying, geese honking! It was chaos! “Contain her wings!” I cried. When he, miraculously, did, I snipped the thing off her neck and we released her. Eventually after much squawking and honking, the two were reunited and slowly swam off.
After some celebratory high fives and back patting, the event got me thinking more deeply than heretofore about plastic and its ubiquitous presence in our lives. I decided to work towards eliminating it from my life as much as possible.
It was harder than I anticipated.
Going to the grocery store, I caught myself choosing my automatic go-tos for produce. Tomatoes in crinkly plastic bags, cucumbers in plastic boxes, pre-washed lettuce in non-recyclable plastic. So I tried another store and went for the loose produce. But even then, I automatically reached for the plastic bags offered to protect them. Wow. Avoiding plastic was going to take some serious thought and effort. (Now I bring a separate bag in with my other shopping bags and put the loose produce in there.)
Brushing my teeth that night I looked at the tube of toothpaste. How many of those have I thrown out in my lifetime? Then I read the ingredients. Good god. What are we doing? Polluting ourselves and then polluting the earth. So I started looking into making my own toothpaste. Recipes using bentonite clay, baking soda, trace minerals and other natural ingredients abound. But guess what? The ingredients themselves are all packaged in plastic. I also learned that dental floss is not biodegradable and it is packaged in plastic containers that are too small to recycle.
Yogurt is another one. All yogurt comes in plastic containers. Recyclable, yes, but still — plastic. I decided to try making my own. It’s ridiculously easy. Two ingredients, milk and yogurt, and a little bit of time and you can have a week’s worth of yogurt, stored in a glass storage container or mason jars. And, it’s delicious.
Last week, I spent some time walking through my favorite Queen Anne, Fremont and Ballard stores. I was dismayed at how much of our packaging is plastic, even in the chic, health-oriented stores. It’s everywhere. Shelves and shelves of plastic. Food is sold in plastic. Drinks are sold in plastic. Gadgets and gizmos are made of plastic. We store things in plastic containers in our fridges. And we use plastic bags to throw out the plastic that can’t be recycled.
Plastic has been in existence for a long time but did not become popular until the 1960’s. Think about that! What did we do before plastic? It’s convenient, I admit. I sort of want to give up on this seemingly futile pursuit. But a friend with whom I shared my thoughts, told me about Chris Jordan, a Seattle-based photographer who has spent time photographing the albatrosses on Midway Atoll whose babies are dying in alarming numbers. Their decayed carcasses leave behind stomachs full of plastic that their mothers have mistaken for fish and fed to them. Lighters, bottle caps, you name it. My resolve increased when I saw the photos, which are linked on my blog.
I’m not sure where this experiment will go. My initial reaction is that to make a difference would require either a mandate from above or a massive boycott from below. And a willingness to devote time and money to go plastic-free. However, since the president pulled our country out of the Paris Climate Agreement, I feel compelled to try.
People are talking a lot about daily actions of resistance. In addition to making phone calls, signing petitions, marching in protests, I am working towards lowering my footprint. Join me if you want to. Let me know what you learn.
IRENE PANKE HOPKINS (irenehopkins.com) is a freelance writer and essayist. To comment on this article, write to QAMagNews@nwlink.com, or contact Hopkins via her website.