Sunday, November 28, 2010

Reducing Our Dependence on Plastic

Maybe it's the time in my life. I've seen pictures of birds with plastic in their stomachs before, and had even visited the Fake Plastic Fish website before.

This time was different. I found myself digging deeper to learn more about plastic and what it means in my plastic-filled life. I've long been a little self-righteous: "Hey, I use a whole lot less than my neighbor." But I had the wrong reference point. The key thoughts I found persuasive while rethinking our use of plastic were these 1) Plastic never goes away 2) prolonged exposure to plastics is generally bad-- plastic has all kinds of things in it that you don't want in contact with your body.

These are just some of the places we use plastic:

Groceries: Frozen vegetables, all dairy containers, plastic wrapped cheese, sometimes egg cartons, sometimes fresh vegetable plastic bags, all processed foods.
Storage: tupperware! plastic wrap! sometimes ziplocs.'
Gadgets: anything and everything we buy seems to come wrapped in a thick layer of plastic. We don't buy much, but when we do it's hard to get around the wrapping. And then. There's The Thing itself-- electronics, toys, etc, all seem to be made of plastic.
Over the past couple of years I've largely cut out bottled water and bottled soda, as well as single-use plastic shopping bags at the check-out counter.

Over the next couple of weeks, I'm going to try making small, incremental changes to reduce my use of plastic. I want to start with the things that are easy to change:

Plastic produce bags. Tomorrow I'll be reviewing the bags I've started using for produce and bulk bins. Rather than using plastic produce bags, I'm transitioning to just using light fabric bags (or no bags). The fabric bags are also great for bulk bins at our local coop--rather than buying boxes of our staples (which usually have a plastic inner bag), I'm going to try using the bulk bins, and see how it works out cost wise.

Milk cartons: Although 1/2 gallon cardboard milk cartons are still lined with plastic, they contain less plastic than the large 1 gallon plastic cartons. Since trying organic milk, I've been using the cardboard containers. The next step is to reusable glass, which will involve some time and cost.

Gradually, I'm going to try making more of my own dairy products (cheese, sour cream, etc). Many plastic containers come into our house by way of dairy, and they don't need to.

Plastic wrap and ziplocs I realized recently that I use a LOT of plastic wrap. I've started covering half finished bowls of food in the fridge with a companion plate rather than plastic wrap, and it's worked fine. Rather than wrap or put things in ziplocs, I'm using our tupperwares as much as possible. Which, except for a few pyrex containers, are still largely plastic but it makes sense to use them until they are all used up before getting rid of them.

Those are the easier changes that I think will help us eliminate some of the plastic we use in our household every day. And I'm interested in the harder changes too. But I have to start somewhere, I guess.

I found this plastic free guide really helpful for thinking about life after plastic. I'd love to hear your thoughts on plastic and the role it plays in your life.

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