But given that it pollutes our waterways, chokes our landfills, kills our wildlife, and infiltrates our bodies, isn’t now the time to break the habit?
THE OBVIOUS CULPRITS:
Plastic straws. Got it. You already traded for bamboo, paper or steel. Although really going without is good, too. (These lips were made for more than kissing!)
Plastic Water and Pop Bottles: You wouldn’t be seen with bottled water (Good). But we still bring plastic into the house in the form of juices, etc. The swap: home juicing (or eating an orange) or purchasing juices and milk in glass bottles which can be recycled/returned.Reusable Cups: Representative of the on-the-move life we lead. If walking/travelling/hanging out on a bench with a coffee is your thing, vacuum mugs and flasks do the trick, and don’t create waste.
Take Out/Pick Up Meals: Utterly convenient and mostly yum. But a bane when it comes to waste. Popping that pizza box in the recycling might feel virtuous but if it still has the remnants of your marguerita, it’s a no-no. If you are a take-out user, pick-up your own by taking a reusable bento box. Or simply support restaurants using biodegradable containers. (Also request that no plastic cutlery be included in your order) .
Since options to plastic packaging are usually $$$, and frankly don’t fit into everyone’s budget, it takes a zero-waste mindset to navigate the weekly shop.
RULE 1. THE “SKIN” TEST
In both shops and markets there’s an array of produce that’s not bagged/wrapped in plastic. Avoid the plastic wrapped broccoli, use your cloth produce bag, and take your pick.
RULE 2: GROW YOU OWN/MAKE YOU OWN
You can avoid plastic by growing your own salad greens, micro-greens and herbs. Those dips you love? Not quite so convenient but some chickpeas, tahini, garlic, olives, etc. can save you some plastic during your weekly shop.
RULE 3: CONSCIOUS CHOICES.
You read the back of the pack for ingredients and reject when there are too many things you don’t know. Why not give packaging and plastic content the same scrutiny.
Buy “natural”: When it comes to fashion, choose natural fabrics (i.e. organic cotton) over micro-plastic producing synthetics.
Select “fresh”: Instead of buying meat and fish from the freezer, head over to the local markets and buy “fresh” and avoid the overpackaging.
Swap/Refill: Your bathroom cabinet and laundry room are likely full of plastic containers. Even swapping out liquid soap for a bar, or jugged laundry detergent for powder in a box can help. Better still – find somewhere local that offers refills of liquid detergents (dish and laundry), shampoo and conditioners.
Hygiene: Plastic also lurks in the bathroom cabinet via our dental /hygiene choices. Plastic toothbrush? Try bamboo. Plastic-free alternatives to earbuds, flossers, dental picks, female hygiene products, etc., can be found in health food and eco-stores. Also consider a bidet (or convert your current toilet into one through an accessory). Saves trees. Saves on throwaway plastic wrap. Win-win.
Plastic Wrapped Snack Packs: Handy, yes, for school and on-the-go lunches. But seeing sliced apples in plastic peeves us no end.
Say No to the Doggy-bag – You ate in, but couldn’t finish your vegan tiki. Taking along a sealable container when you go out to restos can eliminate the need for them to package up your left-overs in plastic.
Say Boo to Black Plastic – Non-recyclable, ubiquitous in terms of food delivery, it’s pure landfill. Limit your ordering. Also check if there is a recycling option nearby (in Toronto, it’s Case – which repurposes black plastic food containers – collects black plastic food containers (with lids) at Trinity Bellwoods Market and also Organic Grocery stores).
RULE 4: RETHINK
The celebration your planning? Make it green and keep it as plastic free as possible by using reusables.
And when it comes to those party favors, etc. think creatively. Seed bombs? Handmade origami or paper fans? Daisy chains? Floral crowns?
And although it throws a bit of plastic into the mix, blowing bubbles might be an alternative.
(No-no’s include Mylar balloon which yes, float away and never biodegrade. And while we hate to pop the (latex) balloon, enviro-wise, they don’t fare much better.)
RULE 5: SHOP LOCAL
If you’ve ever received a package in which your itsy-bitsy purchase has been wrapped in layers and layers of plastic, the box over-sealed in tape, you’ll know that shopping locally and taking your own bag is the way to go.
RULE 6: RESPONSIBILITY
Taking responsibility for our own choices, and educating our children regarding how drastic plastic is for nature, our own health and the planet is the way to make our everyday lives and homes plastic free.