Our environment is in peril, and the current global pandemic, with its slew of non-reusable waste (i.e.: gloves and masks), is not helping the situation. Between global warming and increasingly polluted oceans, it is each of our individual responsibilities to protect the planet and its future, any way we can through Environmental Responsibility. One clear way to do this is to go plastic-free—or at the least significantly reduce single-use plastics in our own lives. What’s really so bad about plastic, you may ask? Well, a lot! One key issue is that plastics are laced with chemicals that are not only damaging to humans but can be poisonous to animals while disrupting their ecosystems. Moreover, these chemicals can spread to groundwater when buried deep in landfills, and damage natural water supplies. On top of that, the production of plastics is a major user of fossil fuels. Essentially, greatly reducing plastic use, especially when done collectively, will positively affect the environment, and help preserve our planet and its precious resources for generations to come.
Study up on what actually is plastic…you will likely be surprised at just how much plastic is incorporated into your daily life—from sunscreen bottles to hummus containers, it’s everywhere. Also, learn about the different types of plastic, there are 7 (Polyethylene Terephthalate (PETE or PET), High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE), Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC), Low-Density Polyethylene (LDPE), Polypropylene (PP), Polystyrene or Styrofoam (PS), Miscellaneous plastics (includes: polycarbonate, polylactide, acrylic, acrylonitrile butadiene, styrene, fiberglass, and nylon)). You can find more info on this in the graphic below. For help on how to cut down use, reduce, and even rid yourself of plastic-use, I Quit Plastics & You Can Too by Kate Nelson and 101 Ways To Go Zero Waste by Kathryn Kellogg are both great resources to explore.
Courtesy of: https://www.plasticpollutioncoalition.org
Start with the obvious.
Out-of-home plastics are often the ones we use the most carelessly. Things like water bottles, straws, coffee cups, grocery bags, and takeout/leftover boxes. Opt for bringing your own reusable alternatives (linen bags, glass straws, steel mugs, etc) to the store and when dining or drinking out. This is a huge plastic-saver.
Deep dive into your food.
Unfortunately, most packaged foods are stored in some form of plastic, which means you will need to give up frozen meals, sodas, plastic-bagged fruits and veggies, packaged meats, etc. This may sound daunting, but with local farmers’ markets providing organic and healthy produce, the switch is actually a win-win for both your health and the environment! And when possible, bring your own container for meat and fish options, if shopping at a butcher’s shop. When buying wine opt for natural cork stoppers, and if you’re getting some cheese to pair, choose an unwrapped wheel. Another pro tip: buy in bulk where you can use your own containers/bags, while also ensuring fewer trips to the store, which help reduce your carbon footprint.
Just because you’re giving up plastic does not mean you have to give up cleanliness! While most cleaning products are packaged with a ton of plastic, there are plenty of natural alternatives you can turn to. Clean the house with a vinegar and water mixture, which also happens to be non-toxic. Baking soda is another great addition that can even be used in place of dishwasher soap. Opt for powdered detergents that come in cardboard boxes, and use cleaning cloths or compressed natural cellulose sponges, which are often sold without packaging.
Use natural products, or make them yourself.
Most hygiene and beauty products come in plastic…but we have solutions for you! Switch to soap bars, buy shampoo and conditioner that’s plastic-free or make your own with baking soda and ACV, use baking soda mixed with tea tree oil as a deodorant (it’s seriously a miracle product!), opt for powdered toothpaste or eco-friendly Bite Toothpaste Bits, get solid shaving soap and switch to a reusable metal razor. While it may seem impossible at first, there are many homemade beauty hacks that can help you leave your plastics behind. Henna can be used for hair dye, coconut butter is a miracle worker on the skin, as are other nourishing oils like jojoba, and coffee grounds make a great face and body scrub.
Don’t be too hard on yourself.
The fact that you are taking the first, big, step towards a plastic-free lifestyle is huge! You should be proud. Know that it will not always be easy, and it will be tempting to slip back onto old plastic-full ways, but remember that your decisions are making a positive difference, a real impact. Do your best whenever possible, like a Whole Champion.