Other Things I Will Give Up to Save the Planet

by Maya Sinha

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Recently California cities cracked down on drinking straws in an effort to reduce plastic pollution in the oceans. However, a 2017 environmental study found that up to 95 percent of ocean plastic originates from rivers in Asia and Africa, making the rest of the world responsible for a total of five percent.

So it’s unclear how much I personally can affect the “trash island” problem. But I will still make sacrifices just to show I’m doing my part. I’ve long quit using straws, for instance. But why stop at straws? Here are some other problematic items that I, for one, am willing to forego:

Shoelaces. Trappings of our decadent, wasteful modern lives, shoelaces need to be phased out. The kids can tie their sneakers with long strands of Tule grass, harvested from a verdant cliff in the Marin Headlands. Or they can just go barefoot. Later they can switch to loafers or flip-flops, because they have never been that athletic, anyway.

Hair clips. Unlike the more earth-friendly scrunchie, these tortoiseshell claws break after approximately four uses, requiring you to buy more. Sometimes you step on one or your kids snap them in half just for fun. Also in this category of throwaway hair accessories are barrettes, bobby pins and headbands, all future trash. That is why I now wear my hair in two waist-long braids, tied with Tule grass.

Playing cards. How many trees were sacrificed to this seemingly innocent game of Pinochle? Just one or two branches? But what about the dye? Somewhere, the runoff from the red crown on the Queen of Hearts is choking an otter. The Jack of Spades represents the landfill where all these cards will one day end up. Deal me out, it’s over.

Rubber bands. As we all know, rubber is a disgusting substance. It’s made of molten chemicals churned in the bowels of a factory that burps black smoke. No one would want their children near this petroleum-based elastomer. Rubber ducks are cool, but they are in the distinct minority of rubber goods. Rubber tires—blech, horrible! Rubber bands are just little stretchy tires. No.

Picture frames. Is it really necessary to “frame” our photos, or is this just a Western capitalist conceit? Think of the energy and raw material needed to make the millions upon millions of picture frames in current use. Starting today, I’m going to throw all my printed photos in a hand-carved wooden box or “memory coffin,” and then shove it under the bed. The coffin will be biodegradable, as will the photos. Dust to dust!

Store-bought yogurt. I always felt virtuous when I ate yogurt, but no more. That plastic cup is going to be floating in the sea with all the Asian trash. From now on, I’ll make my own yogurt, using the milk from my own cow in the backyard. I have plenty of time to do this, and coaxing food out of a single, shy bacterium sounds fun. So goodbye, commercially-packaged Greek yogurt. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.

Hot showers. Because I am not angry enough in the morning, I will from this day on take cold showers. These use less energy and—wait, is anyone home? Hello? Why is everyone hiding?

Pens. Let’s just review the similarities: Long and skinny? Check. Plastic? Yes. Chewed? Yes. Turns out, a pen is just a straw with ink in it! I am so done with pens. SO. DONE.

Home electronics. I just feel guilty about these for some reason.

Motorboats. I’m not saying I have a motorboat. I’m just saying that if I had one, I would get rid of it, probably by burning. I would not joyfully race it over the open water with the wind in my hair. I would definitely burn it and recycle the ashes into a purifying beauty mask. Then I would drink a refreshing glass of cucumber water. I totally would.



Maya Sinha writes a humor column for the Davis Enterprise. Raised in rural New Mexico, she now lives in Northern California with her family.