We’re guessing that you’ve all heard the terrible stories about the plight of shore birds getting caught up in the plastic pack rings from our Coke Zero cans and dolphins entangled in all of our discarded plastic waste. These consequences for aquatic life are very real and devastating, but that’s only the beginning of plastic’s impact on our environment. Its production and use has a major impact on our climate. First of all, its existence begins as a fossil fuel, and then greenhouse gasses are emitted at every stage of its lifecycle – through the extraction and transport of fossil fuels, the refining and manufacturing process, and, finally, through the management of the waste that is produced – much of it being of a single-use nature.
Unfortunately, recycling is not the answer. We should still, absolutely, continue to recycle what we can, but very little plastic is recycled into products that provide the same level of quality and function as the original, some is downgraded into a lesser product, and the rest winds up being incinerated or dumped in a landfill. “At least 14 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year, and plastic makes up 80% of all marine debris,” according to the International Union for Conservation of Nature.
But do not be daunted! There are many ways to be a part of the solution. You may already be the person packing your canvas grocery bag and cotton produce bags. You have that reusable water bottle at the ready at all times. You stow a bamboo straw for those thirsty moments. I hope you will find new ideas to take your plastic-free life to the next level. You might not be there yet and are thinking about taking that first step – you will get no guilt trips here. We are all on our own journey, and we invite everyone to start where they are!
Here are some ways to get that plastic out of your daily life:
Instead of using sandwich bags and cling wrap, try glass snapware or beeswax wrap that can be washed and reused. You can find beeswax wrap on websites like Amazon, but consider buying from a handmade seller on Etsy like Little Foxy Workshop. If you are really adventurous, you could try your hand at making some yourself. Check out this step by step tutorial at Homestead and Chill.
Try to avoid purchasing clothes made with plastic. Yes, it’s in there, too! Acrylics, polyester, and nylon are all made using plastic. Go for natural fibers instead, and – if you can afford to – consider bamboo and organic cotton. If you are trying to be more frugal, buying clothes at thrift stores and on consignment are great options. You can find some great looking items at super low prices, all without contributing to the plastics craze. Reuse items that are already out there in the world.
You probably know not to buy bottled water, but we’re going to give it a mention here anyway just because those pesky bottles are so ubiquitous. Get yourself a super cool, trendy looking reusable bottle that reflects your style. The choices are endless!
Try shopping at your local farmer’s market to avoid all those plastic containers and bags in the produce department of a traditional grocery store. You can even bring your reusable containers back week after week. Find a great guide to these area markets in this AJC article. You may also want to consider joining a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). Love is Love Farm offers a CSA with pick up right from UUCA on Sunday mornings. If you’re up to a bigger challenge, try growing some of your own food. There’s nothing quite as enjoyable as partaking in a fresh salad out of your own garden (or patio pots!).
Consider going old school with bar soaps for your hands, hair, and even dishes. Liquid soaps in plastic bottles are in everyone’s home. Eliminating them in just one area of the house would make a big difference. And again, you could even try making them yourself. Check out these soap recipes for beginners.
For even more creative ways to reduce the plastic in your life, check out these websites:
Finally, if you want to take your activism beyond your own home, many solutions rely on us speaking out for change. Consider reaching out to your legislators – local, state, and federal – to advocate for legislation to end the use of single-use plastics, to stop future development of the petrochemical infrastructure, to foster the transition toward zero-waste communities, and to promote the expanded responsibility of plastic producers. You can find many avenues to make your voice heard at Beyond Plastics.
In community with you on your environmental journey,
The CAT team