The message in the plastic bottle reads SOS!
I hope by now we can all agreed that plastic pollution has become a huge environmental disaster upon our planet. Our landfills are overflowing and plastic is collecting throughout our parks, beaches and forests. There are 5 plastic islands, as long and wide as they are deep, in the vortexes of our oceans, the largest being referred to as the Great pacific Garbage Patch and is estimated at 1.6 million square kilometres, containing trillions of pieces of plastic. We know that when plastic becomes unstable in its polymer chains, it leaches harmful toxic chemicals into our water, air and soil. We are seeing more and more evidence of micro-plastic contamination in our food and drinking supplies. It can take decades and decades to degrade, continuing to pollute long after it has been discarded and forgotten about. Despite the alarm bells ringing as early as the 1960s, we continue to mass produce this hazardous environmental material without a second thought to the consequences on our Earth and health.
Unfortunately, our recycling programs don’t measure up. We have been fed the idea that all we need to do is recycle our plastic and we can have good conscience to keep doing what we’re doing. There was a major push from the plastic industry through the 80’s and 90’s to encourage people and municipalities to recycle plastic at a time when the plastic crisis was becoming more and more evident. It was a move to ensure the industry could avoid coming under fire. However, it is estimated that only about 9 percent of our plastic is actually properly recycled while the rest ends up…somewhere. Many types of plastic are just straight up hard to recycle. Easy to produce, disastrous to break back down into its constituent parts. If we can’t really recycle it, what is the solution? Reduce it, my friends!
Fact: The majority of our trash is related to food packaging as is most of the litter in our environment. Over 40 percent of plastic is intended for single use. How many single use plastics do you use in a day? A week? A year?
I know you are thinking that everything is in plastic these days and it is impossible to limit it. Yes…and also, no.
Yes, plastic is every where and the majority of our food is now packaged in plastic and some of this is unavoidable. However, I am here to share with you that reducing your plastic is possible and necessary. What it requires is taking personal responsibility and mindfully committing to doing your part. It demands of you to make deliberate and different decisions, creating priorities within your consumer habits. It also means leaning out of your comfort zone and doing something different. Just remember, nothing but good can come from shifting our complacency.
Refuse, reduce, re-use:
There are so many ways we can take different action when it comes to plastic in our kitchens and homes. Here are some ways to get started:
- Start by refusing to bring unnecessary and avoidable new plastics into your home in the first place.
- Bring your cloth shopping bag into the store and limit the need for a grocery bag. If you forget your cloth bag, opt for a paper bag or a box instead. You can also bring paper bags back to refill groceries next time.
- Reuse your veggie bags or invest in cotton mesh or cloth bulk bags. I have found the absolute best way to keep produce lasting longest is to store it in a cotton mesh bag and then in a plastic bag, re-used, of course! I can keep my produce fresh and perky for days to weeks! No need for food waste!
- Alternatively, just place your larger items on the conveyer without a bag and then store them in re-used bags, mesh bags or containers when you arrive home. Many items can store in a basket at room temperature or loose in the fridge as well.
- Some stores are now providing paper bags for smaller loose items like beans or hot peppers. Try to get these items loose as opposed to pre-packaged with cling wrap and styrofoam.
- Choose heads of lettuce over clam shells. Take them home and store in a re-used bag, or air tight container with paper towel or a dish towel.
- Bring your own jars or cloth bulk bags and purchase dry items in the bulk section. Some bulk food stores also carry items such as nut butters and condiments. Fill your jars!
- Always choose items in glass, cans or paper whenever the option is available. Condiments, honey, nut butters and hot sauces can all be found in glass. Look for eggs in cardboard and milk in glass.
- Choose beverages in glass or cans instead of plastic bottles.
- Avoid purchasing plastic water bottles and carry a refillable water bottle with you.
- Also bring a travel mug with you and give up the to go cup.
- Shop at a butchers or at the deli and Have your meat and cheeses wrapped in butcher paper.
- Take the time to make what you can from scratch to avoid pre-made foods, not only will you dramatically downsize your plastic, you will eat much healthier too!
- Make your own popcorn on the stovetop, season the way you like! Make homemade roasted beans, trail mix and granola, just to name a few!
- Shop your farmers market or support a CSA (community supported agriculture).
- Grow some of your own food such as herbs, kale and lettuce. Better yet, go all the way and plant a whole garden then enjoy grazing!
- Buy from case lot sales or in larger portions and store, filling your pantry containers when needed. Things like sugar, flour, grains, beans, nuts and seeds can all be found in larger whole sale portions and generally store well in a cool dry place. Look for products in paper bags.
- Refill liquid bottles such as laundry, dish, hand, cleaning and Castile soap. A bulk soap store will carry everything you need to refill your containers over and over again turning your plastic bottles into multi use plastic. A liquid laundry soap container can last you for years!
