This morning before school, our family did a little “Whole New Month! Whole New Month!” dance in the kitchen. I think it was my friend and teacher, Patti Digh, who made “Whole New Month!” a “thing,” and it’s SUCH a good thing. I know that I feel uplifted and spacious and engaged by what’s possible moving forward when I pause to recognize the space between an ending and a beginning. Celebration is important and today, we are celebrating a great month and a fresh start – February 1st! In truth, we have that opportunity with every new moment, every next breath, but that’s a post for another day.
So with the start of February, we realize that we have met our original goal of living a “Plastic Free Month.” For the last 31 days, with the exception of a few accidental “oopsie’s,” we haven’t brought any new, single-use plastics into our lives. We’ve finished the contents of many single-use plastics that we already owned, and have made plans for replacing them sustainably – refilling, re-sourcing, doing without, etc. We’ve had to be mindful, creative, innovative, and sometimes, down right simple.
“It’s the end of our month, what do you guys think?” we asked the kids. Quietly, we both expected a response bemoaning the loss of yogurt tubes and snack packs, carefree dining out, and the convenience of everything disposable.
“Lets keep going.”
Wow. We paused to take in our 9 year-olds words.
Wow. I tear up every time I re-read her words.
“Why do you want to keep going, Inga?”
“I dunno, because it’s fun. It’s GOOD. “
Two months ago, I didn’t give too much thought to the contents of our garbage can, or a restaurant’s option for take-out containers. I didn’t spend any mental energy thinking about the future journey of every single piece of plastic I used. I didn’t make choices based on how much waste they would create. I didn’t opt-out if waste was involved. I didn’t worry about the occasional to-go cup from my favorite coffee shops, or my take-out containers, because “they would eventually break down, right?” I admit the repeated thought “one cup is just a drop in the bucket” (echoed a few billion people every single day.) Now, I do. Just like that. An exercise that began as a one-month experiment has evolved quickly and fiercely into a whole new way of day-to-day living. Our month has also fueled a new project – the mindyourplastic Public Awareness Campaign.
What’s up with the ease? We expected this to be painful. Surprisingly, this shift to avoid single-use plastics feels doable, and apparently, our whole family feels lighter (there’s something to a light footprint after-all!). Its been a lot of work, for sure, but its joyful work. Plastic-free resonates at the deepest level with our values and our concerns about our planet and collective health, so how could that be painful? It is, in fact, a relief.
Inviting a mindfulness process has been the first step in changing our habits around plastic consumption. At its core, mindfulness is simply taking the time to notice: notice what you’re thinking; notice what you’re saying; notice what you’re feeling; notice how and what you’re choosing. Once you notice, you are aware, and you can make your choices from a place of intention and integrity. It’s a powerful act (not to mention great for the grey matter of your brain). When we open our awareness to what is, and see our thoughts and actions in process, we can affect powerful change as individuals, for ourselves and for the collective. SO THAT’S AWESOME.
Here are a few takeaways from our first month:
- We’re supporting healthy brains with a new, constant mindfulness practice
- Our bodies are happy – both my digestion & my daughter’s has never been so healthy, thanks-be to wholesome, local foods, free of any process or packaging.
- We’ve saved $250.00 this month on groceries by shopping the bulk bins and farmers market, and by refusing anything processed or packaged.
- I have more focused mental energy
- Our compost bin is thriving
- We have near-empty trash and recycling bins
- We’ve supported local businesses and bought according to our values
- And in Inga’s words, “Its GOOD.”
Why would we stop now? We’re just getting started.