A woman I know committed to living a year without acquiring any new plastics in 2010. Her name is Taina Uitto, and reading about her plastic-free adventures on her blog Plastic Manners had a huge impact on me; it made me realize how much plastic I used on a day-to-day basis. I have used considerably less plastic over the past 4 years because of her influence, but I have by no means been living plastic-free.
I recently went to see the premiere of a documentary film From the Waste Up: Life Without Plastic that she and her brother made about her transition to a plastic-free life. I have been re-inspired, and I am ready to commit to a further reduction of my use of plastics.
When Taina’s project began, I was primarily motivated to reduce my plastics use because of the devastating impact this non-destructible substance has on the environment and on the animals that mistake it for food. Since then, I’ve learned a lot more about how plastics affect our health. Plastics contain harmful chemicals that leach into the bloodstreams and tissues of almost every one of us, including newborns. I am now motivated to protect myself and my family from plastics.
I’m also inspired by the lifestyle of the people in Taina’s film. She challenged a number of other people to live plastic-free for a year and told their story in her documentary as well. Everyone found the lifestyle change challenging in the first couple of months, but as time went on, all the challenge participants told similar stories about life slowing down and feeling simpler. The message was clear: all these convenient, disposable products that are supposed to give us more time somehow do the opposite.
Here are some health-friendly and planet-friendly choices I am going to make:
1. No plastic shopping bags or disposable coffee cups
These days I use re-usable shopping bags and travel mugs 85% of the time, but every so often I will take a bag or a disposable cup out of convenience. Moving forward, if I can’t get something without creating this waste, I will go without.
2. No Take-out Trash
I don’t buy a lot of “To Go” food, but when I do, it is usually sushi and it creates a mountain of garbage – the foam/plastic containers, the soy sauce containers, and the plastic bag it comes in. I am going to save myself the cringe moment I have in response to the amount of waste, and either eat-in or use my own containers to take out.
3. Buy bulk with my own containers
At Whole Foods, you can bring your own containers, get them weighed, and use them to buy bulk (and then they deduct the weight of the container at the checkout). I have a lot of weighed containers, and when I do a bulk shop for bulk items, I take them all in and save the plastic bags. It’s awesome when I do – it is a great conversation starter, and most of the containers already have the bulk codes on them, so I don’t have to worry about noting down numbers. But when I want a small amount of one or two things, I have been taking the plastic bags and creating the unnecessary waste. I am going to stop.
4. Slowly transition plastics out of our kitchen
We were blessed with an infestation of pantry moths a few months ago. Why blessed? Because it prompted us to buy a ridiculous number of mason jars, and transfer most of our food storage to glass containers. We still have reusable Ziploc containers and various plastic tools in our kitchen. I would like to actively seek alternatives.
5. Buy plastic-free spray bottles and dish soap dispensers
Over the last couple of years, I have largely transitioned to homemade cleaning products – both for my home and for my body. But I put these homemade products into plastic containers. It’s better for the environment because they are not single-use containers, but I’m still touching plastic every time I use them. I would like to find alternatives that are friendlier for me.
6. Collect my plastic waste for a month
I believe awareness is empowering. If I collect my plastic waste for a month, I will learn more about the kinds of plastic pollution I am producing, which will help me figure out how to use less.
7. Give packaging more consideration in my purchasing decisions
I tend to avoid the blatantly horrible packaging – like toilet paper from Costco, where each roll is individually wrapped in plastic. But, I also have organic olive oil from Costco, which is in a plastic bottle, and olive oil is readily available in glass bottles. I am not going to factor out things like price or whether something is organic or local, but I am going give plastic packaging a bigger voice.
8. Try a plastic-free toothbrush
I vividly remember reading about Taina’s first experiences with a bone and boar bristle toothbrush. It did not make me want to use one. I feel a little queasy even thinking about it now. But, my ideas about what is gross and what is not have been challenged and proven wrong many times before (see point #11 for an example). So perhaps a year from now the idea of sticking a plastic stick in my month and rubbing it against my teeth and gums will disgust me instead.
9. Learn more about the different types of plastic
Most of us are familiar with the recycling symbol – the three arrows forming a triangle. But, what do the different numbers inside the recycling symbol mean? From my initial research, #2, #4 and #5 are considered okay for limited use, but #1, #3, #6 and #7 should be avoided. I look forward to learning more so I can make better informed decisions.
10. Shop for new plastic-free habits at The Soap Dispensary
I’ve heard so many wonderful things about The Soap Dispensary, but I haven’t shopped there yet. The Vancouver store featured quite prominently in Taina’s documentary because it helps people live plastic-free with a lot more ease. I am looking forward to making a trip to the store and learning new ways that I can use less plastic.
11. Have a plastic-free period
This extra point is to promote a plastic-free lifestyle choice I made a couple years ago. I went plastic-free on all products related to menstruation, and it is one of the best lifestyle decisions I’ve ever made. I started with Natracare Products, which are organic and plastic-free disposable products. They are fantastic, but the cost pushed me to consider non-disposable options like LunaPads and the Diva Cup. I now use a combination of the three – depending where I am and what I am doing. Somehow taking plastics and toxins out of menstruation transformed the experience from something kind of gross to something natural and almost beautiful. I know it may sound super corny, but it happened.
I have a feeling that these other lifestyle choices are going to end up feeling just as good!