June 19, 2014

Starving on a Full Stomach: Trader Joe’s, Dead Whales & Our Addiction to Plastic. ~ Hannah Harris

Plastic Beaches

“Only about 1,000 sperm whales are left in the Mediterranean.”

And all of them are threatened by the haphazard dumping of plastic waste by greenhouses that supply Aldi, the parent company of Trader Joe’s. One beautiful sperm whale is already dead, washed up on the beach with a stomach full of plastic sheeting and other waste, totaling 37 pounds in all.

This, tragically, isn’t new. Aquatic animals have been starving to death on plastic for years, showing up on shores as skeleton-encased bundles of the plastic we threw “away.”

Amazing (or horrifying), isn’t it? Plastic is a material that can spend time swirling around in the ocean and stewing in the digestive tract of a giant animal, and emerge recognizable. This illustrates that there really is no such thing as “safely disposing of” plastic and we’re far better off minimizing or eliminating its use in the first place.

The article I’m referencing here says this is all happening because “grocery stores are too lazy to monitor their suppliers,” which is gross and true, but ignores the reality that we are the consumers. We are the ones walking into Trader Joe’s and other stores week after tireless week, indiscriminately buying up plastic-packaged snacks, juices, sponges, soaps and shampoos, meats, fruits and vegetable like our lives depend on it.

Our lives don’t depend on it. We can exist—happier, healthier and more awake—without plastic. In fact, it’s becoming very clear that this is what our lives and the lives of our fellow creatures depend on.

God forbid we forget that we are all connected, and that our individual actions reverberate throughout the rest of creation.

It’s time for us to seriously weigh whether we’d rather have individually-packaged bags of trail mix or this entire aquatic ecosystem. It’s difficult, yes—sickeningly difficult—to make lifestyle changes that shift us away from plastic, but we let ourselves off the hook too easily if we say it’s impossible.

There are options, and they’re almost always more fun than mindlessly consuming alongside the rest of the world: Make your own plastic-free alternatives (then sell them)! Buy in bulk! Take the kids to the Farmer’s Market and make a morning of it!

We’re intelligent, capable creatures. In other words, let’s figure it the f*ck out.

Let’s take this opportunity to turn our gaze inward. Blaming corporations is our habit, and it’s easy and fun and makes us all feel like we’re activists, but let’s not forget that “to be aware of a single shortcoming in oneself is more useful than to be aware of a thousand in someone else.” ~ His Holiness The Dalai Lama.

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