Plastic. It is seriously everywhere you look! Just on my desk right now (which is admittedly quite messy at the moment), these are the plastics: cell phone, cell phone case, supplement bottle, book (the cover), credit card, mechanical pencil, a handful of sharpies, and remote control. And that isn’t even accounting for the computer itself or the desk it sits on or the trash can beneath it. Yikes.
Do you think about the amount of plastic that you consume every day? I know that two years ago, it rarely if ever crossed my mind. But as I began moving towards a more natural, toxin-free lifestyle, I dug deeper into how much plastic we come into contact with on a daily basis and what that means for our bodies.
But plastic is ok because you can recycle it, right? Well…no. Plastic does not break down easily, and less than 10% of the world’s produced plastic is recycled, which means landfills and oceans are full of plastic. There are seven different types of plastic, and not all of them can even be recycled. Those that can be recycled have to be recycled within their specific categories, and the sorting and processing is expensive and cost intensive. Instead of buying items that you think can be recycled, let’s look at some alternatives to the plastic we use every day.
The plastic grocery bags that you get anywhere from farmer’s markets to Walmart have been outlawed in India and parts of Europe. It is estimated that Americans use a billion plastic bags every year, and the majority of those end up in our water sources and in our landfills, harming and endangering wildlife.
The reusable grocery bag has become quite popular in the last few years. I try to always keep at least one in my car, and take multiple ones with me when I know I will be hitting the produce stand, farmer’s markets, etc. There are so many options for what kind of bags to use, including these canvas bags I saw on Amazon. I have also seen some tutorials on Pinterest on how to make your own bags from old t-shirts, bed sheets, etc. – that would be truly plastic free!
When buying produce, don’t use millions of the thin little bags to bag your produce. Most of your produce doesn’t even need a bag: bananas, oranges, avocados, onions, garlic…you get my point. If you do need a bag, say for Brussels sprouts or green beans, bring your own mesh bags like these or these. They are lightweight, washable, and you can tuck them in your purse or pocket on the way to do your shopping.
Ziploc bags are another area where you can trim down your plastic use. I know how handy Ziploc bags can be, for everything from waterproof protection to carrying snacks to storing leftovers – these things can be used for just about anything! When we decided we wanted to cut back on our plastic use, this was one of the first areas we cut. Instead, I invested in a handful of these bags and we use them for packing lunches and storing leftovers. They are easily washable, either by hand or in the dishwasher, and they are very durable. Just remind your little ones that these bags need to stay in the lunch box and not end up in the trash in the school cafeteria!
I have mentioned before how we store leftovers in glass containers like this Pyrex set. Admittedly, we are not 100% plastic free yet, but are so very close and I hope that after Christmas this year we will be able to fully ditch the plastic Tupperware/Rubbermaid containers. I have noticed in grocery stores that in the food storage area, there is a larger variety of glass containers, which is encouraging!
Dinnerware and Napkins
Disposable plates, forks, spoons, cups, and napkins are often prevalent in the kitchen of busy families. They make clean up a breeze, saving both time and (parental) energy. But are they the best option for your family or the environment? The reusable options today are endless. Essential Safe Products has some trendy and durable options for plates and cups, and just by doing a simple search on Amazon, you can find many options for stainless steel plates, silverware, and reusable cups.
Many families are also moving towards cloth napkins instead of filling their trash cans with the paper variety. They are a very frugal investment, and can often be found for pennies at yard sales or thrift shops (or ask your mom or aunt for one of their old sets)! Our contributor Joanna wrote this interesting piece on cloth napkins, including how to make cloth napkins an everyday occurrence and why cloth napkins are a wonderful practical option.
More About Plastic
Kate wrote about reducing plastic in other areas of the house today, so be sure to read all about that!
Are you looking for more information on plastics? I recently watched these two documentaries that do an excellent job of explaining the dangers of plastic: Plastic Planet and Bag It. Both of them can be found on Netflix streaming and at your local library:
How do you eliminate the use of plastics at your house? Which one of these would be the easiest switch for you?
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