How to go plastic-free
Green Living expert, Aida Garcia Toledo shares her simple tips on how to reduce plastic usage as a family
Plastic Free July is a global movement that encourages people to reduce plastic pollution by using less single-use plastic.
Why is this an important endeavor? Simply put: the health of our planet and our own health demands that we drastically reduce our reliance on plastic products.
The Ocean Conservancy estimates that each year “8 million metric tons of plastics enter our ocean on top of the estimated 150 million metric tons that currently circulate our marine environments”. According to the World Economic Forum, this translates to one garbage truck of plastic being dumped into our ocean every single minute. Much of this plastic will take hundreds of years to fully break down. While many of us believe our plastic is being recycled, less than 6% of plastic waste in the US alone is actually recycled- the other 94% ends up in landfills and our oceans.
The thing about plastic particles is that they don’t break down easily, but when they do, the resulting micro-plastic particles are being discovered in the water we drink, the food we eat and the air we breathe. Because this is a new phenomenon, we don’t fully understand what the long-term health and environmental effects are of being exposed to micro-plastic particles. What we do know is that most plastics have estrogenic capabilities: this means that they have the ability to mimic the hormone estrogen. When man-made chemicals disrupt the delicate balance of our hormones, this can lead to serious effects including tumors, disrupting male and female reproduction, breast development, neurodevelopmental disorders, obesity, metabolic effects and more. So when we use plastics, we can be directly exposed to these estrogenic compounds. And even when we throw away plastics, we are still being exposed to them in our food, water and air once they disintegrate into micro-plastics.
How to go plastic-free
Going plastic-free can seem like an unreachable goal because many of us use it on a daily basis. The key is to make small changes and to become less reliant on it. The important thing is to just begin. Whether you just pick one plastic item to avoid, like produce bags at the supermarket, or, if you decide to stop using the ‘Big Four’ (grocery bags, plastic straws, to-go coffee cups (and lids), and single-use plastic water bottles), or more; the important thing is to be mindful of all the plastic you’re using on a daily basis and to get into the habit of using less.
How to get kids involved
Plastic Free July is a great summer activity for the entire family to get involved in. It’s especially important for young children to participate and become part of the plastic-free solution for their future. For example, they can take on the role of the ‘plastic police’ or create a star chart that the family can use to celebrate the reduction in their plastic usage. Another great activity to raise awareness of the problem is a weekly family beach or park walk to pick up plastic.
Tips for reducing plastic
- Carry your own bags to all stores – not just the supermarket
- Carry a reusable stainless steel or glass water bottle
- Purchase from the bulk bin and carry your own bulk bags
- Avoid pre-packaged produce- take your own produce bags or skip produce bags all together!
- Avoid food that comes in plastic containers: choose glass when it’s available
- Take your own containers to the butcher and have them place any meats you buy in your reusable containers
- Consider keeping a set of reusable utensils in your purse to avoid using plastic ones when eating out
- Never use plastic straws: use paper, stainless steel, bamboo or silicone
- Store leftovers in glass or silicone containers
- Skip the cling wrap: switch to bees wax wrap
- Avoid single-use plastic cups, plates and utensils and opt for bamboo, palm leaf or wood alternatives
- When ordering for delivery tell the restaurant to not send plastic utensils
- Choose toothbrushes that are made of renewable resources like bamboo or made from recycled plastic
- Look for personal care products (deodorant, hand cream, moisturiser etc) that come in glass or metal containers
- Consider using bar soaps instead of body wash, shampoo and conditioner that comes in plastic containers
- Avoid pads and tampons that contain plastic and instead use cardboard applicators, cotton pads or silicone menstruation cups
- Switch out your plastic shower curtain for a fabric one
- Invest in wooden toys that last for years instead of plastic toys
- Try cloth diapers instead of disposable diapers
- Skip the plastic breast milk storage bags and store and freeze your breast milk in glass containers
- Synthetic fabrics like polyester and nylon are plastics too- opt for clothing made of natural fibers like wool, organic cotton, hemp etc
- Ask the dry cleaner to skip the plastic cover
- Pack to-go snacks and lunches in stainless steel, silicone or fabric reusable containers
- Paper towels and napkins come packed in single use plastic. Consider using cloth napkins, and dish towels more often and using less paper towels
- Most gift cards are made of plastics. As an eco-friendly alternative consider gifting cash, a good old fashion check or The Tot Gift Cards are available as digital cards or printed on recyclable paper.
- Trade single serve apple sauce containers larger sized glass container