Plastic is quickly becoming one of our nation's fastest-growing environmental problems. It's ease of use and functionality make it an easy choice for consumers when making decisions on which products to purchase. In a previous blog, we discussed the use of biodegradable plastic and its inability to truly break down back into the earth, making compostable bags the clear eco-friendly choice.
Without taking action, the problem of plastic waste will continue to become more prevalent, leaving the option up to you and me to educate ourselves and make the necessary changes. Today we'll dive deeper into ways to reduce plastic in your home to further combat this issue.
Why We Should All Be Reducing Plastic Use
In order to establish how 'green' a material may be, it is important to look at its entire life cycle and analyze the resources that are used in its creation. Then we must look at how it interacts with our environment while in use, and finally, at what happens at the end of its life cycle. When you view this process as a whole instead of in compartmentalized pieces, it's easy to see why we should seek to reduce its use in our homes.
At creation, plastic requires a lot of energy that is derived from finite and polluting fossil fuels which have been shown to be detrimental to human health. Even before your bottle or packaging has ever reached your doorstep, it has already caused damage to the environment. And then, after it has been used and is disposed of, it makes its way to all corners of the earth unable to degrade, creating problems in the environment.
It's found in huge quantities in the world's oceans and in global food chains. If we do not all act fast to reduce plastic use, the disruption that is caused to the natural cycles of our planet will ultimately endanger our very way of life.
Now taking a step back from the global scale, what is something that the average person can do? I would bet that the first solution that comes to most people's mind is recycling. While this does have some minimal benefit, it is only a partial answer to the problem. What many people don't realize is that most of the plastics we encounter on a daily basis cannot or will not be recycled. Reducing the overall plastic we use and re-using what plastics we do have is essential if we are to tackle the problem effectively.
Here are some tips for reducing your use of plastic in different areas of your home:
Plastic Use in the Kitchen
- Reduce packaged food consumption by growing at least some of your own food.
- Buy unpackaged, local, organic produce wherever possible.
- Take your own shopping bags to the supermarket and don't use single-use plastic bags.
- Buy any household staples wholesale to reduce packaging.
- Cook with whole foods as much as possible, avoiding "ready meals" and other pre-made packaged items.
- Think quality, not quantity – analyze and consider reducing your overall consumption of food
- Simplify your cooking and food preparation and don't buy unnecessary plastic gadgets.
- Use silicon or metal containers to freeze food, rather than plastic tubs or freezer bags.
- Choose bamboo serving utensils, measuring cups, or even a vegetable peeler instead of their plastic counterparts.
- Use a kitchen compost bin instead of plastic bags to collect your leftover food scraps.
Plastic Use in Living Areas
- Make your own natural cleaners for all living areas. There are many easy green solutions you can make with products you already have at home.
- Think twice about every new purchase, especially if it contains plastic or composite materials. Consider forgoing the new purchase entirely, or looking for eco-friendly, natural alternatives.
- Choose wooden toys or toys made from other natural materials wherever possible.
Plastic Use in the Bathroom
- Reduce the number of personal cleaning products that you buy. Try to avoid buying shampoos, shower gels, and other products in plastic bottles.
- Consider making your own soaps, cleansers, and lotions from natural materials.
- Don't buy any products containing plastic micro-beads. (Read packaging carefully.)
- Choose wooden and natural bristle hairbrushes and eco-friendly toothbrushes/ razors etc. made from bamboo.
Plastic Use in the Bedroom
- Choose bedding composed of organic cotton, hemp or other natural materials rather than 'plastic' fabrics such as polyester.
- Consider natural wool comforters rather than those made with synthetic fibers.
- Instead of plastic hangers try recyclable, non-toxic, and tree-free paper hangers.
- Carefully consider each purchase of clothing and choose fewer, quality items rather than buying lots of fast fashion. Whatever you buy, choose items that will last.
- Choose clothing made from natural, organic materials rather than synthetic fabrics wherever possible.
- Be fully informed about the ethical and environmental costs of the clothes you choose.
- In addition to buying fewer new items that will last, consider choosing second-hand clothing than it free of synthetic fabrics. (Such as for performance outdoor gear.)
- Look into choosing recycled & recyclable synthetic fabrics.
Plastic Use in the Garden
- Grow from seed or propagate your own plants wherever possible rather than buying plug plants or other items in plastic containers.
- When growing your own food, save seeds to avoid purchasing new seeds in plastic packaging, and/or choose seeds that come in paper packets.
- Avoid buying plastic seed trays, pots or containers. Choose biodegradable plant pots (or make some using toilet roll tubes or newspaper).
- Use organic materials like straw or even scrap fabrics to provide extra warmth and protection for plants in place of synthetic horticultural fleece.
- Choose wooden/ metal garden tools rather than ones with plastic handles.
Reducing plastic use, especially single-use plastics, is one of the best ways to take steps towards living a greener, more sustainable and ethical way of life.