I think plastic is a lot like alcohol. The addictive side is clear – look around you right now and do a quick mental audit on how much plastic is near you. We are – as a society – addicted to plastic. Another similarity is that it is largely accepted. Sure, there are people yelling from the sidelines about how bad it is, but if you walk down the street holding a plastic bag a lot of people wouldn’t look twice. While plastic and alcohol are both damaging to our health though, the toll plastic is taking is on a much bigger scale.
With so many negatives associated with its use we should all try cut down on our plastic bag dependence. Here are some ideas on how to start…
This is a non-negotiable. There is no reason to still be using plastic bags when there are so many reusable alternatives around. A good friend of mine (Hi Dino!) said he always had the bags in his car but then got to the end of the checkout and realised he had left them there. He made a rule that whenever he forgot them he would force himself to refuse the cashier just packing them into plastic bags and would return to the car to get his bags. He kept his self-promise and after the embarrassment and fuss it caused never forgot his bags again. Force yourself into changing your habits.
Other ways that can help;
- Use roll-up bags that can fit into bags or jean pockets virtually unnoticed, like the above picture!
- Carry things with your hands! It is so easy to switch into robot mode and just accept your bagged goods without thinking. Be adamant, say no.
- Invest in a bigger handbag or backpack and use it for your lunch runs.
- Make a fashionable statement with your bag and you may be more inclined to use it. There are plenty of these bags around (try Etsy). I love this one in particular…
Give up chewing gum…
This discovery made me regret every time I ever swallowed a chewing gum. Yep! Chewing gum is literally plastic, rubber, the occasional bit of latex and flavoring… to keep you coming back for more! Avoid it. A nice natural solution is to chew on Cardamom Pods. If you are near a kitchen (or garden) you can also chew on Parsley – not as easy as Cardamom to keep in your pocket.
Plastic Free your cleaning
There is really no need to spend hundreds of dollars a year on ‘wonder’ products that are pre-packaged to hell and are polluting our waterways, bodies and landfill at the same time. Here are some simple substitutes that you can buy in bulk and often come in recyclable packaging (cardboard or refillable containers)
- Reuse old cleaning spray bottles by filling with vinegar and water. 1 part vinegar to 3 parts water is a fantastic recipe for an all-purpose cleaner.
- Baking soda is the champion of plastic free cleaning. It works for everything (including shampoo, toothpaste, nappy cleaner). For a sink of dishes try just adding 4tbs of baking soda to the hot water. Works a treat!
- Wash your clothes with soap nuts! This was one of my favourite finds of 2011 and I put it on my Eco Christmas Wishlist. You just place these dried shells (from small fruit) into an organic cotton washbag (provided) and use it as regular soap! Suitable for hair, carpets, clothes and anything else you can think of.
- If you are in a hurry and really need to buy ready-made cleaning products aim for those that provide the ‘Refill and Reuse’ service. There are many places around that do this including Manna Wholefoods in Fremantle.
Plastic Not-so-Fantastic Clothing
Synthetic clothing is basically just plastic fabric. Nylon, polyester, acrylic, lycra, spandex… all cheap material that is often used in throwaway fashion. There are quite a few green ways around this;
- Only buy old plastic – only buy your plastic second-hand! Op-shops, thrift stores and vintage markets are a treasure trove for clothing that is preloved and therefore has not used new resources to create them.
- Choose natural fibres – and, where possible, organic! This is especially important for cotton as genetically modified crops are very common. Materials like hemp and bamboo look and feel gorgeous. My fave store for gorgeous organic clothing is definitely Australian owned Bird Textiles. You can also buy fabrics to make your own cushions, clothes or whatever else your imagination dreams up.
Become a Smart Shopper
This technique is the very core of living sustainably. It is also hugely important in terms of reducing waste, including – of course – plastic bags!
- NO BOTTLED WATER.
- Choose products that have a limited amount of packaging. Seeing that this cancels out two thirds of your supermarket, you may as well shop at a farmers market or get an organic box delivery.
- If you get your produce delivered as part of a box scheme, specify that you don’t want anything in plastic including cherry tomatoes and berries. We use the Organic Collective and they are very helpful with this request which is apparently a reasonably common one nowadays.
- If you can’t get to a farmers market – buy in bulk. 1 massive bottle is better than 20 smaller ones.
- Eat wholefoods. Make meals from scratch. The great thing about this resolution is that not only do you get creative and expand your cooking skills, you generally end up cooking healthier and tastier food. Who needs preservative E211 or food colouring 2 when you can just have a passionfruit instead?
Save on plastic. Save your Health.
- Avoid rubbing plastic all over your body! Check out how many products in your bathroom or make-up bag have ‘polyethylene’ in them. You could be rubbing tiny plastic beads all over yourself and them washing them into our drains. Choose organic and cruelty free products to avoid unnecessary use of plastic and palm oil too.
- Baking soda is an amazing deodorant. Who woulda thunk it? Apply it onto your dry armpit with a powder puff and watch in wonderment.
- Make your own shampoo. Mix together 2 tablespoons baking soda with 2 cups water into a recycled bottle that you have. In a separate container mix 2 tablespoons of Apple Cider Vinegar with 2 cups of water again. The baking soda is your wash, the vinegar mix is your rinse. Thanks for the inspiration My Plastic Free Life (a fantastic blog / experiment). I am converting to this as of next week… will keep you posted on how I go.
- Or… buy a shampoo bar. I have seen these at Manna in South Fremantle or you can order them online. For Perth peeps I have heard great things about this Margaret River Savi Shampoo Bar.
- Use bar soap instead of liquid hand soap. An easy option is Country Life; a cheap, cruelty free and certified palm oil free!
- Buy a bamboo toothbrush.
- Don’t use toilet paper that is wrapped in plastic.
Make your own…
- Lunch – save using cheap plastic takeaway containers, wrappings, bags, little plastic windows or that nasty polystyrene
- Bread. Not only can you control the amount of preservatives that go into it you save those plastic bags and toggles every time. You get the added bonus of smelling fresh bread through your house in the morning – is there anything better?
- Soy or Nut Milk – All long-life milk containers (unless specifically stated) contain plastic in them. Why not make your own? If you don’t have a fandangle soy milk maker you can also make it on your stove top!
- EGAD!… You can even make your own Tofu!!!
- Snacks – don’t go for individually wrapped muesli bars over-processed and full of sugar. Try making your own healthier versions like these yummy gluten-free and vegan Granola bars from The Sensitive Pantry