Wednesday, September 5, 2007

This disposable American life.

Have you seen these yet?

If you haven't- they are basically zip-style bags designed to be used in the microwave for steaming food (I think they're vented or something).

Thank jeebus almighty that we finally have reason to stop actually using that fancy stainless-steel cookware that Aunt Gert spent $600 on for our wedding gift. How relieved are we that we won't have to actually use our two functioning hands to go through the physical drudgery of actually loading the dishwasher, or HOLY SHIT NO!- wash dishes by hand.

What is wrong with us?

I regularly meet people who consider this sort of product to be innovative and yet another fine representation of American ingenuity at work. Is it clever? Sure. Do we need another plastic product that we simply toss in the trash with the mantra "out of sight, out of mind"?

If you're wondering- the answer, my kiddos, is no.

I rarely get preachy here, but someone tell me how this product is necessary. Someone tell me how this improves our quality of life. Sure, I guess the argument could be made that, by not having to wash dishes, the user of such a thing would have 22.5 more seconds to spend with their family. By simply tossing the soiled bag aside, the user would have all the time needed to (finally!) complete their thesis on the impact of hairbrushes on 18th century Chinese literature.

I seriously doubt it. My guess is they would just waste the extra time updating their blog.

I actually saw individually wrapped prunes in the grocery store the other day.
Individually. Wrapped. Prunes.

So, you're telling me that having free-flowing bowels is well worth the 36 plastic wrappers that will linger in a landfill until long after You yourself are fodder for worms?

I eat prunes. I try to buy them in bulk in canisters (they used to be paper/cardboard, but of course now they're in plastic- I can't win) that I re-use as many times as I can.

I'm trying to think of an occasion where I would want an individually-wrapped prune. If I wanted some with my lunch, I would just use a reusable container of some sort. Yes, I know that would involve actually WASHING something, but I consider that my cardio most days. Perhaps if I had a sudden urge to carry prunes around and hand them out like candy to strangers...but I'm not sure how well that would go over.

"Her sir- have a prune!"
"Have a prune! Keeps you regular!"
"Fuck you and your dried plums, weirdo."

Yeah, not so much.

I guess I'm just consistently amazed and appalled at the amount of crap out there. I don't need my prunes packaged 13 different ways. I don't need that many choices. I don't want that many choices if it means more and more garbage. I am capable of taking out a pan and cooking things. I am capable of putting food in a container.

When did life get reduced to: "how fast can we do this?" "can I just throw this away?" and "sure this kitchen cost $50k to remodel but I'll be damned if I'm going to get it dirty!"

I find myself yelling at the t.v. a lot lately, usually the same question:
"Is this really necessary???"

So much of it isn't. Disposable toilet brushes, disposable bags, one-use disposable eye cream dispensers, disposable prune wrappers...
I guess as long as people keep buying it, they'll keep making it.

Personally, I have been trying to do what I can to stop this nonsense. Am I perfect? Hell no. I use ziplocs occasionally, I use saran wrap occasionally, I occasionally buy a bottle of water.
I think the difference we can make is in how often we use this crap. My roll of saran wrap is only half gone and I bought it before Christmas. I use a regular toilet brush.

I'm not telling you what to do, I'm not the boss of you.

And, I'm really not looking for a lengthy debate or sermon on the evils of these sort of products (obviously I get it) or why I'm a liberal nutjob for even suggesting that we shouldn't buy shit that we don't need but that our inherent laziness steers us towards.

I just have to question what drives us to buy this junk, why even people who are usually fairly eco-conscious wouldn't think twice about buying microwave steaming bags because, hey! they're easy, and I'm tired, and I need to walk the dog, and I need to wash my hair...

When did it all start becoming just about what's easy, what's quick, what's the shortest route? I know the media is a huge part of all of this, I get that, and that's a whole other discussion entirely. I just have to wonder when we became so much like beef cattle being herded on slaughterin' day- the many guided by the few to what promises to be a tremendously unhappy ending.

Really though-
Is it all really necessary?
Are we better for having it?
Are we really saving time?
Or, are we blindly forging forth, oblivious to the consequences?
Like you, I don't have all the answers either. Just lots of questions.


Kate said...

Amen, sister.

