A plastic free life–is it even possible? After all, plastic is everywhere: I can see at least 10 things made of or with plastic in my office right now. Plastic pollution is killing land, seas, animals, birds and fish alike. Plastic degrades at such a slow rate that it will still be there in thousands of years.
Living a plastic free life doesn’t mean just giving up on plastic grocery bags. It means making the choice, every day, to refuse to buy things made with new plastic and to look for alternatives. Living with a minimal amount of plastic is not easy, but it definitely is possible with the right attitude and a willingness to move past the easy fix.
Why live plastic free?
More than 300 million tons of plastic are produced each year. Most of this plastic is put in single-use products that will go in the dump less than one year after it was made. For all its convenience, however, plastic usage has had an immesurable toll on the environment–including human life and health.
- The chemicals used in plastic production can have harmful effects on human bodies and health, including hormonal changes.
- Animals ingest plastic debris and get poisoned or injured.
- Invasive species use floating plastic debris to find and invade new ecosystems.
- Plastic in landfills leak harmful chemicals in the soil, which can in turn poison essential groundwater.
- 8% of the world’s oil production goes to plastics, either as an ingredient or as energy to produce it.
BPAs and phtalates, both used in plastic production, have been shown to accumulate in human bodies and affect many different functions, like our endocrine systems.
These are only a few examples of the harmful effects of plastic on humans and the environment. Every day, we breathe, touch and ingest plastic chemicals through everything from the air we breathe to the food we eat. When you think about it, it’s pretty scary the amount of plastic we come into contact with every single day.
Living plastic free means taking better care of ourselves, our health and our environment. It also means focusing on recycling, on second-hand and durable products rather than cheap single-use stuff, and on repairing or upcycling whenever possible.
Reducing your plastic consumption can be done in several steps. Start with food: that’s where most single-use plastic can be found.
Plastic free at the grocery store
Yes, get rid of the single-use plastic grocery bag. But don’t be fooled by the new durable grocery bags sold in there: many of them are made with, you guessed it: plastic. Instead, keep ecological canvas tote bags in your car, in your home and in your purse or backpack. Make sure you never go without a bag! If you do forget them, though, ask for a paper bag to carry your food out.
Another place to reduce your plastic consumption is in the produce aisle. You know those single-use plastic produce bags? Don’t use them. They don’t have any practical purpose except to separate each produce from the rest of your food. But since you’re going to clean your produce before eating anyway, why bother? It’s just making more dangerous and polluting plastic for no reason at all. If you must absolutely keep your produce separate, you can use something like ECOBAGS or, even better, make them yourself from old linen or clothing.
To find good produce and food products not packed in plastic, visit your local farmer’s market. They usually are the most plastic free food shopping spots. Pack everything in your cloth bags, and you’re good to go!
Reduce packaging by visiting the bulk food section (or a bulk food store) with your own glass jars and canvas bags instead of, again, those pesky single-use plastic bags.
Bring your own containers to the butcher or fishmonger section, too: they’ll happily pack your product in paper and put it in your own container rather than in those styrofoam plates covered in plastic.
Avoid any product packed in plastic. Stop buying water bottles and other bottled juices. If you really like juice, get yourself some fresh fruit and make the juice yourself, at home.
Plastic free at home
Start storing your food in glass rather than plastic–glass freezes just as well as plastic with the appropriate precautions. Use stainless steel molds for ice and popsicles, and get rid of your non-stick cookware (they release nasty chemicals when heated).
Many personal care products contain actual plastic in the product. Look out for “polyethylene” and other “ethylenes” in the ingredient list. There are several ways to get yourself clean without plastic: homemade shampoo (or go “no-poo”), solid soaps packaged in paper, baking soda as deodorant, etc. The internet is full of tips on how to reduce plastic in the bathroom.
Of course, you won’t be able to avoid plastic completely. Electronics are built with plastic, but by choosing second-hand and previously-used products, you reduce the amount of plastic needed to make new ones.
Plastic free at home or at school and on the go
Bring your lunch in a cloth bag, stored in glass or stainless steel containers. Take your own plates and cutlery to work to avoid using single-use plastic utensils; at worst, ask for a bamboo alternative.
Encourage your family and your children to carry a reusable stainless steel water bottle for on-the-go drinking; a stainless steel mug for coffee is also a great idea, and many coffee shops give you a small rebate for bringing your own cup.
Can you reduce your plastic use today?
There are many reasons to reduce your use of plastic, most important for your and your family’s health. This list is far from exhaustive since plastic has made it to every single part of our lives, but it’s possible to reduce your plastic use significantly by taking on a few new, healthier habits.
How can you reduce your plastic use starting today?