The View from the Classroom Window

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Plastic in Our World: Week 1 Reflection and Action

Here at the end of our first week, let's take a few minutes to reflect upon what we have learned about plastic.

The key ideas for our family were that there are positive and negative things about plastic--plastic itself is not necessarily bad, but it is good for some applications, and not good for others. Also, some characteristics of plastic, like its long life, can be both good and bad. Similarily, all the ways we use plastic are not necessarily bad--but can be wise or unwise.

With your kids
1. Summarize some of the negative qualities and/or applications you have learned about plastic. Older kids can do this in their Plastic Research Journal (see Day 4).

Then summarize some of the positive.

To help brainstorm, use the list at the bottom of this article as a starting point. Or go back to Day 1's observations about how you use plastic in your own home. A couple of the things my family talked about were the ways doctors use plastics to help repair people's bodies--like hearts and joints. And in places in the world where the local water is not safe to drink, plastic bottles or bags of purified water can be a necessity of life (albeit not a permanent solution!).

2. When your one week of plastic collection is up, take the box/bag to the driveway or someplace where you can dump it all out and take a good look at what you have accumulated (don't dump in on grass, as you might lose small pieces). Observe the kinds of plastic your family seems to be using up and throwing out. Consider if these reflect wise or unwise use of plastic. If you determine together that some of your plastic waste is unnecessary, brainstorm alternative solutions.

3. Discuss as a family how you can together make one positive change in how you use plastic, and then start doing it. (See our family's list below, or check out Fake Plastic Fish for LOTS of ideas.)

Be sure to re-bag your Week 1 plastic trash collection--you will want to save it for one more week. But this is the time to start a second collection for Week 2, in a separate bag/box.


The guy who made the documentary "Addicted to Plastic" said it well; let's not demonize plastic, but instead treat it as the amazingly versatile, valuable product that it is. It comes down to being wise in our understanding and use of it. Wise is not making it just to throw away (as in all single-use applications, like disposable dinnerware). And some plastics are not as safe as we would like to think, and should not be used in some of the ways we routinely use them. And if everybody just made one small change in how we use plastic unwisely, it would add up big time.

Thanks for being a part of our first week's study! Please keep coming back for the second week, and lots more info and ideas. : )

Website of the day
Watch this free PBS documentary to see how scientists can use all that trash floating in the ocean (bad) to learn more about the ocean's currents (good)!*


Five ways our family is changing our plastic lifestyle, for the better:

--Choosing not to use plastic for storing food, whenever possible.
--Now that it is summer, using fresh tomatoes in all recipes, instead of plastic-lined cans of tomatoes.
--Buying produce at places where we can take our own bags for it, like the farmer's market or places that have bulk food.
--Being very careful when shopping at places that overpackage produce, like Trader Joe's.
--Choosing to go without personal items that come in plastic packaging (like shampoo and facial scrub) whenever possible.


*Thanks for the timely link, Suki! : )

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