Tuesday, March 12, 2019

A Plastic Free Lent

Recently I read about Episcopal and Lutheran churches in Pittsburgh that are observing a “Plastic Free Lent.” Instead of giving up chocolate or coffee, pastors are encouraging their parishioners to give up “single-use” plastic for Lent – things like shopping bags, straws, and bottles.

What a great idea, I thought. I can save the earth and still have my chocolate and caffeine! The waitress at the local diner already jokes with me about saving the earth “one straw at a time,” so this should be easy.

Two days later I headed into Walmart to buy a couple of things, but I forgot to bring my reusable grocery bags, and Walmart doesn’t do paper bags. Strike one. We stopped to eat at a BBQ place on the way home. I asked for water to drink. I righteously rejected spring water in a plastic bottle and was served tap water in a plastic cup. I ate my potato salad out of a plastic cup with a plastic fork. Hmmm. This is not going according to plan. 

Last Sunday – the first Sunday of Lent - I was preaching at our local church and decided to present the idea of a “plastic free Lent” to the congregation through the children’s sermon. I felt good about inspiring young people and adults to be eco-friendly. After the service, someone pointed out to me that during my sermon I was sipping water out of a plastic bottle. Strike three … or is that four or five?

I went grocery shopping yesterday – this time with my reusable bags responsibly stuffed under my shopping cart. It was a sobering experience. It turns out that almost everything I eat comes in plastic. Hummus comes in plastic tubs. Blueberries come in a plastic container. Grapes come in plastic bags … with plastic zippers. We pick fresh vegetables out of bins and place them in flimsy plastic bags.

Hamburg comes on Styrofoam plates surrounded by plastic. (Remember when it was wrapped in butcher paper?) English muffins come in plastic bags. Bread comes in plastic bags with little plastic tags stamped with the date. My rooibos tea comes in plastic envelopes wrapped in a paper box wrapped in cellophane. Bathroom tissue comes in big plastic bags. Even potatoes come in a plastic bag.

The only thing that did not come in a plastic bag was my plastic trash bags! They came in a cardboard box. At least the plastic bag company is being responsible. I did succeed in buying eggs in a gray biodegradable egg carton, and I chose milk cartons over plastic jugs. Thank God for small victories.

This Lenten journey is going to be harder than I thought. I am only a week into Lent, but I already see that this is going to be an educational experience as well as a spiritual one. I never realized how plasticized our everyday lives are and how oblivious I was to it. 

My life is wrapped in plastic, and it is hard to unwrap it. It will take a lot of mindfulness, a large dose of confession and repentance … and a lot more reusable bags.

No comments: