Alternatives to Plastic


A couple of weeks ago, I wrote that purchasing and using plastic has numerous negative consequences, including the release of a significant amount of greenhouse gases and pollution from the production of plastic, the entanglement and poisoning of birds, fish, and other animals, the increase of toxins in our food chain and our bodies and the bodies of our children. I also pointed out that the most insidious type of plastic is the single use item. 

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Before getting into plastic alternatives, you might wonder why plastic is such a big deal if you recycle your plastic. The truth of the matter is that most (around 90%) of the plastic we use either isn’t recycled or can’t be recycled, and even when it can be recycled, remember that recycling itself exacts a carbon footprint. See my recycling article for more on this topic.

A better approach is to reduce your consumption of plastic. Start by taking an accounting of the plastic in your home and office. Walk through each room of your house and note what items are made of or housed in plastic. Then start replacing those plastics, especially single-use plastics, one by one. 

Ideas for reducing plastic usage:

  • Refuse to purchase single-use water bottles. Carry a metal or glass water bottle with you when you are away from home.
  • Say no to straws. (Seattle has banned plastic straws, but remember to stay vigilant when travelling elsewhere.)
  • Stop using paper cups (usually lined and topped with plastic) at your coffee shop. Bring your own steel coffee mug to your espresso stand and to work.
  • Bring metal flatware and reusable dishes to work so you can avoid single-use plastics.
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  • When purchasing food, look for items in bottles, boxes, or cans (not lined in BPA plastic). As much as possible, purchase bulk items in reusable containers and store them in glass jars.
  • Purchase cloth shopping and produce bags. We use organiccottonmart.com
  • Get rid of vinyl shower curtains, pillow, and mattress covers and replace with natural fabrics.
  • Consider replacing your foam mattress with a natural cotton mattress.
  • Replace plastic food storage containers with glass (even with plastic lids, they are better), metal tins, or reusable alternatives to plastic wrap such as etee (shopetee.com).
  • Purchase cosmetics and other bathroom supplies in non-plastic containers. Buy bar soap rather than liquid soap.
  • When purchasing appliances look for ones that have minimal or no plastic.
  • Download the Detox Me app on your phone to get more suggestions on reducing your exposure to plastics and other toxins (https://silentspring.org/detox-me-app-tips-healthier-living).

Paul Litwin

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