I’m continuing my search this week for plastic-free alternatives for all of the things my family needs, and seeking out the advice of experts who can help me along the way. Today, I’d like to share this guest post from Tracy Lydiatt (aka The Green Families Guru and author of Your Green Family Blueprint) on how to kick plastic to the curb. Thanks for the tips Tracy!
Strategies to Shift Away from Plastic
by Tracy Lydiatt
Did you know that as a society, we create over 75, 000 different man-made chemicals, many of which we have no idea how they will interact with one another, that bio-accumulate in the food chain (including us!) and are unable to be processed by natural systems. In essence we are slowly poisoning the system we live in and depend upon for our health and wellbeing.
Plastic is a major part to this story. Plastic is a man-made compound that nature has no way of processing or ‘digesting’ naturally. Because of this, it exists far beyond any single human lifespan, creating an ongoing legacy for future generations to manage: it exists in our soil, in our water and its components are released into the air when it’s burned.
It is a compound that exists in our daily lives in the form of car parts, food packaging, storage containers, health care apparatus, household items etc. and as our systems advance for how to capture plastic in tighter technical loops so we can completely recycle and re-use it, we also must play an active role in its use in our lives. The following are some suggestions on strategies for shifting away from plastic as much as possible at the household level.
Strategy #1: Reduce and Reuse
One of the best ways to remove plastic from our lives is to reduce the amount of plastic we use. One of the biggest culprits are sandwich bags and cling wrap for disposable plastic in our daily lives. I do hope someone someday invents a biodegradable, green chemistry based cling wrap but until then do you best to find alternatives to using cling wrap – even food grade plastic storage containers are a better solution than the disposable cling wrap because most are recyclable at the end of their life. If you can trust your family not to break your dishes, a simple plate overtop of a bowl of leftovers is a great solution!
Unless you have your family well trained, sandwich and ziplock bags get used once and then trashed. Holy unsustainable! If you are crafty, you can make your own or find reusable sandwich and snack bags at retailers such as www.reuseit.com. Purchasing food in bulk is another great way to reduce the amount of plastic packaging. It just takes a bit of organization – make sure to invite your friends and family to share. It will help you save money and reduce your plastic consumption as well!
Strategy #2: Substitute
One of my biggest pet peeves about plastic in the home is the disposable dinner plates, cups and cutlery used during parties. While many people use paper plates, there is still an abundance of Styrofoam plates, plastic cups and cutlery used. I know it’s a great clean up strategy at the end of the party but it produces a massive amount of trash that typically goes straight to landfill. If you are hosting a picnic, ask your guests to bring their own dishes and set up a washing station to reduce your clean up load and the amount of plastic that gets thrown away. If that’s not the best solution, then look for alternatives to plastic disposables. Bamboo is a great alternative: it is fast growing (sustainable) and will biodegrade in landfill or your compost. Just remember the reality is there is no ‘away’! You throw plastic in the garbage but it ends up in landfill or worse, in the waterways, and slowly breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces but doesn’t really go away.
Strategy #3: Just Say No!
Another green pet peeve of mine is forgetting to ask for no straws in my drinks! We use so much plastic in the food industry and it gets trashed after a single use such as straws, Styrofoam take away containers, plastic cutlery to name a few. These single use items break down in size over time and are slowly clogging the planet’s waterways with our plastic trash. The worst part is birds and fish can mistake the tiny bits of plastic for food which seriously affects their health or causes death.
The spotlight has recently been on bottled water, showing what an incredibly resource intensive activity it is to produce, bottle and ship water. One of the most common items found floating in the Pacific Garbage Patch (it is roughly the size of Texas) are plastic bottle caps that are then eaten by Albatross birds mistaking it for food. Thankfully there are solutions to many of these situations and it only requires a bit of organization or just remembering to ‘just say no’. I recently picked up a sturdy bamboo cutlery set from www.to-goware.com and don’t go anywhere without my stainless steel water bottle.
Plastic is an integral part of our society so completely avoiding it is a huge challenge. Look for ways in which plastic shows up the most in your family’s life and search for alternatives and apply the above strategies to begin to strategically reduce plastic use in your home.
To your green family success!
Tracy Lydiatt is an international expert and TEDx Nedlands speaker on sustainability. She is The Green Families Guru: a sustainability advisor, author and educator passionate about empowering families while on their journey to “go green”. Her mission is to take the ‘mental’ out of environmental by using strategies in easy to understand language, empowering families to create healthy homes and strong communities without going broke or crazy in the process. She is the author of Your Green Family Blueprint, a must have resource for families interested in easy strategies to integrate eco-friendly into their lives.