Disposability is SUCH an American thing. I'm realizing this more and more at work, where 99% of our production employees are new to the US. I was bitching to my sister last weekend about people putting trash in the (bilingually signed) recycling bin. She said to me, "maybe they don't have recycling in Thai refugee camps, Kate. Maybe there is nothing to recycle". As Americans, we've become accustomed to So. Much. Stuff.

I hate that mentality. I'm not advocating saving twist ties, but all this plastic plastic plastic throwitaway throwitaway is gross.

Butrfly Garden said...


You are SO right. For three years now, I've made very small changes (one at a time) to make myself a little more 'green' - I'm still not Super Eco Lady or anything - but one thing I definitely DON'T do is buy MORE stuff that is bad.

This morning I told my kids that if they wanted baked doritos with their lunch again tomorrow that they'd have to bring their ziplock back in their lunch bag. "Are they expensive" NB asked. "No - I just hate having to use a whole new bag every day when you're taking the same thing. It's very bad for the environment." I try to brainwash - I mean teach them about that stuff as much as I can. Hopefully, they will grow up thinking "Do I really need a disposable _____?"

Beauteous post, whiskey. Mother Earth Loves You.

abbersnail said...

Hell yes.

I try to live my life as waste-free as possible. It's amazing to me, with composting and recycling city-wide, how little actual garbage I create in a week. I regularly complain to the Trader Joe's staff about their plastic-wrapped produce. Come ON people. You do not need four apples pre-packaged in a handy container.

This subject gets me SO MAD that I'm just going to stop now, before I write my own blog entry in your comments.


Winter said...

Oh man, I want to go out and buy that now.

Lollie said...

As far as I can tell, the only reason to have an individually wrapped prune is so that you can throw it in your child's lunch bag. You know, the child who has been eating crap his entire life so that he can finally do just that...CRAP. Our children are suffering from a major case of constawaddy folks. Feed them the prunes, but I like the idea of the bulk, wrinkly, poo-enablers being carried in reusable tiny teeny Gladware, Tupperware or some such ware.

Also, YAY canvas grocery bags!

Gretta said...

Girl, I am with you on this. Those Swiffer things are just as evil.

Rebecca said...

you have individually wrappped prunes and disposable toilet brushes in the states???

you guys are SO lucky!

Amaya said...

I recently started to notice how often I buy things. Rarely do I go more than a few days without taking a trip to the grocery store or the pharmacy but do I really need to go there as often as I do? The answer is most definitely no. It's convenient. It's on my way. It's much easier than rummaging through my cupboards. And it has to stop.
Environment aside (which is a huge aside), I'm wasting so much of my hard earned money. And for what? Granola bars? Nice smelling lotion?
Looking back on my life I don't want to think: "where did it all go? and for what?"
I'm keeping track of what I spend my money on and how important it is in the grand scheme of things. I have a feeling the list is going to make me sick.

nancypearlwannabe said...

Do people really ever need just ONE SINGLE prune?

Jess Wundrun said...

I just started a book called "Exposed". I am learning that in Europe companies do a "life-cycle" evaluation and have to pay a tax for products that are over-packaged or that negatively impact the environment through their life cycle because of toxic ingredients or bad chemicals.

Most major American consumer products companies make or package their products differently for Europe than they do for us. We are the new third world dumping ground.

Ummm, I save my twist ties.

metalia said...

First of all, HELL yes. So well-put.

Second, what I find interesting about the individually wrapped prunes is that they're called "Ones"...shouldn't they be called, um, Twos? On account of what they generally bring about?

Shannon Erin said...

I'd truly never thought about it that way. You're totally right. I'd better shape up. No more ziplocs for me. No joke.

Winter said...

Wish you were the boss of me. Maybe I'd get some stuff done.

Whiskeymarie said...

Ms. K- Yes, indeed. We need to recycle because we're such icky consumers. Ick. Us.

B- I love that you are brainwashing, I mean- INFLUENCING your kids. Brainwash away, my dear.

Abbs- S.F. seems very on top of things, but it is funny how places like T. Joes use so much damn packaging.

Winter- You are slightly evil and I love you. I would love to be the boss of you, but honestly- I don't think th two of us would get much done. We'd probably just make fun of each other trying to do stuff and end up drinking margaritas.

Lol- No shit! Seriously! Let's just start telling kids that prunes will make them grow up to be rich and famous.

