I think everyone is familiar with the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, if not from the original Goethe poem then the one with Mickey Mouse and the dancing brooms in Fantasia. The story is simple: an inexperienced magician tries to take a shortcut that will allow him to finish his work without lifting a finger, only to discover that starting is one thing— you also have to know how to stop what you set in motion.
As I’ve been looking around my house trying to figure out where I can cut back on packaging and reduce plastic waste products, it’s this story that keeps popping into my mind. Practically everything I touch is plastic, from the containers that hold my food in the kitchen, to my body lotions and potions in the bathroom. Like the apprentice and his enchanted broom, plastic products have multiplied over the last half century without any forethought given to what happens next.
At one level it makes complete sense. The plastic of today is cheap to produce and is an ideal material for storing items: lightweight and virtually indestructible, it means that you can carry home a week’s shopping with ease and not worry about breaking it if you trip. But those qualities also make it incredibly dangerous to the environment: wrappers and bottles littered on land easily end up in water courses, eventually make their way to the ocean. That superpower of being indestructible turns out to be environmental kryptonite: plastic just doesn’t go away.
Which is one of the many reasons why it’s so great to see more and more people starting to make the switch to environmentally-friendly products. The recent backlash against plastic pollution has been in the headlines all year, and there has been a push to capitalise on this momentum with a “Plastic Freebruary” next month. I was already planning to take part in the established Plastic Free July, and have started to use up products in plastic containers and research potential substitutions to be ready to go when 1st July rolls around. I’ll be featuring some of these changes over the next several months, but if you’re interested in taking your own steps towards reducing your wasteline now, consider checking out the Treading My Own Path blog. Lindsay’s ethos of “do what you can” and practical suggestions are well worth reading.
In the story of the Sorcerer’s Apprentice, it’s not until the sorcerer himself shows up that the trouble caused by the apprentice is put to right. We don’t have the luxury of waiting for someone else to step in. If we want a cleaner environment to enjoy ourselves, and to hand down to the next generation, then it’s up to us to do the heavy lifting now.