This month’s Use Less Plastic Challenge has been humbling. Plastic is everywhere. Everywhere! I don’t think I truly realized the extent of it until I started focusing on it this month. At times, I found it overwhelming. I’ve been on a journey to reduce my family’s exposure to plastics for a long time, and it seemed like I’d made the “easy” changes, and then felt stuck. Moving beyond the easier changes and eliminating plastic in all areas felt near impossible.
Can we really eliminate all plastic from our lives? Unless we want to be extremists, I think it’s unlikely. I didn’t let that stop me from at least trying. I’ll control what I can and hopefully it’s enough to reduce my family’s plastic exposure to a less toxic level than if I did nothing.
I had a few “What was I thinking?” moments this month. First, when I went on my trip to Salt Lake City I promised the kids I would bring them home a surprise. There weren’t a lot of kids stores around and my shopping time was limited, so when I found this inflatable pool toy at Urban Outfitters, it seemed like a good choice. As soon as Tim opened the package for the kids, I knew it was a mistake. Vinyl plastic is the worst and it just smelled awful. Of course, at that point getting rid of it was not an option. (Oh, here’s your gift, kids. Never mind!) We put it in the garage and I’m hoping that they lose interest in it and don’t use it all summer long.
The second moment came when I ordered Meghan some flip-flops online. I didn’t even think about them being made of plastic. Duh. They came and that familiar plastic smell made me shake my head. This led me to think of all the plastic shoes they wear–Crocks are Luke’s favorite shoe. UGH.
Trying to focus on positive changes rather than my shortcomings, I did a huge plastic dump. I went around the house and put all of the plastic things I didn’t think we needed or we could replace with a non-plastic alternative. Most of it was kitchen tools and storage containers I never use anymore. They were just taking up space in my kitchen. I think not having plastic touch the food we ingest is important and worth the time and effort. Of course, so many different foods come in plastic containers or packaging, so it takes a real effort to minimize that.
My kids still have some plastic toys. I can’t imagine only allowing non-plastic toys, although in a perfect world my home would be filled with only beautiful wooden toys. I guess I’m concerned with the effects of plastic exposure, but not willing to be an extremist. I had high hopes at the beginning of this month and grandiose plans to have a plastic-free life. I quickly realized that is easier in idea than implementation.
I will continue this journey. The Happy Healthy Mama Healthy Year Challenge is not designed to focus on something for a month and then forget about it. The challenge gets the ball rolling on an area of healthy we need to focus on, and helps to build habits. This month has definitely got me thinking about plastics even more than I did before. I will keep working to find ways to reduce my family’s exposure. I hope you made some positive changes this month, too.
The list below highlights 25 ways you can use less plastic. Some have been highlighted in my plastic swaps posts this month (here and here), but I know not everyone sees every single post. If you haven’t made some of these changes, I hope this list will inspire you! I have made most of these changes and the ones I haven’t made I’m in the process of making. Let’s do this together.
25 Ways to Use Less Plastic
- Use cloth grocery bags instead of plastic bags. I recently discovered these and they are awesome. Or ask for paper!
- Use reusable cloth produce bags. These are my favorites, and I also have these and like them.
- Seek out food packaged in glass or cardboard containers instead of plastic.
- Purchase food from bulk bins using cloth bags and store the food in non-plastic containers.
- When you must buy food in plastic packaging, remove it from the plastic packaging you bought it in and place it in a glass storage container in your home.
- Freeze foods in mason jars or Pyrex storage containers. Use these silicone freezer bags instead of Zip Locks.
- If you must use plastic freezer bags, wrap your food in paper first.
- Use glass or stainless steel water bottles.
- Don’t use plastic shower curtains or liners.
- Don’t buy inflatable pool toys or other inflatable toys. (Still learning over here!)
- Use wooden or metal kitchen utensils.
- Seek out personal care products that say “Phthalate free.”
- Only buy canned foods from companies that use BPA-free liners in their cans. (Check out this list to help you.)
- Clean your home with natural cleaners as many household cleaners use phthalates.
- Bring your own water bottle when plastic cups are going to be used.
- Don’t use plastic straws. These stainless steel straws are great!
- Don’t chew gum. It’s made of the same material used to make plastic inner tubes!
- Seek out natural fibers for your clothing and bedding. Avoid polyesters, nylon, and acrylic, which are made from plastics. Don’t buy plastic flip-flops or shoes (lesson learned!).
- Use stainless steel popsicle molds instead of plastic.
- Use glass or stainless steel food storage containers for your home and when you travel or bring a lunch.
- If you buy deli meats and cheeses, ask the employee to wrap it in parchment paper instead of plastic. You can also bring your own containers.
- Grow your own food at home! This totally eliminates the need for packaging. This is my first summer with a small garden. We’ll see how it goes.
- Use Bees Wrap instead of plastic wrap.
- Avoid personal care products with microbeads, which are made of plastic.
- For a lightweight, portable cutlery option, use bamboo flatware instead of plastic.
Any ideas to add to this list? Leave your insights in the comments! Make sure you stop by tomorrow to find out about June’s Healthy Year Challenge. You don’t want to miss it!