Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Show Your Plastic Challenge: an Eight-Week Experiment

Yesterday I wrote about how Beth Terry’s book Plastic-Free challenged me to question my buying choices. Today I’m going to show you the exercise that helped me do that.

One of the first exercises in the book is the “Show Your Plastic Challenge,” where for a week you keep all the plastic that you (you personally, not anyone else in the house!) use. At the end of the week you weigh the pile, count the items, and answer a list of questions about it. (“What feelings arise as I look at my pile of plastic?” “What could I replace with a plastic-free or less-plastic alternative?” “What lifestyle choices might be necessary to reduce my plastic consumption?”) I’ve been posting my results on Facebook every week.

I just completed my eighth week of the Show Your Plastic Challenge, and have decided to stop for now, because I have a pretty clear handle on how to move forward from here. In the interests of full disclosure, these counts don’t involve gardening materials (I’m still trying to figure out how to garden, and worrying about whether or not the mulch comes in a bag seemed like an unnecessary distraction), or plastic items that I reuse (ziplock bags, grocery bags, sour cream containers, etc.). Here are the stats for each week:

Week One
Total number of items: 35
Total weight: 11.25 ounces

Week Two
Total number of items: 31
Total weight: 14.25 ounces

Week Three
Total number of items: 26
Total weight: About 16 ounces

Week Four
Total number of items: 17
Total weight: 10 oz

Week Five
Total number of items: 25
Total weight: 11 ounces

Week Six
Total number of items: 15
Total weight: 6 ounces

Week Seven
Total number of items: 22
Total weight: 9.25 ounces

Week Eight
Total number of items: 19
Total weight: 6.25 ounces

As you can see, the weight and number of items has gone down slightly, but not nearly as much as I’d like. I've gotten rid of several of the bulkier items, but am working on the bags and wrappers. I want to try doing this challenge again in a few months and see how things compare. In the meantime, we’ve taken several steps to reduce the plastic consumption in our life, which I’ll cover tomorrow.

At the very least, this exercise has allowed me to be more self-aware about both my buying and eating choices. And hopefully it’s given some other people something to think about, too.



  1. Bags and wrappers are so hard to cut out! At least on this side of the country :/

    1. So true! I've been looking into bulk-bin options, but the pickings are slim (and expensive). I'm just doing the best I can. :)