The second suggestion in this season’s Lenten journey for “giving up” stuff/behaviors harmful to nature and one another is to reduce the plastic in our lives. Global plastic production has been doubling about every 11 years, which means we are likely purchasing more plastic materials. In turn, the devastation from plastic waste has become more intense and very visual for those who pay attention. Plastic waste is in our yards, along the roads, in every waterway, present everywhere.
Given that the vast majority of plastic is made from petroleum and natural gas, the manufacture of these materials for one-time use disregards the value of fossil fuel resources. The one-use plastics, for which there seems to be an endless list, have polluted the earth on a massive scale. The natural breakdown of these materials is extremely slow, often hundreds of years. Therefore, it is important to reduce our consumption of one-use plastics and recycle the plastic containers and items that can be converted into other things.
The simple ways to limit one-use plastics begin with ones that the Green Junction has promoted regularly:
- switch to reusable bags (make the pledge to say NO to plastic bags).
- drink from reusable bottles and cups (fill them up at coffee shops, fast-food restaurants, etc.).
- skip the plastic straws and overly-packaged plastic materials.
- support businesses that use sustainable materials.
Also, keep in mind that the more you prepare your own food, the less plastic you use. By reducing purchases of fast food and pre-packaged food, you will cut down on plastic waste. Another approach is to take note of your daily purchases and uses of plastic, especially the plastic that readily makes its way to the garbage can. Make a plan to cut back on plastic.
Giving up certain one-use plastics and reducing others are ways to respect Mother Earth. Consider David Seitz’s column on Who decides what is good and evil. “When we use the good gifts of creation for our self-gratification instead of for the glory of God, we can turn good into evil. Deciding for ourselves what is good or evil often leads to not-so-good results. Not everything that appears good is for our benefit.” When we look at all the plastic waste in our world, we need to consider if most one-use plastics are really beneficial.
Julie Peller Ph.D. is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ) and she leads the Environmental Ministry at Nativity of Our Savior in Portage IN. Julie has been writing a weekly column for church bulletins for the past ~5 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are in Advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), student and citizen participation in environmental work.