- Say no to cling wrap today and forever more, you really don’t need it! Choose, instead, beeswax wraps, silicon covers, transferring into a glass or metal container or simply placing a plate over a bowl and storing in the fridge. I haven’t used cling wrap my entire adult life and I have never missed it!
- Stop buying plastic left over containers. Instead consider silicon freezer bags and bowl covers, beeswax covers, pyrex glass containers, stainless steel containers or washing and re-using containers that carried food home from the store such as yogurt, cheese and dips that you have already purchased.
- Wash and reuse every plastic bag you can continue to use for food storage. A little soap, a good rinse inside out and a drying rack keeps your bags fresh and ready to go again and again.
- Buy big bags of frozen berries or mixed fruits and reuse the zip lock freezer bags to store future homemade frozen foods in the freezer.
- Avoid snack packs and lunch packages, instead purchase the regular size and portion at home.
- Avoid individually wrapped, one time use items as often as possible.
- Choose glassware such as mixing bowls, metal strainers and measuring spoons along with kitchen utensils like metal or wooden spoons over more plastic kitchen ware.
- Buy cellulose or cotton wash cloths and cotton drying towels.
- Avoid synthetic wipes.
- Choose feminine hygiene products that are cotton, cloth or reusable such as a deva cup.
- Try natural soap, shampoo and conditioner bars that are packaged simply with a box or paper, or not at all!
- DYI some body products and get creative.
- Avoid exfoliating toothpaste and body scrubs that contain plastic micro-beads at all costs.
- Choose cosmetic and body products that come in glass or metal containers like lotions and lip balms.
- Be mindful of the extra packaging and waste that comes along with on-line shopping. Request minimal packaging if possible and support companies that package with paper and bio-degradable puffs instead.
- Lastly, but not likely the end of the list, just don’t buy things you really don’t need!
How are you helping when you reduce your plastic?:
It goes without saying that the invention of plastic at the turn of the 1900s has contributed to the advancements of our modern day society and there are many benefits to its discovery. Our over reliance and irresponsible obsession with this devilish material is, undoubtedly, both a blessing and a curse. We have created a monster! Scaling back our own personal use of plastics in our daily lives can and will make a huge contribution if we all do our part in reducing single use plastics in our homes.
The manufacturing of plastic requires about 8 percent of the fossil fuels we extract from the planet. Reducing plastics can reduce our reliance on non-renewable resources, which, in turn, also reduces the release of green house gases from the processing and degradation of these plastics, all of which contain additional harmful and toxic chemicals for their production. Slowing down the single use output of plastic and returning to more reliable and recyclable products, such as paper, glass and metals, will also prevent the overwhelm of our landfills and lessen the impact of plastic garbage in our oceans, rivers and land. Cleaning up our acts will also restore Nature’s beauty. After-all, who wants to visit a scenic landmark only to find it strewn with ugly garbage?
Some plastics can release Endocrine disrupting hormones which can detrimentally affect our cells, tissues and organs. These chemicals can interfere with our hormone balances and increase toxicity in our bodies putting us at a higher risk for auto-immune disease, chronic illness and cancers.
Micro-beads have been detected in fish and shellfish which are consumed by larger animals, which then make their way into our food chain. Micro-beads have even been detected in beer, honey and sea-salt.
Large amounts of micro-beads are surging out of our waste water systems and are finding their way back into our fresh and even bottled water supply. We are now certain to be ingesting small particles of plastics without even knowing.
Plastic is vulnerable to light and temperature changes, it is critical to look for discolouration and streaking in any plastics you choose to use for food and drinking sources. It is especially hard on plastics when they are heated and cooled repeatedly such as in a microwave, dishwasher and freezer. These unstable plastics begin to release toxic chemicals from their structures straight into your food. When you suspect your plastics are breaking down, recycle them.
Protecting oceans and marine habitat:
It is estimated that 10-20 million tonnes of plastic end up in the oceans every year impacting our ocean Eco-systems and marine life. Sea birds, whales and dolphins can get entangled in plastic debris. Marine animals ingest larger plastic garbage thinking it is food as it floats on the top of the water. Micro-beads are found in dissected fish and these fish are eaten by larger fish thus slowly making the way up the food chain to all animal life. No living animal is safe from our man made pollutions, not even ourselves.
Note: You know the plastic rings you get when you buy a 6 pack of beverages? Please take scissors and cut every single connection! This helps prevent birds and other animals from getting strangled in the noose!
It is time for us to take personal and collective responsibility for our part in the plastic crisis. Together, we can work on cleaning up the planet for our children and children’s children. Something I have always tried to impress upon my own kids is to leave a space cleaner than we found it! Let’s start the clean up by first slowing down the cause of the problem! It is a choice we can all make. Let it begin with each step we take. And for Heaven’s Sake, please don’t declare we aren’t the problem and point fingers at other countries. We are all contributers and we need to show the way by leading the way!!
What can you do today to make even a small shift in your plastic dependency? Pick something and make the change!
Yours in health and Wellness for the Earth,