(Plastic) Wrap it up already

After a few decades of scientific research and several outstanding spokespeople, the vast majority of the Earth’s population has finally accepted that global warming is a thing.

We’ve even come so far that most understand that we need to change our ways in case we want to keep this planet habitable. Some years ago, it was the Battle for the Ozone Layer. Then rose the widely debated melting ice caps, which ironically enough were placed under more scrutiny than most Terms of Service Agreements.

In 2018 came the last straw, because plastic straws, cotton buds and balloon sticks are getting banned in Europe, if the motion passes. The motion won’t completely get rid of these and other disposable items, but hopefully offer alternatives made out of more sustainable materials.

This is great news! These are actual, practical steps toward greener living that regular people can take. You can tell change is coming when it’s seen in the grass root levels of society, and in this case that means those who can’t spend all their money on a Tesla.

And we seem to be leaning into a more down-to-earth atmosphere in other fields as well. Interior designs are leaning towards a more minimalist style, leaving out unnecessary trinkets and items. Beauty trends are starting to highlight natural beauty and the use of so called invisible makeup. We have apps to make life easier and we’re longing for organic, simple, no waste living.

Environmental activists have tried to advocate greener alternatives since the days of Flower Power in the 70’s. Moving back and forth, the attention they got from the public was mediocre to nonexistent. Then came Instagram. Within the span of five years, a fitness and health boom had taken over, mostly thanks to the rise and width of social media. We’ve become obsessed with aesthetic pictures of food and its origin – organic, super, local. These are modern, minimalist goals everyone seems to yearn and work for.

The craze for organic and healthy living has without a doubt inspired the discussion about plastic and the use of it. “Organic” and “locally grown” are like porn for the middle class white person. It’s sleek, it’s desirable, it’s the tone for tomorrow… Today.

I remember the trends of plastic surgery that were huge in the early 2000’s. People kept paying their surgeons tens of thousands to get more plastic pumped into their bodies. A little plastic in our oceans wasn’t that big of a deal back then; it was almost a status symbol. A wrap of superiority slowly choking the maritime wildlife. But it was a trend, and it passed.

And though we’re about to take a step back from the plastic straws through which we so eagerly sucked our 9€ frappuccinos just a month ago, I’m still wondering if plastic straws are just the villains of the day, or if we’re taking actual steps towards a more sustainable future.

I’m working full time and odd hours. I just don’t have the energy or time to get up an hour earlier after a 13 hour shift to make my own lunch. Of course I’d prefer if every meal I consumed was homemade and why not organic, but more often than not, I pick up my lunch at the grocery store. And browsing the take-away options, I realize two things: despite our good intentions, eating organically and without waste or plastic is not affordable on a budget, nor is it always available.

But even if I didn’t buy my take-away lunch, I’d have a hard time finding anything that’s affordable and plastic-free. Everything is wrapped in plastic more than Laura Palmer.

Plastic straws are a start, and a great one at that. But whenever we try to simply sustain our life with nourishment, we are buying plastic, too. And I’m fear that once the Battle of the Last Straw is done, we’ll forget why the straws were banned, and leave the rest of the plastic on its own. And, as you know, if we leave it, it won’t decay and nourish our world. It will slowly choke it.

And although it’s great you’re using positive hashtags on Twitter and Instagram, you’re not helping anyone if you keep drinking with a plastic straw and shopping your meal with disposable utensils. And even if plastic straws become unavailable, there’s more you can do to help the environment. Recycling and a general regard for nature would seem obvious, one would think.

On the other hand, adult people are upset because they’re not allowed to drink from the grown up version of sippy cups, so who can tell?

No matter how many hashtags gets thrown around, the harsh truth is that a few words on social media is just a start. We’ve all witnessed the undeniable power of social media. It’s a remarkably effective marketing tool, and we should use the momentum we have right now to realize the realities beyond the last straw.

Realities like that of medicine and the food industry. Medical tools and raw meat needs to be wrapped in plastic for sterility. Realities like that we have to vaccine our children and our meat alike. Realities like that even though it’s great we’re living healthier than 20 years ago, the regular joe in the the Middle Ages ate organic too, and he lived to the ripe age of thirty until he died of an infected toenail.

Although plastic is harmful to the environment, it’s also somewhat necessary for the upkeep of a relatively safe society. A rightly placed regulation of plastic is a different story. And although the restriction of plastic straws is a great start, there must be ways to continue the regulation of plastic. The goal should be making greener living sustainable and affordable for others than the wealthy.

I don’t know about you, but I’d like for this planet to stay habitable for at least a few more generations. If that means I’ll have to give up plastic wrapper, I think I can make that sacrifice. It’s not the last straw for me.

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