Yes, Plastics Contribute To Climate Change. No, Straws Are Not The Only Problem.

I am aware of the many issues facing the planet. Over population, climate change, depletion of natural resources, endangered species, etc. Can I wave a magic wizard wand and make it better? No, I cannot. And sorry to say but praying aint gonna do it either. We need to act. So how do you get the government to put their foot down on these gigantic polluters and say, “No more. You’re done.” It seems damn near impossible. This is where I think change from the bottom on up comes into play. A wise man mentioned change happens from the bottom on up but his name conveniently slips my mind. Ok, so what kind of change? Well, why not start with consumerism? We all need to reduce our waste and you can do that by reducing your consumption. After all, it is reduce, reuse, THEN (when all else fails) recycle. We just sort of skip those first two and go straight to that third and least helpful step. And what seems to have many environmental enthusiasts freaking out about? Plastics. That sounds like a great place to start, or so I thought.

DON’T GET DISTRACTED WITH THE BIGGER FIGHT

I was feeling confident in my push to educate others and try to convince them to reconsider their plastic consumption. My husband and I have already been making an effort and it is much easier than one might think. I could tell people were becoming annoyed with my social media posts, however, which I found disheartening. If I couldn’t get those closest to me to reconsider their choices, especially after sharing my fears I have for my child, how was I going to convince an entire country? Nevertheless, I persisted. Then one day I saw “the tweet”.

“not to say plastic pollution isn’t a problem, rather there are much bigger problems facing the world we live in – specifically climate change.”                                                                                 

“Um. What?” I thought. Isn’t this part of the climate crisis? I mean we do know where plastics come from right? How would plastic production and manufacturing not play a role? And to have all those items just sitting there for all eternity. How is this not a problem? To help explain why this is so concerning to me, let’s consider how plastics are made. I am going to focus strictly on the biggest culprits and easiest to ditch such as cutlery, bags, to-go containers, straws, packaging for food and toiletries, etc, since they are responsible for 30% of plastic production. The plastic used for these particular items is mainly derived from polypropylene which begins as fossil fuel, the same fossil fuel your car runs on, and is then distilled and mixed with catalysts to eventually form plastic pellets. These pellets are then shipped to various manufacturers to make all kinds of wonderfully, non-biodegradable items that will be with us forever. For a more scientific explanation, check out this pdf.

FOSSIL FUELS. NOT JUST FOR YOUR AUTOMOBILE

When we consider the ways fossil fuels are extracted — drilling and mining — then transporting them and manufacturing them, one can see how dirty, damaging, and wasteful plastics are. You’re drinking water out of a vessel made from the same material your car runs on. This is the same material that helps poison your water, making you rely on water sold in a vessel made from that material that poisoned your water in the first place. It’s a horrible cycle beginning with an incredibly dirty process. Take fracking for instance, which requires an absurd amount of water and chemicals. One well takes 3 to 6 million gallons of water per well, and an additional 15,000-60,000 gallons of chemicals to extract the material. Much of the chemicals used in fracking are unregulated so the exact amount or type of chemical used is a mystery. That should piss you off. Of the known chemicals, 25% were found to be cancerous. Again, Why aren’t you pushing for change? Why are we accepting this?

It appears climate activists (not all) feel you need to push hard for clean energy now, no excuses, and forget the plastic problem. But you aren’t going to make that happen. There is still much to consider and unfortunately, politicians know that could hurt their careers if they push too hard to change industries which not only contribute to their campaigns, but also employ American citizens who could be left without jobs if a proper transition is not implemented. Why are democrats so afraid to even touch climate change? Sure they might mention it to look good, but has any one other than Bernie Sanders or Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez really pushed for true change with an actual plan? Even still you have a population of Americans working for these industries who don’t feel confident they will have job training waiting for them once their coal mine is shut down. I really hope some of these politicians go speak with some of these folks. The coal miners in Kentucky, for instance, have been blocking coal from being delivered until they get their back pay. Those guys are interested in a transition to cleaner energy but they aren’t sure it will actually happen. I sympathize with people in these positions because it is their livelihood and they don’t know what else to do.

SO WHAT DO WE DO?

I don’t have all the answers and would never claim to. What I do have though, is the power of observation and a mind that won’t shut off. I see people talking about the climate crisis, but no one really doing anything. As someone who lives in the Metro Detroit area, I can tell you I don’t expect anyone in my life to ditch their cars anytime soon, or choose a job closer to home, or install solar panels on their over-sized house. What I can see is someone thinking twice about the products they purchase if they know how detrimental plastics are to the planet. I can see someone realizing recycling is becoming less helpful and is no longer a reason to feel good about your consumption, that reducing first is the more beneficial action. You can’t force people into major change. Unfortunately, you need to ease them in. Start from the bottom and work your way up. Educate. Enlighten. We may be running out of time, but we are too focused on what the Real Housewives are up to to care. Or we are convinced we are too busy or just can’t be burdened with all this devastating news while we are preoccupied with keeping up with Joneses. How do you get the government to act when the majority of their constituents don’t care? I’m sorry but I think it’s baby steps. So yes, push for major change, but offer everyday solutions to a much bigger problem. We need major energy overhaul in this world but until we get that, let’s focus on the things we can change right now.

By the way, after reading about the water wasted on fracking fuel for your disposable partyware, I don’t want hear anything about the water used to launder my infants bamboo reusable diapers.

Why I Don’t Want A Baby Shower

First, allow me to begin by saying the intention of this article is not to make anyone feel bad. The intention is to hopefully make people think differently. 

