Finding A Balance

About 16 years ago, I was in a supermarket with a friend getting groceries for the week. The produce section was where our shopping trip began. It was also where my awareness began…

I reached for a plastic bag to place some apples into it, as I had always done before. That’s when my friend stopped me and asked why I needed to use a plastic bag. “You’re going to carry them home in a bag, then wash them before you eat them, right?” Wah! She was totally right! That was the last time I ever reached for a plastic bag for my produce.

Nowadays, I’m very strict on products I buy with regards to packaging, where they come from, and so on. I add very little to the waste problem and feel good about that. However, this doesn’t give me the right to judge and shame others for their choices, and I need to be mindful of that.

butternut squash

Butternut squash halves wrapped in plastic. Why?

Often, I find myself in a shop behind someone who has purchased a lot of the same products as I have. The difference is, they, for some reason, have chosen theirs packaged in single-use plastic. If these products aren’t prepackaged, then these people place them into little plastic bags. Last year, my blood would have started to boil at the sight of this. A frustrated little voice inside my head would ask questions such as, “Why do you need to put one potato into a plastic bag?” Or, “why did you choose the mushrooms in a plastic container, instead of the loose mushrooms right beside them?” Or even, “A bag of lettuce? Seriously? Why not a loose head of lettuce? It’s right there!” Living in a massive city like Barcelona though, I’ve had to learn to accept that not everyone is as aware of our plastics and single-use waste situation, just as I wasn’t 16 years ago.

Big city life has taught me, amongst other things, tolerance and patience. Living in close proximity with so many people, it’s irrational to expect everyone to share the same values. Preaching and criticizing others for their choices only pushes them away from those trying to spread a positive message. Instead, trying to see things from another point of view would be far more effective. It may not always seem like it, but in the end, we’re all playing for the same team. Leading by example and spreading awareness in a positive way are two of the best ways to educate and empower others. Shunning those that make choices different to our own will only pull our team apart. Working together will keep us strong.


Mike Bilodeau is based on Barcelona, where he serves as the Regional Director of Plastic Oceans Europe.