Travelg- Yes indeed. I had a serious guilt thing over the swiffers. I switched to Method brand stuff which is WAY more eco-friendly, and I hate myself for uttering "eco-friendly". Ick.

R- yes, laugh away, my dear. Before you know it we evil Americans will have tricked you Aussies out of all your delicious wine in trade for disposable crapper brushes.

Amaya- after this weekend I can't even THINK about the spending thing. God, I waste $$ on soooo many unnecessary trips. We would be millionaires now if I didn't need my daily fix of rotisserie chicken from Kowalski's.

NPW- No, seriously- I have to stop myself from eating too many, if you know what I mean. I'd eat the whole canister if I could. Then I'd be "out" for like, a week.

Jess- Word. This is why the rest of the world hates us- can't say I blame them.

Metalia- I agree. I use em' for the twos. Let's just call them that.

Shannon- I don't know if I can totally 86 ziplocs, but I seriously use about 4 a year. They really are evil. Treat them as such.

Winter- How about I just be your motivational speaker?
Get a job!!!
Or don't!!!
No pressure!!!

I really need to prepare more for these things...

feisty said...

great post. nice to see so many positive comments too. we are NOT alone!!!!

(my last freakout like this was when i discovered disposable wax sheets to put over cutting boards...duh, its a CUTTING board. cut the shit on top it and wash it!)

Sassmaster said...

I save twist ties, too, and feel guilty every time I throw away a ziploc. My mom used to wash and reuse them (and demand we bring them home from school, butrfly4404).

My little revelation came when I learned that all those "disposable" anti-bacterial wipes, baby wipes, (and diapers, feminine napkins, etc.) that I assumed were made from paper products are actually polyester, also known as plastic! I hate those stupid commercial where they germaphobically encourage us to be disgusted by sponges and use disposable anti-bacterial wipes. It's not gross to reuse a sponge or rag! God. Also, also this anti-bacterial shit is encouraging the development of anti-biotic-resistant strains of bacteria. Just wash your hands with regular soap and stop freaking out! As someone who lives in squalor, I can tell you that I'd rather imbibe a few germs than the chemicals it takes to kill them.

OK, sorry. You touched a nerve.

Flenker said...

I don't know if I could just condense my thoughts into one little comment, so I'll just say that I agree with you completely. Not just a little, but completely.

Nocturnal said...

You do bring up a good point now that you mention it, most agreed.


Stacy said...

A-MEN. Aaaaaaymen! I re-fill all my plastic bottles @ the co-op so I don't buy new ones. I especially like the Nature's Gate conditioner. It looks like applesauce, but makes my hair smell AWESOME (instead of food, like it normally does). My hubster thinks I'm whack for washing the ziplocs, but I've finally trained him to recycle.

Katrin said...

I am shocked! Disposable toilet brushes? We dispose of ours after about one or two years, when it got really, really gross. I don't own ANY zip-loc bags (or anything else in that region). We have six different garbages in a two-person household to recycle everything. AND - using a microwave to cook your vegetables is so beyond my comprehension!

lizgwiz said...

I try to be as responsible as I can in the disposable department, but I will confess that I do use a toilet brush with the little disposable pads. But they're the tiny, flushable, biodegradable ones, I swear. I just always hated regular toilet brushes. They completely ick me out.

But to offset it--I reuse Ziplocs and twist ties, never throw away any container that can be reused to store something (and thus never have to purchase storage containers) and reuse plastic grocery bags to scoop cat litter. Does all that help? ;)

Also, have you noticed the prune growers' new marketing ploy? They're no longer prunes, they're "dried plums." No more prune juice--it's "plum juice." Sadly, it's probably working, since the average American consumer is an idiot.

Nature Girl said...

Yeah! And plus....all that plastic winding up in landfills and the ocean is choking the life out turtles and other beloved animals. Peoples ignorance on the whole thing is really killing me slowly. I got to extremems to not use too much plastic wrap and all that other garbage and the other members of my household go around sabotaging me at every turn. It's making me crazy!
and them lazy!

minijonb said...

if it's not disposable, i can't use it. that's just how i roll. it dives my girlfriend crazy.

JahFreedom64 said...

Mikey wants us to all carry our weekly garbage everywhere we go. If we had to tote the things we "throw away" for a solid week, maybe we'd get a clue about how much waste we produce.
And cut back!!

Anonymous said...

Sign on the wall of a company cafeteria in Norway:
Reuse everything. Do not throw anything away.

