Friday, July 14, 2017

6 Easy ways to reduce plastic use

Lately I've been doing a lot of thinking about this plastic free kick everybody's on. I took a look around my house and I realized everything is plastic. There's literally plastic in every room, on every surface and in every drawer. It's almost impossible to avoid plastic.

I've heard the phrase plastic is forever a lot lately. The meaning of course is that plastic doesn't break down and it doesn't deteriorate. It is not biodegradable. Once plastic is created it never goes away and that's a sobering thought. I don't want to make a big impact on the environment however I don't know how to live a different way. This is just the way that things are now. 

living plastic free

Plastics make life convenient and are considered disposable so they are literally in everything. You touch plastics thousands of times a day from the moment you get out of bed and step into your slippers, which probably have plastic in the soles....till the last moment of your day when you brush your teeth at night. Think about this, your toothbrush will exist longer then you will even though it's only made to be in use for 3 months. That's scary. 

I know I need to make some changes but I also know that the harder these changes are the less likely I'll stick to them. That's just human nature. So I've been trying to make changes in my plastic use without it being painful or a giant change in my life.

At the same time, I also don't want to be wasteful! I'm seeing so many people freaking out about BPA's and all the sudden dumping every bit of plastic in their kitchen and bragging about how they threw these big garbage bags full of plastic away. Well where do you think it's going now? It's going in the landfill and it's still not going to rot. It's still going to be there. 

I don't see myself throwing everything plastic away to have it just sit there in the landfill forever and then having to buy something else to replace it with. That seems just as wasteful! I've started to make changes that make a lot of sense to me because I need this to make sense if I'm going to stick to it. These are 6 of the changes I've made to reduce my plastic use over the last year

1) I've stopped buying bottled water to take with me when I leave the house. Instead of constantly buying cases of bottled water, I bought myself a stainless steel insulated water bottle last year.

This water bottle keeps ice water cold all day long. Which is great because many times in the past I grabbed a cold bottle of water when I leave the house and in 2 hours it's lukewarm and I end up buying another one, so at least this one keeps me from buying something to drink while I'm out. 

If I'm out and I have to buy something to drink I'm still kind of stuck. I know I could buy glass or cans and those are both recyclable. Unfortunately it takes much more energy to recycle something than it does to use a refillable bottle, so I'm still working on this one but I am making progress.

2) I've started refusing straws. This is kind of hard for me. I worked in restaurants for many years and I know how clean the dishes are when they go through a restaurant dishwasher. I also know that as a bartender, many times we've just wiped off the lip of a glass that came out with lipstick still on it. That's common practice actually. (I'm sorry to tell you if you didn't know that) 

Anyway, I've always had a problem putting my mouth on a glass in a restaurant because I don't really think they get that clean in the dishwasher so I always used straws. Unfortunately, straws are a one use item that goes straight to the landfill and they are there forever. It has pained me to not take the straws at restaurants, but I have been turning them down.

3) While we're talking about one use plastic let's talk about produce bags. I've recently bought a set of reusable produce bags because I was grossing my husband out! Lol I stopped using those thin plastic bags that they supply for loose produce at the grocery store. I was putting fruits and vegetables in the cart directly.  He was pretty disgusted by that so I ended up finding a set of bags on Amazon. 

I'm sure they're made with some kind of plastic fabric but I will be able to use them for years because they are reusable and washable. they have drawstrings and they come in a set of 7 bags in 3 different sizes so I can use them for any type of loose produce in the store. (plus they were only like, $6)

4) Another change I've made is I quit using plastic dental picks. That's something my husband is fanatical about, and he got me on a kick with those and I've been using at least two a day. That's a lot of plastic when you think about it. I switched back to good old fashioned dental floss without the plastic thing attached. I recall reading somewhere that regular floss was better for your teeth anyway, but floss definitely keeps me from putting plastic back into the environment everyday. 

