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It's time for a plastic fast

Thanksgiving has always been a favorite holiday of mine. As a child I loved the story of Pilgrims and Indians sharing harvest together.

As an adult, I recognize the original cooperative meal — whether based on truth or fable — was an anomaly in the context of European conquest and settlement of indigenous lands. More than remembrance of an historic event, for me Thanksgiving is a time to give thanks for the bounty our Earth provides.

But this year, I’m acutely aware that my gratitude is mixed with a sense of remorse — or dare I say guilt? — for my role in mistreatment of our planet. The recent U.N. report on climate change is a sound of alarm. And almost every day social media provides me with shocking evidence of plastic pollution in our oceans.

I’d like to pass the blame for environmental degradation to oil corporations and plastic manufacturers. But I need only to look at my own habits of consumption to realize that I am part of the problem.

That’s why I think it’s time for a fast. And what better time than the days leading up to Thanksgiving? Many of the world’s religions offer a period of fasting: Ramadan, Lent and Yom Kippur are some examples. Generally, fasting is a time for reflection, taking stock of our shortcomings and drawing closer to the Divine. The end of the fasting period is often marked by a feast.

This year I’m going on a plastic fast the four days before Thanksgiving. I’ll be fasting from single-use plastic — items that are meant to be thrown away after one use, such as water bottles and takeout containers. I’m beginning today.

Will I be able to avoid buying plastic for four days? Probably not. But I think I can reduce my plastic use by 50 percent. This means I will say no to the single-use beverage cup and its plastic straw. I will choose to buy in bulk instead of prepackaged items. I will reuse plastic produce bags rather than reach for new ones, and I’ll bring cloth shopping bags to the grocery store.

Will cutting my plastic use in half for four days make even a tiny dent in global plastic consumption? Hardly. But I know I’ll become more aware of the amount of plastic I use on a daily basis. It’s the first step in changing some detrimental habits. It may even motivate me to work toward community-wide solutions.

We’re not going to get rid of plastic overnight, but we can band together to collectively kick the plastic habit. I feel called to do my part in ensuring a sustainable future for our children and grandchildren.

Ellen Craine lives in Ashland.

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