Plastic is so commonplace in our world today that it’s nearly impossible to imagine a life without it. Many of you may also be aware of the dangers of endocrine-disrupting chemicals found in plastics, and the danger they pose to our overall health. We know we should be using less plastic, but how can we do that when plastic is so ubiquitous in our modern world?
Here are a few simple ideas to help you cut down on plastics, keeping you and your family, as well as the earth, healthier and happier!
SWITCH TO GLASS OR TIN CONTAINERS
Use glass or tin containers to store pantry items such as pasta, nuts, spices, cereals, and beans. This is a doubly good idea because you can take your containers to the store with you and refill them from the bulk bins, which will often save you a significant amount of money over purchasing the branded and packaged products.
CARRY REUSABLE BAGS
Plastic bags are often used for minutes only before being discarded. And most plastic bags are not recycled, thus ending up in landfills where they take hundreds of years to break down or stay in the environment as toxic pollution. There are now all kinds of reusable bags out there. Choose what works for you, and carry it with you in your pocket, coat, purse or car.
AVOID PACKAGED, CANNED AND PROCESSED FOODS
If plastic packaging was eliminated, there would be a lot less plastic pollution and waste in the world, and people would be a lot healthier. Three tomatoes sitting on a styrofoam tray and covered in plastic clingwrap, Green peppers individually wrapped in plastic cellophane etc. are foods needlessly enveloped in toxic waste. The cans used for most canned foods are lined with an epoxy- a plastic coating containing bisphenol A (BPA). Avoiding these things also forces you to eat more fresh foods and be more creative in your food preparation, both of which contribute to a healthy, fulfilling life.
GIVE UP ON CHEWING GUMS
Gum was originally made from tree sap called chicle, a natural rubber, but when scientists created synthetic rubber, polyethylene and polyvinyl acetate began to replace the natural rubber in most gum. Not only are you chewing on plastic, but you may also be chewing on toxic plastic- polyvinyl acetate is manufactured using vinyl acetate, a chemical shown to cause tumours in lab rats. While it is possible to recycle your gum, it may be best to skip it and its plastic packaging altogether.
USE NON-PLASTIC TIFFINS AND WATER BOTTLES
Carry a reusable water bottle and travel mug wherever you go. Pack your lunch in glass (Mason jars are wonderfully versatile), stainless steel, stacking metal tiffins, cloth sandwich bags, a wooden Bento box, etc. Take reusables to the supermarket, farmers’ market, or wherever you’re shopping, and have them weighed before filling.
SHOP IN BULK
The more items you can buy in bulk, the more you’ll save in packaging. While this mentality has been the norm for years at special bulk food stores, it’s fortunately becoming more common in supermarkets. Alternatively, you may stock up foods packaged in glass jars. Search for items such as large wheels of cheese, without any plastic packaging, and stock up on those whenever possible.
BUY WOODEN TOYS
Buy wood toys instead of plastic. Quality wooden toys can be passed down for generations, or at least to several siblings, cousins or neighbours. They don’t end up in the landfill after a few brief months.
AVOID PLASTIC STRAWS
One of the easiest ways to keep plastic out of the landfill is to refuse plastic straws. Simply inform your waiter or waitress that you don’t need one, and make sure to specify this when ordering at a drive-thru. Can’t fathom giving up the convenience of straws? Purchase a reusable stainless steel or glass drinking straw. Restaurants are less likely to bring you a plastic one if they see that you’ve brought your own.
USE MATCHES (WOODEN OFCOURSE, NOT PLASTIC ONES)
If you need to light a candle, build a campfire or start a fire for any other reason, opt for matches over disposable plastic lighters. These cheap plastic devices sit in landfills for years and have even been found in dead birds’ stomachs. If you can’t bear to part with your lighter, pick up a refillable metal one to help cut down on waste.
USE NATURAL CLEANING PRODUCTS
There’s no need for multiple plastic bottles of tile cleaner, toilet cleaner and window cleaner if you have a few basics on hand like baking soda and vinegar. So free up some space, save some cash, and avoid those toxic chemicals by making your own cleaning products.
ADDITIONAL TIPS TO USE LESS PLASTIC:
- Use a razor with replaceable blades instead of a disposable razor.
- Don’t use plasticware at home and be sure to request restaurants do not pack them in your take-out box.
- Purchase food, like cereal, pasta, and rice from bulk bins and fill a reusable jute bag or container. You save money and unnecessary packaging.
- Make fresh squeezed juice or eat fruit instead of buying juice in plastic bottles. It’s healthier and better for the environment.
- Be creative and think of new uses for old items rather than discarding them or buying new ones. For example, plastic bottles can be turned into creative lighting fixtures or can be converted to a plantlet!
- Aim to repair or upgrade your devices instead of buying new ones. Alternately sell gadgets and computer parts, or find a facility at which you can turn them in for recycling.