There was a little drawer beside the fridge at the farmhouse that always held four things — a box of wax paper, parchment paper, tin foil and a box of Saran Wrap.
For years and years, I would wrap up leftovers with Saran Wrap and tuck them into the fridge. I had Tupperware and containers with lids too but it was easy to use good old Saran Wrap.
It was the early 1990s and I confess I never gave a second thought to what it was doing to the environment.
I have a little drawer in the house I live in now that also has long rectangular boxes. There is still a box of brown parchment paper (fully recyclable) and tinfoil (a whole other environmental issue) but no plastic wrap of any kind.
Because now I know the evils of plastic wrap and my conscience won’t let me use it.
It makes me sick to think about how much my own household contributed to the world’s plastic problem but at the time, it was how we did things, just as my mother did before me.
Now, I have gorgeous beeswax wraps. My first set came in three sizes and lasted for over a year. They worked wonderfully. You just place it over the dishes, use your hand heat to mold it over the sides of the dish, and it stays nicely in place. Mold them carefully and beeswax wraps can be entirely water and spill proof.
You can use beeswax wraps around sandwiches, vegetables and fruits. They make pockets and envelopes for nuts and cheese as well. A quick wipe cleans them off.
The original three still work but are now quite stained so I bought a new set with a palm leaf pattern — so functional and pretty. Beeswax wraps are a brilliant product and better yet, are completely compostable because they are made of natural ingredients — cotton and beeswax. Or, you can twist the old ones up to use as garden ties or firestarters.
So that’s my sell on switching from plastic wraps to beeswax wraps.
What I really want to investigate is the whole process of changing the mindset and how quickly we can adapt to new concepts when it feels good.
Or you get shamed into it.
With six kids who grew up immersed in environmental education, I’ve had a fair bit of shaming ... and it works in this context.
When I purchased plastic bottles for conditioner and shampoo, I was told: “Mom, you should be refilling those or better yet, use shampoo bars.”
So now the last of our plastic bottles are phasing out and we have a nice little red cedar tray by the shower containing one shampoo and one conditioner bar. Nice!
Plastic toothbrushes, straws and plastic bags? No, no and no. And you know what? I’m glad they watch and scold me because even if I didn’t grow up with their awareness, I am aware now! When I grew up, everything went to the dump. Official recycling programs weren’t in place in Ontario until the 1980s and were established much later in Huron County, where I live.
I’ve been a farmer all my life so there were many things we did right. We had a garden and composted way before that was cool. No food was wasted, as anything not eaten was fed to cats and dogs. We didn’t drive as much and we recycled by necessity. I also grew up in a really positive time, where life seemed full of opportunity and we didn’t have the terror that the planet would implode.
I see in some of my children a real fear for the future of their world and that saddens me. Perhaps all the doom and gloom about climate change isn’t helping their mental health. THAT’S not the better part. But what they are doing to change how we live to protect the planet, IS.
I am so proud of them. I am proud of their young voices asking us to make changes and fix the world they will inherit.
Banning Saran Wrap and switching to soap bars isn’t enough but it’s a start and it’s where we all begin. Once started, we want to do more. We want to plant more trees. Reuse more products. Purchase less consumables. Get back to growing gardens. Switch to hybrid vehicles. Turn off lights, turn down the thermostat and be conscious of the footprint we leave behind.
I like it when the next generation walks in our footsteps and adopts the things we are good at (living with less, gardening and caring for the soil) but I’m equally thrilled that their footsteps are ones I want to travel in as well.
Together, we can combine our generational intelligences and skill sets to create a new level of awareness and commitment to improving our environment.
On behalf of my generation, I am sorry for all the plastics I did use and I’m sorry it's taken me this long to switch to such obvious, simple ways to replace them.
Together, we can do better! ◊