My Dirty Secret

Before I luxuriate in the clean slate of a brand new year, I must take a moment to acknowledge one bad habit that will surely follow me into 2018.

I have a dirty secret. I’m guilty of the ultimate substance abuse. Intimate knowledge of its destructive properties doesn’t stop me from acting as if my life depended on it. Although I whisper in horror about the Great Pacific Gyre – although I belong to a clan that considers itself green – I’ve surrounded myself with the substance I advocate against. I play with it. Eat off it. Brush my teeth with it. I love the way it feels in my hands, sturdy yet pliable. Reliable and cheap, it’s easy to ignore the long-term costs of my worst habit.

I remember refrigerators before Tupperware. Back then we rotted leftovers in Alcoa foil covered glass bowls. Now I add Gladware to my shopping cart, glancing furtively up the aisle to see if anyone’s looking. I smuggle it out in a reusable grocery bag underneath apples and kale.

Automobiles used to be made of plate steel. Not so much these days. I backed my ’95 Escort into a bollard the other day, got out and stared dolefully at the shattered plastic. “Who drives around in plastic cars?” I asked myself. “I do.”

Most of my childhood toys were made of natural materials. We played with Lincoln logs and rubber balls, and moved tiny metal pieces around the Monopoly board. My prized possessions were a slate chalkboard framed in wood and a cardboard palomino I wore around the neighborhood. But, the perfectly molded zebra, elephant, bear, horses and cows were made of plastic, and I loved them as much or more as everything else.

In adulthood I learned the truth: that plastic was made in a laboratory from a non-renewable resource and never completely broke down. How minute indigestible particles work their way up the sea food chain. I dampened my guilt by working for a recycling processor. We submerged ourselves in truckloads of the stuff, sorted out the contaminated pieces, the kitchen knives, and the occasional dead dog. We chipped it, melted it, and extruded it into planks. Deep inside I knew that turning laundry jugs into picnic tables wasn’t going to save the world.

These days I flaunt my aluminum water bottle. My eyebrows arch disapprovingly toward sippers of store-bought water. I look aside when tossing evidence of my addiction into the dumpster and recycling bin. I cannot conceal nor reconcile my hypocrisy. I’m a reef gawker in plastic fins, a farm market shopper in a plastic car. I’m a woman of the woods in plastic shoes.

By Camille Armantrout

Camille lives with her soul mate Bob in the back woods of central North Carolina where she hikes, gardens, cooks, and writes.

4 replies on “My Dirty Secret”

I enjoy reading your writings, Camille.
I wouldn’t be too very concerned with living with plastics even if it includes driving a plastic ’95 vehicle. That is vintage plastic still serving its purposed life. Besides, a plastic car fits your plastic farm motif well. :p
It is just the time of the world in which we were born.
Your carbon footprint is not so secret even if you give more than you take and leave behind more than plastic.

May the new year 2018 shine much happiness, health and good fortune upon you. And, Bob, too.

By the way…waxed paper is my go to kitchen wrap. Great for refrigerating cheese.


Remember at the zoo when you were a kid and they had those big machines that would press whatever animal shape you wanted out of plastic on the spot? That’s one smell I can still conjure up at will. I hate plastic too, but like you, it’s a love/hate relationship. We can’t escape it. It’s one of those things we just have to put in the ‘can’t do anything about it’ basket (it can be aluminium if you want πŸ˜‰

Spot on, Camille! My dirty secret is delivery Indian food after a hard Friday of blogging. It comes in a styrofoam boxes, plastic containers, and a plastic bag. I reuse the plastic bag repeatedly and then recycle it, but what about the rest? The GrubHub delivery is easy for me and maybe means fewer car miles than if we drover round-trip to the restaurant. Maybe not. I also struggle as I avoid leather, wool, and silk .. but then found out about the effects of synthetic fabric on the planet. Just found a linen blouse at a thrift store to wear while I eat my Indian dinner.

Every step counts, though. Awareness like yours is why some places ban plastic bags and have effective recycling programs.

Linen! I looked it up and learned it’s made from flax. Well, how about that. So, if leather, wool, silk, and synthetics are out, that leaves us with cotton, linen, and hemp. Every time you open your mouth, I learn something.

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