June 19, 2014

Starving on a Full Stomach: Trader Joe’s, Dead Whales & Our Addiction to Plastic. ~ Hannah Harris

Plastic Beaches

“Only about 1,000 sperm whales are left in the Mediterranean.”

And all of them are threatened by the haphazard dumping of plastic waste by greenhouses that supply Aldi, the parent company of Trader Joe’s. One beautiful sperm whale is already dead, washed up on the beach with a stomach full of plastic sheeting and other waste, totaling 37 pounds in all.

This, tragically, isn’t new. Aquatic animals have been starving to death on plastic for years, showing up on shores as skeleton-encased bundles of the plastic we threw “away.”

Amazing (or horrifying), isn’t it? Plastic is a material that can spend time swirling around in the ocean and stewing in the digestive tract of a giant animal, and emerge recognizable. This illustrates that there really is no such thing as “safely disposing of” plastic and we’re far better off minimizing or eliminating its use in the first place.

The article I’m referencing here says this is all happening because “grocery stores are too lazy to monitor their suppliers,” which is gross and true, but ignores the reality that we are the consumers. We are the ones walking into Trader Joe’s and other stores week after tireless week, indiscriminately buying up plastic-packaged snacks, juices, sponges, soaps and shampoos, meats, fruits and vegetable like our lives depend on it.

Our lives don’t depend on it. We can exist—happier, healthier and more awake—without plastic. In fact, it’s becoming very clear that this is what our lives and the lives of our fellow creatures depend on.

God forbid we forget that we are all connected, and that our individual actions reverberate throughout the rest of creation.

It’s time for us to seriously weigh whether we’d rather have individually-packaged bags of trail mix or this entire aquatic ecosystem. It’s difficult, yes—sickeningly difficult—to make lifestyle changes that shift us away from plastic, but we let ourselves off the hook too easily if we say it’s impossible.

There are options, and they’re almost always more fun than mindlessly consuming alongside the rest of the world: Make your own plastic-free alternatives (then sell them)! Buy in bulk! Take the kids to the Farmer’s Market and make a morning of it!

We’re intelligent, capable creatures. In other words, let’s figure it the f*ck out.

So yes, by all means, sign the petition.

But let’s also take this opportunity to turn our gaze inward. Blaming corporations is our habit, and it’s easy and fun and makes us all feel like we’re activists, but let’s not forget that “to be aware of a single shortcoming in oneself is more useful than to be aware of a thousand in someone else.” ~ His Holiness The Dalai Lama.



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Editor: Travis May

Photo: Vberger via Wikimedia Commons

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hevanss Jun 21, 2014 11:51am

The solution to cleaning up our oceans isn't eliminating plastic entirely, or placing blame on corporations. Even if the information is outdated, the problem isn't. We are still dumping our trash and sewage into the ocean. The solution lies in a good faith effort in cleaning the muck we have dumped into the ocean (which realistically should start on land, otherwise we won't be able to make a dent), reducing our waste or initial consumption of products, and recycling what we have already used once. Consumers need to pressure businesses. We have to change our demands before anything will alter supply (including legislation a lot of the time).

jos Jun 20, 2014 3:52pm

I am sorry, but I feel that you are largely misleading people about this situation. First of all, this article is over a year old, and it does not link Trader Joe's at all to this situation. Second, it has been debunked, and acknowledged that the use of Trader Joe's name was to get peoples attention in the US since the so called "parent company" doesn't actually have connections anymore with Trader Joe's.

Here's the link to this article being debunked. Also a year old….

Rochelle Jun 20, 2014 3:48pm

Costco is the worst offender! Trader Joe's plastic wrap is nothing compared to those hard shells around apples, toothbrushes and everything else. My town has banned single use plastic bags. Now if only something could be done about the plastic packaging used so wantonly by big box stores.

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Hannah Harris

Hannah Harris grew up in the pure mountain air of Lake Tahoe, NV. She is now a yoga teacher and writer in San Francisco. She believes the the single best thing any of us can do for the rest of creation is find the time to truly know and then madly love ourselves. Find her on Instagram and Facebook or read more thoughts at Wayfaring Gypsy or on Rebelle Society.