A Plastic Nest

8 Sep

September 8th, 2013

My boxes arrived on Friday, which was like ten years’ worth of Christmases all come together, and brought along at least two weeks’ worth of backache. My apartment happens to be on the 3rd floor of a building that has twisty windy hallways with many misplaced staircases, and of course no elevator. I won’t tell you how long it took me to carry 14 boxes up those stairs, because it didn’t take that long. However, it did make me feel a bit like the Atom Ant, crawling up and down the stairs with boxes almost bigger than my hundred-pound self. Long story short, I made it, the boxes are currently blocking out most of my hallway and probably constituting a fire hazard, and I could really use a new spine.

The process of settling in is a slow and painful one when I don’t have a vehicle. Today I finally got a second-hand kitchen table with a chair, which the gentleman who was selling was kind enough to deliver. I gave up any hopes of being able to scavenge a second bookshelf until next month when more people move in and out of the building, so I resorted to building one from milk crates and cardboard. I covered the cardboard with wrapping paper, so it actually looks better than the wooden shelf I got from the neighbors. The greatest challenge of a car-less life is still the guinea pigs: I like getting their hay and bedding from a feed store (where they cost a fraction of a fraction of the price I’d pay at a pet store), and apart from the feed stores being in the boonies by definition, I can’t exactly walk onto the bus with a bale of hay. Until I get through my Carshare application, the oinkers are getting grass and fancy bedding from the pet store. Such is life.

Trying to avoid plastic is even more difficult than trying to bring a bale of hay into an urban apartment. Part of this is plastic objects, and part of it is the packaging. For example, short of trying to use a quill, I can’t avoid plastic pens. (Pencils are great for everyday use, but don’t work well for letters and documents.) Toothbrushes are plastic, as are mop handles, clothes hangers (even the outer lining of metal hangers), the quills of hairbrushes, and almost all pet accessories. (Leather collars are available, but harnesses and leashes are almost exclusively polyester. I did find one litterbox made of recycled paper, but it looked too flimsy to last over a couple of weeks, so I’m stuck with plastic on that as well.) We’re also wearing a lot of plastic- most knitting yarn is made of polyester or a polyester-natural blend, most socks are made of polyester, and I don’t think there’s such a thing as a biodegradable swimsuit. Even my watch is plastic, thanks to my nickel allergies. As for electronics- let’s not even get into it as I type on a plastic keyboard, shall we?

Still, packaging is what really makes me pull my hair out. Every non-plastic alternative I find (eg. kitchen knife with porcelain handle, wooden cat toy, metal shower curtain rings, bamboo cutting board, etc) comes wrapped in plastic. Argh. And no matter how much I shop in bulk, from independent stores and farmers’ markets, I still can’t get away from it. Cheese and meat still come wrapped in plastic (once I did buy grass-fed beef wrapped in butcher paper, but it seems to be a rare occurrence). No matter how hard I try to avoid it, no matter what I choose to buy or eat or wear, I seem to bring plastic home with me like a parasite hitching a ride. Is it possible to go without it? I’d love to find out. Maybe someday I’ll make a lifestyle experiment out of it, and go live somewhere in the woods without any plastic for a year. Just to see if it can be done.

Anyway, that was my rant for the day. Now I’ll go back to my nesting behavior, preferably with a cup of coffee made in a saucepan- I’ll tell you about that next time.

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