Humans are basically addicted to plastics. The average person knows that plastic is overused and wasteful, yet they just have to get that bottle of water, a coffee to go, or a bag for their convenience.
Step one in moving forward from addictions is admitting we have a problem. That's exactly what I had to do to reduce my plastic use. And while I'm by no means one of those admirable zero-waste gurus whose years' worth of plastic fits into one tiny jar, I'm better than I used to be. Now, my family and I save thousands and thousands of single-use plastic items each year. Care to join us and give it a go?
Here are a few things about plastic to help you get motivated about ditching as much as you can from your day-to-day purchases:
- In 2002 alone, five trillion plastic bags were produced. They never fully degrade, they simply break down into microplastics, affecting wildlife and human life as we ingest them without knowing.
- BPA-free plastics may be worse for you than those containing BPA, because alternatives like BPF might be even more harmful. There's more and more evidence coming to light on this every day.
- Some of the chemicals in plastic have been found to be obesogenic — causing you to put on weight.
- Roughly 50 percent of the world's plastic production is used once and then thrown away. Madness!
- The amount of plastic produced in the past ten years is equal to the amount produced in the entire 20th century since plastic production began in the late 1940s.
- Throughout the world, around 1 million seabirds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed every year by plastics, either entangled and strangled or choked and starved.
Ways to Reduce Your Plastic Use at Home
1. Stop using plastic bags for shopping.
This means both individual plastic bags for produce and plastic bags for carting your shopping home. There's absolutely no need for three lemons to go into another single-use plastic bag. Instead, get some reusable shopping and produce bags.
We've been conditioned to the point where our brains aren't thinking any more because they don't believe they have to. In doing the work on why our plastic use needs to be drastically reduced, your brain will be able to create a new pathway and habit.
Tip: When you unpack the groceries, immediately place the reusable bags back in front of your front door so that you remember to take them with you.
2. Stop buying halves of fruits and vegetables.
Half a melon, pumpkin (squash), cauliflower, cabbage, or papaya means plastic wrap. Buy them whole and get a little recipe inspiration to ensure you use them all up over the week. You could roast half your cauliflower with turmeric and olive oil, and serve it with pomegranate and goat's curd; then blitz the other half into a puree with coconut milk and sea salt. Different textures and flavors means you won't get bored.
3. Choose glass over plastic wherever possible.
Stop buying convenient "squeeze-tops" for products like tomato sauce, honey, and mayo. Choose a glass jar or make your condiments yourself. You can grab a teaspoon and take out what you need. Even better, you can reuse the glass jars for pantry items, storing stock and so on.
4. Buy dried goods in bulk.
Rather than buy dried goods at the supermarket or health food stores, buy them wholesale or at a co-op if you can join one in your area.
5. Ditch the plastic wrap.
You can get reusable bowl covers, beeswax or hemp bowl wraps, silicone bowl covers, or just pop a plate over the bowl. It's one of those things that you just don't need to replace when you're out next time. You'll soon see you really didn't need it. I have a few tiny glass containers or jars for little things like half a lemon, opened goat cheese, and so on.
6. Have your coffee at the cafe or take a reusable cup.
There are so many gorgeous reusable cup options these days. Of course you also have the startling option of actually taking 10 minutes to sit, enjoy some slow time, and have your coffee right there at the cafe. On a single trip from Sydney to LA to France back through New York and to Sydney, I saved 47 new cups from being used by having my one reusable cup with me for the airports and flights alone. How's that for impact?
7. Say no to straws.
The issue you'll have here is the bartender popping the straw in your drink on autopilot, so keep watch and cue the slow-motion "Nooooooooo" when the straw gets picked up. Sensitive teeth? BYO steel straw ($8.99, Amazon).
8. Don't buy plastic for parties or picnics.
You can get some beautiful fully biodegradable bamboo picnic and event gear these days. Or do like us, and have a cheaper set of a few things for picnics. We've had it for years.
9. When you have to buy plastic, buy big bottles.
If you're not keen on soap or making your own and you really want to buy things like handwash, you can cut down on those harder-to-recycle plastics by doubling the size of what you buy. Often the container can be recycled but the little pump or lid can't, so bigger is better.
This is an edited extract from Low Tox Life by Alexx Stuart ($22.99, Amazon).
This post originally appeared on our sister site, Homes to Love.