This is a continuation of a past article. Click here to access.
Earlier in November, we discovered that recycling plastic is more wasteful and harmful than we thought. In fact, the entire life cycle of a plastic product is toxic to the environment. So, now that we know even recycling plastic material often doesn’t positively impact the environment, what should we do? First, I wanted to dive in and do some research to see if living in a plastic-free world was even possible. To do so, I turned to the New York Times. According to Steven Kurutz, the recent desire for “plastic free” products has led companies across multiple industries to roll out more eco-friendly products, such as aluminum shampoo bottles and flaxseed phone cases. However, being completely plastic free may not be possible right now. While there can be simple swaps, such as exchanging plastic bags for a reusable bag, there are other items such as plastic syringes that are unavoidable. Even so, easier switches like changing out your hair brush can make a huge impact. Avoiding single use plastics also majorly reduces your plastic usage and negative environmental impact. I am going to try and complete a zero-waste and plastic free challenge for the next three days! Avoiding plastics can look different for everyone, so if you struggle with certain aspects of this challenge, don’t stress yourself out too much. I believe that every impact is a huge impact. I encourage you to try this challenge with me, even if this is your only plastic-free endeavor. Let’s do this thing!
To begin my challenge, I needed to section off items in my house that have plastic. These items include food items already stored in plastic containers, my plastic phone case, and shampoo and conditioner bottles. If I were going completely cold turkey on this challenge, these are items that I would give away or toss. However, I do not want to be wasteful, and I also am only doing this challenge for a handful of days. So, for the meantime these plastics will stay. To remedy the portion of this challenge where I purge all the plastics in my home, I am simply going to go around and list all of the things that are plastic. In doing this, I can begin to slowly replace them in order to live more plastic-free in the future.
Luckily, I have plenty of non-plastic wrapped or stored food items, so today was relatively easy to avoid plastic usage. One thing that has really stood out to me, despite the fact that I haven’t even begun the process of clearing out my plastic items, is just how many items contain plastic. Plant pots, push pins, and even my plant humidifiers are mostly plastic. Yikes!
One thing that really aids me in this challenge is how effective my local community has been in eliminating single use plastics. Coffee cups, straws, and to-go containers are fully compostable, or fully recyclable at the very least. Additionally, my town has weekly farmer’s markets, and not many stores offer plastic. If I lived somewhere with little environmental concern, it would be a different experience. Since I have not fully purged my household plastic items, I spent a long time today searching for alternatives. The price point behind a lot of alternatives was a lot higher than their plastic counterparts. For example, normal plastic toothbrushes cost around ninety-nine cents to a dollar fifty, while bamboo toothbrushes start at $5 or above. This is just one of many examples of plastic alternatives being expensive. If this deters you from switching to a plastic-free item, remember that everyone’s eco-friendly journey looks different. There are tons of ways to offset your negative environmental impact besides replacing your household items!
Today I prioritized preparing my zero waste kit. This basically means that I bring anything that could help me in being plastic free while I’m out and about. Everyone’s kit is different based on what you have on hand, and your needs. Personally, my kit contains a large canvas tote bag, steel straws, a set of plastic free utensils, my plastic free water bottle, and a reusable coffee cup. Here is an example of a zero waste kit that I found online. Remember everyone’s kit is different, and can change depending on your personal zero waste needs! While I usually face anxiety asking service workers for anything special, asking for no straw or lid can save me from being unnecessarily wasteful. Additionally, I keep a large stash of reusable bags in my car for when I go shopping. These simple tasks can make a major impact on my personal environmental impact, and are of little to no cost!
While three days may not seem like a lot, I was able to use this time to evaluate the role that plastic had in my day-to-life. I also feel that this small challenge can encourage others (like you!) to look at how much plastic is really around us. When it comes to living more plastic-free, there are options upon options of items you can switch out, or steps you can take. If you would rather switch out your hairbrush and carry around bags with you, but you can’t afford to switch out every bottle and food item that contains plastic, that’s totally fine! Everyone’s journey is unique, as is everyone’s needs. Either way, even small changes can make a big impact. If there is anything we have learned from this challenge, it's that! Feel free to reach out in the comments below with any plastic-free alternatives you like, and don’t be afraid to help each other out. Living eco-friendly is a group effort. :)