The first step in reducing plastic is taking notice of the types of plastic in the trash and recycling. The next step is figuring ways to replace or reuse it. I also keep in mind whether or not the plastic can/will be recycled. I don’t like the idea of any plastic going to the landfill. If it can’t/won’t be recycled (it's an understandably picky process, see the upcoming recycling and reusing blog for more info), then it becomes a priority for me to find an alternative. I’m still working on this. Here are some things decreased or gone from my house over the years:
PLASTIC SHOPPING BAGS. No plastic bags is an easier house rule for my kids than turning out the lights. They've come to the grocery store with me for years and I’ve been either bringing bags or asking for paper for as long as they remember. My boys are now old enough to pick up groceries for me. They opt for paper bags. I’m ok with paper because they decompose quickly and I also use them to hold my paper recycling and trash. The problem with using plastic bags for trash is that they end up in the landfill. Plastic leaches toxins into the soil and groundwater and never really decomposes. I use paper bags or no bags for my most of my trash but there are occasions (cat litter box) when this bio-degradeable bag is a good option.
PLASTIC WATER BOTTLES I don’t buy these but they still sometimes turn up in my house because they are distributed at school and sporting events. A large water cooler with reusable and refillable water bottles seems like a more healthy and educational idea to me (no offense).
I also avoid plastic bottled drinks and choose glass bottled when I’m traveling and thirsty.
ONE USE PLASTIC ITEMS Straws (not recyclable). I tell the waiter/waitress I don’t need one. If I have to buy disposable plates, I buy paper. I still have some plasticware (forks, spoons, knives) that I saved when some (well-intentioned) people brought them to my house for potlucks. I use them but I'd rather wash silverware. I bring my own cup on the rare occasion I go to the coffee shop. I also pass on lids if I get a fountain drink.
PLASTIC FOOD PACKAGING I only scratch the surface on this one. I don’t plastic bag any produce that has a skin I’m going to peel (bananas, oranges, avacados,...). I look for food packaged in glass (peanut butter, oils, condiments and dressings,...). I buy the basics in bulk (rice, sugar, grains, nuts,...). I have a container for each that I refill when needed. Common Market (and other places with a bulk section) will take the tare weight on containers so I’m only paying for the food. I use wax bags for my kids school lunches. I get our milk from Trickling Springs in returnable glass bottles (they still have the plastic lid waste). I make granola and muffins and trail mixes but not enough so I still buy snacks and cereals packaged with plastic. I avoid individually packed anything.
PERSONAL HYGIENE PLASTIC I read the ingredients on labels. One ingredient I look for is polyethylene which is plastic microbeads found in soaps and toothpaste (they are being flushed down drains and into the waterways). My husband and I wash our hair with a shampoo bar. We also use baking soda for deodorant. I use both moonpads and the diva cup. I make my own skin care lotion. My favorite go-to is my calendula ointment which helps all kinds of skin problems. I think these choices are healthier for me and my family and for the planet. Which makes complete sense to me and it's a double bonus!
To continue my plastic free journey, I’ve ordered these toothbrushes. They are mostly bamboo but the bristles are nylon (plastic). I’m not into brushing with pig hair, but I still figure this is a step in the right direction. I’m also going to try bake more bread and/or figure out a trade with a local baker.