Chiada said...

I totally agree with you on all of that. Husband and I use reusable glass containers for lunch, storing stuff in the fridge, etc. Disposable is no-no except for maybe diapers, but then again, I wouldn't know. All I know is that my Flower Child mom used cloth ones on us.

Yeah, I get more and more pissed every day when I see Spending!Consumerism!Shopping!New!LatestFashions! and all that "keeping up with the Jones'" crap. Really bugs me how wasteful some people can be. Grrr.

Yay for canvas/reusable grocery bags!
Yay for reusable containers!
Yay for buying from the bulk bin and using your own container!
Yay for doing things the "old fashioned" way.

McGone said...

Remember years ago when "Supersize Me" came out and all the fast food joints swore they would make their portions smaller/healthier? A few months later, Taco Bell comes out with their "Fourth Meal" campaign, which was basically "Sure, it's got less calories in one sitting, but why not eat an entirely different meal of this crap later in the day?" Have you gotten a medium drink at Wendy's lately? I did, and some high school kids asked if they could buy "that keg" from of me. I think the large drink has its own zip code.

So much for being sensitive to the obesity problem. They play the game until we aren't looking their way anymore, then they make up their losses by this smoke and mirror crap.

So now that we are supposed to be more conscious about the fact that we are jamming a shiv in Mother Earth's back, more and more of these products are coming out blinding us with convenience. And we are a society that prides our "right now" over our kids future.

I'm stepping off my soap box. Great post, WM.

Stacey said...

and sadly these types of products will continue to exist because there is the demand. Everyone seems to want that which is quick and easy w/o thinking of the repercussions on mother earth long term. I must say I've been guilty of that myself on occasion.
*sigh* Reminders are good and necessary!
Thanks WM

Anonymous said...

I wash and reuse my ziplocs not so much for the green effect but because I'm cheap like that. I saw these steamer bags and I like them if nothing else so I can use them at work. I've been trying to find a plastic steamer pot I can keep at work but our micro is tiny so none have fit so far. Also, the prunes! LOL, the prunes! Yeah, I like them so much I need to grab a couple individually wrapped ones to keep on me at all times! Sweet!

viciousrumours said...

I did actually buy some of those bags for a friend of mine. She and her husband are 75. He's diabetic. Steamed food is better for him, but they microwave a lot of things because they eat tiny portions. I bought them so she would have an quick, easy way to steam the veggies from his garden. Some days she doesn't feel well enough to cook for long periods of time..or stand to do the dishes afterwards. So in that sense they do have a purpose.

And if you think individually wrapped prunes are bad, have ya seen the individually wrapped Tic Tac's? Yeah..and they come in "gift boxes". I think it's something you would give someone you secretly hate. "Hey Fred! Happy Birthday!" (HA HA..have fun unwrapping each and every tiny little Tic Tac you bastard)

Whiskeymarie said...

O.k, Rumour, I'll give ya' that one...

And yeah, the tic tac thing is ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

I take plastic bags back to the grocery because they have a recycle box.
Twist ties are good to separate Christmas lights, tie up decorations for Halloween, etc.
Metal cans, paper, glass and plastic bottles go to the recycle place.
I hate to throw away butter containers, zip locks, etc. I have very little trash now.
No need for individually wrapped anything. Who wants too have to unwrap everything. I won't go into the plastic wrapped stuff you can't open without a chainsaw!

Stefanie said...

Amen, lady.

I had the exact same thought when I saw the commercial for the individually wrapped prunes. (I don't actually buy prunes, but having them individually packaged sure isn't going to make me start.)

I have similar wrath for all those disposable wipes out there. I'll admit I love the Swiffer, but I can wipe my counters with a washable and reusable rag, thank you.

Anonymous said...

Well how about this: I sort of knew in the back of my mind that I was being duped when I picked up a $2.50 bottle of Clorox Anywhere Hard Surface Cleaner the other day. It's probably just bleach, I thought. But marketing casualty that I am, I bought it. I'll be so clean, I safe! When I got home I looked at the guessed it: a tiny, tiny drop of bleach in a big plastic bottle of water that we will, presumably, throw away and buy another of. ($2.50 for a DROP of bleach! Can you imagine the evil, evil, irresponsible, genius of the Clorox people.)

Anonymous said...

Throw it away?
There is no away.