I am almost 37 years old and currently 18 weeks pregnant with our first child. It certainly isn’t something that happened immediately. We began to think it wasn’t going to happen which we would’ve accepted. We also waited due to hesitation. That hesitation originated from contemplating the kind of a world we would be bringing another human into. Let me repeat that we are bringing a human into the world. Not a cute, tiny, squishy baby. This tiny squishy baby is going to grow up to be a walking, talking, decision-making human-being. And it is our responsibility to raise this kid differently than the average person may consider “normal”. Having said that, I believe raising this kid differently begins now, in utero, and that is why I don’t think I want a baby shower. 

“Of course, you need a baby shower”, they say. “They” being my very loving, very generous family. I love them dearly, but it’s very hard for some people to see things the way you do. Especially when you are a weirdo like me. I know 5 people out of my entire circle of people who would understand and support why I wouldn’t want one, and I feel lucky to have those 5 people in my life right now. It reminds me I’m not alone in my thinking. But allow me to explain why I don’t want a baby shower and why perhaps you should consider skipping one too. 

I HATE BEING THE CENTER OF ATTENTION Not everyone can relate, but neither I nor my husband enjoy being on display. Our wedding shower was torture for both of us. There were too many people there we don’t even really know watching us opening gifts for what seemed like hours. For someone with social anxiety, it was the least bit enjoyable. Then I feel responsible for everyone having a good time. If someone shows up who doesn’t know anyone, I feel I need to take them under my wing so they don’t feel uncomfortable. Then I worry about them the whole time. I am not wired to enjoy being the guest of honor. I also hyperventilated before walking down the aisle at our wedding because I didn’t want to stand up there in front of an audience. I had stage fright as a child and I still suffer from it. I know a baby shower would produce the same anxiety and this time I can’t pop a Xanax and down a bunch of mimosas to make it go away.  

HOW MANY THINGS DOES A BABY NEED? When my mother approached me about considering a shower, she told me to start putting a list together of things we would need. As my list grew, I thought, “wow this is more than I thought.” Then I hit a wall. I looked at my list and the items on it, and it really did not seem like anything I couldn’t put together using second-hand items.

There are mom groups all over Facebook, Facebook Marketplace, thrift stores, UpCycle, Craigslist, other people in your life who may have things you can have. For the first year of my child’s life, all they will want is a clean diaper and a boob. Later on, they may benefit from a toy but they certainly don’t need a room full of toys. The only toys we plan on having for this child will be bamboo or made from some other sustainable material, and MINIMAL. More studies are being released suggesting all these toys don’t necessarily benefit the growing child and can hinder imagination and creativity. Those are two important things I plan to nurture.  

As far as clothing, It will be winter in Michigan. This baby won’t be leaving the house for a while and will be living in sleepers. Not to mention Christmas is 1 week after the baby is scheduled to arrive. I have a feeling we’ll be good in that department.

I ONLY WANT WHAT I NEED I can’t tell you how many forums I have read so far where women talk about how they didn’t receive the glass bottles they registered for, but they did receive 7 different pink, frilly dresses. This is the only reason we are not finding out the sex until after the shower if we choose to have one. One of my fears with a shower is not receiving what I need. If I registered for it, it’s because I need it. You don’t want to be the only person who only gifted 2 cloth diapers? Too bad. I need them. I would never judge someone for buying me what I need, even if it’s just one item. I will most likely become annoyed, however, if I get things I don’t need while the “boring” stuff I do need goes ignored because that toy or garment you saw is just so damn cute.

THE CONCEPT OF A SHOWER PERPLEXES ME Think about it. You spend a bunch of money to feed and entertain people —most of whom don’t even want to be there according to almost every person in my life — in exchange for gifts. Why not use that money to just buy what you need? When the idea of a shower was presented to me, it was suggested we have it in a hall. For the cost of renting a hall, feeding 40+ people on top of buying us those big-ticket items we need (they said they would buy us a crib) you could literally buy everything on our registry. We are going about this minimally. We literally registered for only necessities and no, a butt wipe warmer is not one of them. I will not register for more than we need just to accommodate more people. It seems silly. 

I understand there is a social aspect to the shower. It’s an opportunity for friends and family to come together and celebrate the mother-to-be, but that bothers me as well and leads me to my next point. 

I STILL WORRY AND HAVE EVERY RIGHT TO I worried the entire first trimester about miscarrying. Once I entered the second trimester, I felt a little better but I know that anything can go wrong at any moment during this pregnancy. For that reason, I don’t feel comfortable celebrating something that hasn’t happened. Can you imagine coming home to a room full of things for your baby that never took their first breath? Many women don’t have to imagine that because it happens more than you think. We just don’t want to talk about it. So aside from the essentials needed to care for a newborn, I would rather people gift things after the baby is born and healthy if they really feel the need to. 

THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO NEED A SHOWER MORE THAN ME I Don’t come from a rich family but I do come from a family who can afford to help buy the larger items such as a crib and car seat. There are a lot of mothers out there who don’t have that. What I would love more than anything in place of a shower is for those in my life who can afford to buy us things for the baby gift them to mothers in need. I will make it work because I can. Some women don’t have that option and quite frankly, I feel kind of guilty having people make a fuss over me when there are people in this country who could use it more.

Some people might take what I just wrote as being ridiculous and ungrateful but that is the problem with our society. I am bringing a human into a world of excess against their will. We are programmed to want things we don’t need, especially when it comes to babies; things that require finite resources to produce, pollute, and destroy this planet that is in dire straits. We mindlessly consume without thinking where the products come from or where they go when they break, and we simply toss them away. If we choose to ignore the problems in this world because we can’t be bothered, challenged, or it goes against the societal norm, I don’t know what it will take to make people start caring. I just know we need to rethink these outdated traditions or simply ditch them all together.