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The No-Plastic Easter Basket

Posted by Patriciaaobrien on Apr 28, 2011 in Being Green, Parenthood

So I have been turning green over the last couple years, and in ways I’m pretty proud of my accomplishments.  I greened our laundry detergent, dish soap, household cleaners, and toiletries; tried my hand at growing a garden, started recycling, purchased a quarter of a locally, naturally raised cow; started visiting farmer’s markets, of course I bought the reusable shopping bags (even though I can never seem to remember to actually take them to the store even when I  keep them in my car), and tried making substitutions for plastic.  Not bad for a new greenie.

But, in ways I feel like being green is an impossible aspiration in this toxic, disposable, plastic world we live in.  For every good choice I make, there are like a million more bad-for-the-environment-and-everything-in-it kinds of things going on to counteract it.  It’s like in the world of going green, for every action there is a way-more-evil and opposite reaction.  And how demoralizing is it when something you thought was a good choice, ends up secretly being bad.  Like those reusable shopping bags we have been hauling our food in that turn out to be made of harmful substances.( Maybe I’m not such a bad person for always forgetting those bags.)

When I get so overwhelmed,  I decide  to focus on what is in my control and keep taking one step at a time.  This Easter, I thought a nice goal for myself would be to try to assemble baskets for my kids without any plastic materials.  Well, it turned out to be a daunting task to not include any plastic packaging.  So I decided to try to cut down on plastic packaging and exclude plastic items.

I anticipated it would be a challenge, but there were some things I didn’t expect.  One that it would be so frustrating walking into a regular store and trying to fulfill this goal.  It is amazing the lack of alternatives.  I found it would have been much easier had I purchased a little further in advance so I could take advantage of websites.  I found a number of fine choices online.

I didn’t expect it to be fraught with moral dilemmas.  I had had my eye on a giant, colorful, working, and of course plastic, dump truck for my 3 year old since they had stocked the outdoor toy aisle back in snowy January.  I knew he would fall in love with this thing.  It was big enough to haul him around.  He had taken it for a test drive, pushing it down the aisles as we perused the toy section one afternoon.  It would double as his Easter basket this year, offering ample storage for his other treats.  When I made the no-plastic goal, this truck was in the back of my mind.  I had decided to buy the big, plastic wheelbarrow next to it for his older brother’s basket.  It wasn’t as easy to part with.  I was pretty sure my 6 year old would enjoy pushing it around the yard, hauling various loads, but it didn’t hold the same fascination for him as that giant dump truck did for my toddler.  I considered abandoning the whole darn no-plastic rule just for this dump truck.  I thought about making an exception.  No plastic, except the dump truck.  That was still an accomplishment, right?  The problem is it seemed to defeat the whole purpose of my quest.  I was doing this not only to save the earth from one more piece of plastic to add to the infinite piles in the landfills or increase resource consumption by recycling it, I was also trying  to expose my kids to fewer potentially harmful substances.  I was also trying to meet the challenge of NO plastic, NONE.

I didn’t expect that it would be controversial.  Okay, I guess I should have seen this one coming, but I think I was so excited about the prospect of accomplishing this beneficial goal, that I just didn’t think about it.  I posted on twitter and facebook about my project.  I got positive responses, but then there was my mom.  I had to assure and reassure her that this was a purely personal objective and that I hadn’t set a standard for others who were interested in giving my children Easter baskets, plastic egg hunts, and any other assorted treats.  Of course, I would like to be influential in educating and inspiring others to go green and would like to be a better gatekeeper for my children’s exposure to harmful substances, but that had not been my intent in sharing.  I didn’t want others to think I was judging them or would be ungrateful for gifts they had to offer my family.  Wow, this is getting complicated!

What I learned from this little exercise is that my kids can be very happy without plastic, but we are bombarded by it.  So we constantly have to make choices about what is more important.  Is it too much to ask to give up some things we enjoyed as kids and that are simple pleasures in life, to make a safer, healthier, greener world for our kids?  It seems obvious and clear cut when you think about it that way.  But what do you say to your 6 year old lego maniac when he wants to buy another set?  What if (gasp!) you find yourself going through a drive-thru;  what is a kids meal without the (almost always plastic) toy?  I think I have opened a can of worms.  At least they aren’t plastic.

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