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Saturday, 21 April 2012

Not so Fantastic Plastic

Every now and then, there is a realisation that you are not as enlightened as you think. The lights go on and somehow the world looks entirely different from the way it used to.

I had one of those moments recently while searching for something to watch on TV. As unappealing as a serious doco initially seemed, TVNZ’s Oceans of Plastic had us riveted, and has changed the world for me. If you haven’t seen it, you really should. I used to think that I was reasonably green — we recycle and compost diligently, we sigh and roll our eyes at the thought of fracking, we buy clothes made from natural fibres and we embrace the idea of cycling as an alternative to fossil fuel consumption.  

Although worthy, how trite this all seems in the face of my new demon — plastic. No longer do those shiny colourful plastic things with which we surround ourselves seem cheerful and bright — in the space of a week these products, this packaging, these play things have turned into a garish and menacing threat.

I don’t mean to over-dramatise, but the facts are stark:
• There are vast areas of ocean where huge seas of plastic spread over many kilometres, and as the plastic matter breaks down, plastic particles enter the environment and the food chain.
• Plastic in the environment harms wildlife
• Plastic is sourced from petroleum, so the environment suffers in its production as well as in its disposal
• Plastic particles become part of the environment, as well as absorbing toxins from the environment, and break down themselves, releasing their own toxins
• As marine animals consume the plastic particles, they enter the food chain, ultimately affecting humans
• Plastic-sourced toxins have been shown to have frightening effects on human health

I grew up with milk in glass bottles, preserved fruit in glass jars, and when a boiled egg was considered convenience food. 

What do we really know about the long term effects of all this plastic packaging on human health?  Relatively recently, we have found out that BPA is carcinogenic and that children and pregnant woman probably shouldn’t drink water in PET bottles — what other unknown hazards will be discovered and what does this mean for our children?

So what to do? Every little bit counts, I reckon — Gizzy’s own Go Bamboo are putting it out there with toothbrushes, pegs and other consumable items made from beautiful biodegradable bamboo. Fewer plastic toothbrushes and pegs in the landfills and waterways has got to be a good thing — and that’s only the start for them, I’m sure.  The internet of course is rich with resources – is a great place to start. 
Why can’t we go back to bottled milk and more products in glass jars, paper bags, and the good old days where there was money in recycling glass? Is it really cheaper to ditch most of the plastic in the environment and send a bit over to India to be cleaned and recycled where labour is cheap, or are we just not putting a price on the real cost?

In our family, I can see, this is going to be a very slow and incremental process. On my first day on the “reduce plastic” mission, I managed to accumulate no less than 12 plastic bags, without even going to the supermarket.  We need to get into new habits and that will take time.  But I am going to take some advice from my favourite Dr Seuss book, The Lorax — “UNLESS someone like you cares a whole awful lot, nothing is going to get better. It’s not.”  

So I will plant my Truffula Tree, and treat it with care.  And if enough of us do, maybe the Lorax and all of his friends will come back.

Friday, 13 April 2012

Choosing to Chill!

8.30 am Saturday morning. A meltdown occurs.
Younger child has snuck into older child’s stash
of jelly beans from a birthday party the previous
weekend, and eaten one. She would have got
away with it completely had she not chosen to
flaunt this small victory. “Look Mum” – jaws open
wide. “Gosh, look at all those teeth”. “No, look!”
“Jellybean!” Older child inconsolable as stolen
jelly bean was the last pink one. Mother feels dark
fog creeping over brain as she tries to think of a
peaceful solution. It had been a long, busy couple
of weeks in our household, culminating in a very
long and busy Friday, and Thursday and Friday
nights had been too late for 3 and 5 year olds.

Suddenly the Saturday plan of ballet, groceries, a friend’s
birthday party just seems way too busy for the degree of
exhaustion wafting over our household.
The thing that I dreaded most about being a school-going
family, and the thing that still wears us out the most, is the rush
factor. Rush in the morning to get ready for school, rush in
the evening to cram in afternoon tea, play, homework, dinner,
bath bed. Ugh. For this reason I have stuck to my plan of
only one extra-curricular activity - that being Saturday ballet.
Theoretically this should leave us pretty chilled out over the
weekend - ballet is at 11.45 am so how much of a rush can
that be? Somehow however it still seems like a mad panic
- we cruise for the first part of the morning and then end up
in a flap - where are the ballet shoes, get the drink bottles
organised, find some snacks for before and after. Then we
do ballet and decide that while we’re in town we will do the
groceries and some other jobs, and before you know it we’re
rushing home at four in the afternoon in a mad panic getting
dinner ready and the whole things just feels like another day
spent racing around like the proverbial headless chook.
Not for us this weekend! After 30 seconds reflection, I pulled
the pin immediately and we spent the entire weekend at home.
Friends visited, we spent lots of time at the beach, we did a
few outstanding domestic jobs and we did some cooking. We
read books, did art, watched DVDs, and had an early night.
By Sunday night it just felt like we were a human family again,
rather than a family of out of control aliens lurching from one
engagment to the next.
How easy it is to end up feeling over-committed despite your
best intentions, and how hard to make that decision to put on
the brakes - but how great does it feel. I just need to remember
to step back and take a chill out spell more often - before the
wheels fall off and we skid to a halt!


This is really great recipe for a Sunday night, or
one of those evenings when you don’t really have
a plan! For variety you can add spicy sausage.

  • A handful of cooked potatoes or kumara
  • Cooked seasonal veges
  • Feta cheese, grated parmesan or tasty cheese
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 5 - 6 free range eggs
  • Fresh herbs and garlic, to taste

Beat the eggs and mix in the other ingredients
except the red pepper and the fresh herbs. Gently
fry the garlic and the red pepper, then pour in all
the other ingredients. Cook over low heat for 7 - 8
minutes, then finish under a pre-heated grill for 5
- 6 minutes until browned and set. Rest for a few
minutes before serving.