Why reduce plastic?
To start off, let’s briefly discuss why we would even want to reduce plastic in the first place…
As quoted from one of the studies I linked to below, researchers say: “Plastic, one of the most preferred materials in today’s industrial world is posing serious threat to environment and consumer’s health in many direct and indirect ways. Exposure to harmful chemicals during manufacturing, leaching in the stored food items while using plastic packages or chewing of plastic teethers and toys by children are linked with severe adverse health outcomes such as cancers, birth defects, impaired immunity, endocrine disruption, developmental and reproductive effects etc. Promotion of plastics substitutes and safe disposal of plastic waste requires urgent and definitive action to take care of this potential health hazard in future.”
The ecology center says “Americans are generating more plastic trash than ever, and very little of it gets recycled. Plastics and their byproducts are littering our cities, oceans, and waterways.”
The plastic tide group says “The Plastic Tide is growing by 8 million metric tonnes a year. If nothing is done, it is estimated that this figure will rise to 80 million metric tonnes a year by 2025. ”
To sum it up…
It would be best for our health and the environment if we all tried to use less plastic. With that said, I put together 10 quick & easy tips for reducing plastic as well as links to my favorite products.
10 Tips to Reduce Plastic
- Stop using one-time use plastic water bottles. If you are not going to do anything else on this list, just do this one thing and it will make a huge impact to your health and the environment. Plastic water bottles are full of harmful BPA and BPS that are endocrine disruptors which negatively impact your hormones. The longer the water bottle sits in the hot sun the worse it is and you have no idea how long the bottles were sitting on crates outside waiting to be shipped or how hot and long the delivery truck was on the way to the store. From an environmental perspective these are some of our earth’s greatest threats. Water bottles are used so commonly that most can’t be recycled and they end up in the landfills or in the ocean. Another reason I decided to put this one at the top of the list is because it’s one of the most easiest changes to make. All you have to do is fill up a reusable water bottle at home or at work before you leave and take it with you. It might take you 10 more seconds than grabbing a pre-filled one but it will be so much better for your health and for the environment. There are so many good options out there for water bottles. I will share my favorite which is the Klean Kanteen.
- Make choices to reduce other one-time use plastics. When you go to the coffee shop take your mug or coffee canteen with you. When I get a coffee at my work’s coffee shop I will ask for a mug. However, when I am traveling at an airport it’s just not feasible for me to take an extra mug or canteen with me for coffee when I already have my water bottle. In those rare cases depending on the situation I may decide to not get a lid. It least then I am using the paper cup which is biodegradable and not the plastic lid. However, I am not perfect and will need to get the lid sometimes especially if I am about to board a plane! I am giving this example because it’s not about being perfect, it’s just about making different choices when we can. At our house we cook 4-5 times per week and eat a lot of leftovers. We usually will only get takeout once per week or even once per every other week. Some of the places have eco-friendly takeout boxes but others use plastic containers. We are not so extreme that we won’t eat at a certain place because they don’t have eco-friendly takeout boxes but I will bring it up to the manager so they know their customers are thinking about that. For some people that eat takeout everyday, the waste associated with it can be a lot. Think about cooking more at home (which will be healthier anyway!) and reducing takeout waste. Another tip is when throwing a birthday party order bamboo utensils instead of plastic.
- Change storage containers to glass! I like pyrex brand which I normally look for on discount at Costco, but even amazon has some great deals on glass storage containers. I replaced all of my Tupperware with glass storage containers a few years ago and I am so glad I did. It makes it so easy to re-heat items directly in the container (without the lid of course). Even re-usable plastic can be problematic when it is heated. Get plenty of storage containers in different sizes. We have a ton of the small round ones that I use for things I used to use a ziplock bag for (like cut up green onions) or for Wyatt’s lunch that I send to his school that will get re-heated.
- Replace ziplock bags with these reusable silicone bags.
- Replace plastic wrap with reusable beeswax wrap.
- Take reusable shopping bags with you to the grocery store and other stores. Also, at some grocery stores (like Whole Foods) they have a paper bag option instead of plastic for the produce section. I will try to use paper for all the fruit items that will just be dumped into the fruit drawer anyway. If there is an item that does particularly well in a plastic product bag, for example cilantro then I will use a plastic bag but then I re-use it for our chicken/compost bin a few times and then it goes into the recycling. Again, it’s not about being perfect but just making better choices that works for your family.
- Buy items in bulk when you can. Some items freeze really well. Sometimes when we buy items in bulk we can use less plastic because we are not frequently buying the smaller versions. This doesn’t always work out that way but it’s just something to keep in mind.
- Change out baby items to non-toxic versions. Look into the brand and how the product is manufactured. My kids still have plastic toys that they get as gifts from people but I did choose to replace the teethers and all the items they eat on and drink out of to healthier versions.
- Refill cleaners instead of buying new bottles each time. This is one of the reasons I used to make my own household cleaners. Now I use Branch Basics which makes refilling the same cleaners with their concentrate + water so easy.
- Refill soap dispensers instead of buying new bottles each time. Dr. Bronner’s make this easy because you can buy hand soap in bulk and refill the smaller soap dispensers.
This is not plastic related so I didn’t include in the list above, but related to this topic and a helpful reminder is to try and reduce the use of paper towels by keeping a microfiber cleaning cloth nearby in the kitchen and having real napkins to use at dinner time. Paper towels are not nearly as harmful as plastic because they are compostable and in some brands don’t contain harmful chemicals. However, I do think this is a convenience item that we could all use less of. I am also listing this here because out of all the items this one is the hardest habit change for me personally. Especially with having young children. Paper towels are so convenient. So I am definitly not committing to doing without them. However, I am aware of my use and want to try and reduce use as much as possible.
For more information on the plastic issue here are some additional resources:
I hope my simple 10 tips for reducing plastic was helpful. If you have any tips for reducing plastic in your home share them below in the comments. I would love to hear them!