Shopping at a grocery store or drug store is one of the most frustrating things I do, everything is packaged in plastic. Luckily, I have some excellent food coops a bus ride away from my house. I save containers and refill them with bulk items. A local meat department in a local grocery store will even refill my containers with meat purchases, which even my coops won’t refill. Science 101 has one of the best articles on reducing plastic that I have ever read, and I learned things from them. Start with a few items to refill. When you get the idea and feel comfortable move to add more plastic-free items. Here is Science 101’s article, on easy ways to reduce plastic. Refilling containers can be fun and satisfying.
Only 9 percent of the plastic every produced has been recycled, and no one knows how many hundreds of years it will pollute our environment. It breaks into tiny pieces, ends up in our water sources, is in our food and kills wildlife! Why is plastic harmful? Read here.
Coops will help you get started refilling containers, and I am willing to help if you ask. Let’s all work to reduce our plastic foot-print.
This morning while walking around the lake by my house, I was sad to see plastic bottles bobbing around in the lake. The amazing thing is that those plastic bottles from a lake in land-locked Minnesota could end up in the Gulf of Mexico. 80% of marine litter originates from land. The Minnehaha Creek drains this lake into the Mississippi River, which flows into the Gulf of Mexico. Plastic in a Minneapolis lake, could float the Mississippi River into the Gulf of Mexico, these plastic bottles and bags are a dangerous threat to marine life, and they are unpleasant to water recreation.
I am sure you know most of the ways to avoid plastic, but you might learn something from this list on reducing plastic use. The excellent list below is from the NRDC https://www.nrdc.org/:
“Plastic, of course, is uniquely problematic because it’s nonbiodegradable and therefore sticks around for a lot longer (like up to 1,000 years longer) than other forms of trash. And we’re not just talking about people dumping their garbage overboard. Around 80 percent of marine litter actually originates on land—either swept in from the coastline or carried to rivers from the streets during heavy rain via storm drains and sewer overflows.
So the best thing we can do to protect our waterways is trying to keep as much plastic as possible out of the waste stream in the first place. The good news? There are many small ways you can have a big impact. The NRDC has ten important ways to reduce your plastic footprint:
1. Wean yourself off disposable plastics.
Ninety percent of the plastic items in our daily lives are used once and then chucked: grocery bags, plastic wrap, disposable cutlery, straws, coffee-cup lids. Take note of how often you rely on these products and replace them with reusable versions. It only takes a few times of bringing your own bags to the store, silverware to the office, or travel mug to Starbucks before it becomes habit.
2. Stop buying water.
Each year, close to 20 billion plastic bottles are tossed in the trash. Carry a reusable bottle in your bag, and you’ll never be caught having to resort to a Poland Spring or Evian again. If you’re nervous about the quality of your local tap water, look for a model with a built-in filter.
3. Boycott microbeads.
Those little plastic scrubbers found in so many beauty products—facial scrubs, toothpaste, body washes—might look harmless, but their tiny size allows them to slip through water-treatment plants. Unfortunately, they also look just like food to some marine animals. Opt for products with natural exfoliants, like oatmeal or salt, instead.
4. Cook more.
Not only is it healthier, but making your own meals doesn’t involve takeout containers or doggy bags. For those times when you do order in or eat out, tell the establishment you don’t need any plastic cutlery or, for some serious extra credit, bring your own food-storage containers to restaurants for leftovers.
5. Purchase items secondhand.
New toys and electronic gadgets, especially, come with all kinds of plastic packaging—from those frustrating hard-to-crack shells to twisty ties. Search the shelves of thrift stores, neighborhood garage sales, or online postings for items that are just as good when previously used. You’ll save yourself a few bucks, too.
6. Recycle (duh).
It seems obvious, but we’re not doing a great job of it. For example, less than 14 percent of plastic packaging is recycled. Confused about what can and can’t go in the bin? Check out the number on the bottom of the container. Most beverage and liquid cleaner bottles will be #1 (PET), which is commonly accepted by most curbside recycling companies. Containers marked #2 (HDPE; typically slightly heavier-duty bottles for milk, juice, and laundry detergent) and #5 (PP; plastic cutlery, yogurt and margarine tubs, ketchup bottles) are also recyclable in some areas. For the specifics on your area, check out Earth911.org’s recycling directory.
7. Support a bag tax or ban.
Urge your elected officials to follow the lead of those in San Francisco, Chicago, and close to 150 other cities and counties by introducing or supporting legislation that would make plastic-bag use less desirable.
8. Buy in bulk.
Single-serving yogurts, travel-size toiletries, tiny packages of nuts—consider the product-to-packaging ratio of items you tend to buy often and select the bigger container instead of buying several smaller ones over time.
9. Bring your own garment bag to the dry cleaner.
Invest in a zippered fabric bag and request that your cleaned items be returned in it instead of sheathed in plastic. (And while you’re at it, make sure you’re frequenting a dry cleaner that skips the perc, a toxic chemical found in some cleaning solvents.)
10. Put pressure on manufacturers.
Though we can make a difference through our own habits, corporations obviously have a much bigger footprint. If you believe a company could be smarter about its packaging, make your voice heard. Write a letter, send a tweet, or hit them where it really hurts: Give your money to a more sustainable competitor.” NRDC
I would add one thing to the list. Never use Styrofoam! Some stores package fruits and vegetables on Styrofoam trays! Awful.
Finally, current status of the Mississippi River in the Twin Cities from Friends of the Mississippi.
I know people get tired of my harping on plastic, but plastic is a serious world problem. According to the Plastic Pollution Coalition the average shopper uses 500 plastic bags a year, and that is just bags, not all the other plastic products. This is not sustainable!
I love thinking of how my grandparents lived, and how it is different from today. I loved this post from One Green Planet about what we can learn from the past and from our grandparents. Read it here.
Below is a quote from One Green Planet which show how serious this plastic issue is!
“In the past 30 years alone, the amount of plastic produced worldwide has increased by 620 percent! On average, that equates to 300 million tons of plastic a year. Of this 300 million tons, about 8.8 million tons find their way into the world’s oceans where they are left to slowly photodegrade into smaller pieces – and by slowly, we mean over the course of 100 to 1,000 years. When you consider the huge volume that is added to the oceans every year and the fact that plastics never really “go away,” we find our oceans crowded with a massive soupy mixture of harmful plastic products. This sadly has a massive impact on the marine animals who call our oceans home. Around 700 marine species are in danger of extinction due to entanglement, ingestion or general pollution caused by our plastic trash.”
Our grandparents didn’t have the choices and variety we do. They cooked and ate hearty food on real dishes, but most important they conserved, reused, and didn’t throw everything away like we do today! I would stay with my grand parents for a week and we didn’t need to run to the store to buy buy buy. We used what we had.
What do you remember about how your grandparents did things?