January 08, 2013

My Month Without Plastic: The Challenge

By Samantha Porter

The Burke recently opened a new exhibit, Plastics Unwrapped, that explores how material culture was changed–rapidly and significantly–by plastics. Plastics are everywhere and they'll stay in landfills and in our oceans for hundreds, if not thousands of years.

That got me thinking about the plastics in my life. I consider myself to have a fairly small ecological footprint overall: I don’t own a car, I buy locally when I can, and I'm above average in my knowledge of recycling protocol *dust off shoulders.* But when it comes to plastics, I realized that so much of what I purchase comes wrapped in plastic packaging. Even if it is recyclable – it never entirely disappears. We can't simply recycle things into non-existence.

I wanted to challenge myself to rethink my relationship with plastics, especially when it comes to my purchases. I realize that many of the things I purchase without a second thought contain plastics (such as peanut butter, laundry detergent, vitamins, pens, chapstick, tissues, toilet paper, spinach, toothpaste, etc). So, in August 2012, I vowed to take a hard look at what plastic products I already had in my life and then not purchase or use any new plastic for one month.

Now for the fun part: the public accountability. Over the next month, I'll post on the Burke Blog each week to give you an inside look at what I experienced in my month without plastic.

Then, on Tuesday, February 5, 2013, I'll be speaking at the Burke Museum's Short Takes on Plastics event at the Neptune Theatre, where I'll unveil the new plastics that still managed to creep into my life during my month-long challenge, despite my best attempt to avoid them.

In the meantime, check out our Plastics Unwrapped Pinterest board to see some alternatives to plastics and feel free to share your plastic-reducing tips or ideas!

Until next time,

About Samantha:
Sam is a self-proclaimed minimalist who loves to take on new challenges - especially ones that relate to her love of the Burke Museum. She's worked at the Burke for two and a half years, currently as our Operations Assistant.