On the eve of the new year, as well as the new decade, most of us have resolutions in mind. The usual well-intended ones — eat more fiber, go to the fitness center, spend less time watching the news and more time out in the garden or volunteering at a food pantry or local school — are hard to adhere to, and while I want to be healthy as much as the next person, this year I’m giving up plastic, not desserts. By April 22, Earth Day, Maine will be joining California and Hawaii, as well as Puerto Rico and several other U.S. territories, in banning single-use plastic bags in grocery checkout lines. Stores will be allowed to charge at least five cents for recyclable paper or reusable plastic bags as long as the plastic bags are able to withstand 75 repeated uses and are made from heavier plastic. Since I already use recyclable bags for shopping, I decided to try and go further with the plastic ban. I may not be able to ride a bike around to run errands or purchase a new electric car, but I can certainly get a handle on the plastic in my life, even if it means no more plastic clamshells full of pretty salad mix in the depths of winter.

But those shells are recyclable, you say, and you would be correct. But as part of my new personal war on pollution I began subscribing online to Waste Today and Recycling Today, two newsletters produced for the recycling industry. They’re about the nuts and bolts of waste, the economic possibilities for solving our own management issues here in the U.S., rather than shipping our trash off to some Southeast Asian country so they can deal with it. I find the newsletters both heartening, for the ingenuity and enterprise many companies are employing to turn trash into treasure, and appalling: do we really need to use three billion plastic bottles every year? Even if the waste industry is resolved to let no plastic go unrecycled, we could make it all easier by just not using it in the first place.

It’s actually harder sometimes to give up plastic than it is to give up cookies. If one were to totally give up plastic, it would mean no more yogurt, cottage cheese or sour cream in your refrigerator. You can buy butter that’s packaged in cardboard and waxed paper, or eggs nested in cardboard, but only one yogurt, out of the dozens in the refrigerator case, comes in a glass pot. They’re cute pots, and you could find many uses for them in your life, but it’s not the yogurt I want. It makes me wonder why, if there’s such a trend toward buying local, we can’t revive the local milkman. For those who were not alive in the 1950s and ’60s, back then local dairies had vans and deliverymen who, like the postman, had routes and dropped off milk and cream at your house in real glass bottles — you know, like those bottles you find in antiques stores with names of long-gone local farms embossed on their sides. The milkman left a checklist with the milk so you could let him know that his next delivery should include milk, orange juice or, at this time of the year, even eggnog. If you didn’t have a protected porch or breezeway to set the bottles in, he supplied a small insulated box for your milk, and you placed the rinsed bottles inside to be returned. Sometimes, temperatures dropped so low that the insulated boxes didn’t provide enough protection and the cream on top of the milk froze and pushed up the paper lids. The frozen cream looked like lolling tongues as it hung out over the bottles, a transformation that was a source of wonder to small children. While this low-tech system may seem slightly more modern than milking your own cow or using a butter churn, don’t tell me it’s not economically viable; after reading the waste industry newsletters, I’m beginning to believe that anything can be turned to profit if the will is there.

My personal war on plastic may not overturn the dairy industry, but we are making conscious little changes, like using parchment paper and waxed paper to wrap leftovers these days. We also use some beeswax-impregnated fabric, antique Pyrex containers and mason jars of all sizes. Instead of plastic sponges we’ve switched to natural scrub brushes and Swedish dish cloths, which are made out of cellulose and take the place of paper towels for many cleanups. To cover casseroles that are traveling to a party or potluck, we use foil, then wipe it clean to use again.

As my family already knows, I tried not to give any plastic gifts this Christmas, even though some of my grandchildren spend countless hours playing with Legos. A mitigating factor is that a large portion of their voluminous collection was handed down to them, and once they have outgrown them, they will be passed on to younger brothers or sisters of their playmates, so Legos receive a plastic dispensation. Still, I bought books to be read and games to be played face to face with other live people, and small but real kitchen tools for the young cookie-making set, and they were delighted to have them. The adults even received Swedish dishcloths, tucked into their gift baskets.

While I’ll have to continue making choices as the new year proceeds — choosing the mushrooms packed in the cardboard box, buying loose produce instead of that wrapped in plastic, buying the laundry powder in the cardboard box — not bringing plastic home with you does become a habit. Will it make a difference? I’m beginning to believe that if the demand is there for alternative packaging, that if we all opt for cans and glass bottles instead of plastic beverage containers, if we vote with our dollars to not buy the plastic, we can make it clear that we want less of it in our lives. As I type this and look around, I see my dog in her high-impact plastic crate, the plastic coffeemaker with the glass carafe, a cheery red plastic cutting board and bright yellow ladle, the plastic Brita water filter (so we don’t buy plastic-bottled water). Plastic everywhere, but at least plastic with years of use built into it. We can use plastic responsibly, but we need to stop being a throwaway society. Here’s to a happy plastic-free New Year!