5) I've also started keeping reusable grocery bags in my truck. This actually started because I've been on an Aldi's kick for the last couple years but I've started carrying them into the regular store also. Yes some of these bags are made of plastic. I have many woven canvas bags that I like to use and now that I think about it, I don't think I've ever bought a reusable bag. They're given out at events all the time. There's no reason why you'll ever need to buy one of these. 

reduce plastic waste

I did have a company send me two bags last year and they are these cute little bags that fit in a tiny pouch by this company Echo Jeannie. The bags are really big but they fold up into this tiny little attached pouch and I keep them in my purse. These are great because if I'm out and I want to buy something unexpectedly, I can pull out my reusable bag instead of getting another plastic bag from the store. So these are nice to carry with me and I've been trying to do that as much as possible. So if you are going to buy a set, get the collapsible ones with their own carry pouch!

6) I'm using my refillable kcup instead of buying new cups for my Keurig coffee maker. I tried for a while years ago but never found a coffee I liked in the right concentration, but I'm giving it another try! My grocery store has fresh coffee beans available which you grind yourself and they actually have paper bags instead of plastic. Bonus!

In my quest to use less plastic I've of course been reading a whole lot about what other people do and I've noticed a lot of them have switched to buying stuff in glass and then recycling. In a post I wrote about my burn cage I discussed how I don't have a recycling program where I live. I live in the middle of nowhere and there is absolutely not one recycling program anywhere out here.

The only semblance of a program we have is a paper retriever bin at the high school which is a 15 minutes drive from here. We also have a scrap metal place that will take soda cans beer cans etc, but it's about a half an hour away. There are some glass and plastic recycling companies in Pittsburgh but that's over an hour away and I don't know if they accept from other counties or not. We do have a plastic bag recycling at the local grocery store. Those are my only options. So I don't have the luxury of just buying something in glass instead of plastic and just recycling it. I'm still trying to figure it out though!

Some of the things I'm starting this month: 

* Carrying my refillable tea mug with me. If I do have it with me I'm always too shy to ask to use it and I really need to work on that. 

* Making better restaurant choices. A traditional sit-down restaurant uses much less plastic to serve the food than a fast food restaurant. Even many paper items in a fast-food restaurant are coated with plastic. It's not an option, your food comes packed in boxes that are plastic lined and the only utensils they have are plastic. The only way I can see around it is to choose to use a go to a restaurant where your food comes on a plate with a real fork and knife. Of course I probably should be cooking at home, but...baby steps!

* Not buying new plastics. This is hard because so many items only come in plastic and many more only come packaged in plastic. I really can't see living life without plastic completely though...even this computer is plastic!

I did throw out some Plastics from my kitchen. I went through all my food storage plastics and removed anything that was damaged on the inside where the food touches. The kids had used them in the microwave at different times and they got cooked basically, so we shouldn't be using those anyway. I ended up matching them all up with their lids and putting them in the garage and we're using them for storage out there for now. 

I'm not sure just how far I'm going to take this plastic reduction thing. I don't know if I'm going to eventually do a huge overhaul or if I'll just keep making small changes as I go. Stay tuned for updates!

~L

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4 comments:

  1. It is amazing how much plastic is in our lives! I do try hard to limit my contribution but I'm like you - having a hard time with the straw thing! Thanks for sharing at The Blogger's Pit Stop! Roseann from www.thisautoimmunelife.com

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  2. Totally correct - plastic seems to touch every aspect of our lives these days. I too have tried to cut down my usage, but , dang, plastic ziplock bags are soooo convenient!! I now wash and reuse these bags multiple times to cut down on how many I buy. I really dislike all the molded plastic cartons items are sold in. Not only are they hard to open most of the time, but such a waste of materials, used because people would otherwise stead product. There must be a better way. I have found that most things I order from Amazon are not in plastic cartons.

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  3. Some great ideas here ... a few I already do, but some I never really thought about. Thanks for your suggestions.

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  4. Good info - keep it up and keep spreading the world. The environment worldwide is drowning in plastic.

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