Plastic planet

As we’ve been looking at ways to have less impact on the planet, plastic keeps finding its way to the top of the list. A neighbor shared a link about going plastic free in June, then I learned there is an entire plastic-free July movement. Falling down the rabbit hole of the internet led me to all kinds of articles about plastic and its destructive impact on oceans and for animals.

We decided to see how much plastic we could stop using. Turns out it’s hard. There is plastic in everything.

Since we have a seven-month-old, we decided to cut as much as we could without overdoing it–meaning I do things like bake bread when I can (rather than buying it in a plastic bag) but realistically with a small child, those things don’t always happen. I can’t always head to a fourth store because it’s the only one that sells specific-food-product in paper. As our baby gets older we can move toward less and less plastic.

Until that day, here are our current efforts at using less plastic:

• Reusable water bottles. We’ve actually been toting these around for years. I have an almost visceral reaction to plastic drink bottles, water or otherwise. This is a big one for me.

My favorite water bottles, by the way, are glass (does anyone else find metal water bottles make the water taste terrible?). I have two BKR bottles. Yes, the top is plastic, and I don’t know how bad silicone is for the environment, but I’ve had these for years at this point and haven’t needed replacement parts.

• Reusable shopping bags. Again, we have been using ours for years. Our grocery store has canvas bags, and we’ve bought quite a few over the years because they’re huge and they last far longer than the cheapo ones you sometimes get for free. Plus, they aren’t plastic coated. I very rarely encounter a plastic shopping bag anymore. That is helped by Seattle’s ban on plastic bags.

• Reusable produce bags. We finally bought some when we decided to try and eliminate plastic. I bought these, and so far they’re great. They do have a plastic bead to tighten the top of the bag, but even when the bags finally wear out I can reuse the beads. Not having produce bags floating around the kitchen is nice, and I think food doesn’t go bad as quickly since these bags breathe.

• Buying in bulk. For years I couldn’t find glass jars for bulk liquids at our grocery store. Then we decided to try and eliminate plastic and ta-da! The store had shelves full. I don’t know if that was a recent change or just a change in what I noticed, but now we can buy the majority of our liquid ingredients in bulk and skip the plastic lids that get tossed and the plastic wrapping around lids. Our grocery store is fabulous and carries oils, maple syrup, soy sauce, liquid soaps and more in bulk.

We also buy grains, nuts, baking ingredients (flour, sugar, etc.), dried fruit, dried beans and lentils in bulk. It’s less expensive and we can skip all the packaging. (Ever notice even when things come in paper bags there is often a plastic window so you can see the product? Every package of pasta we have found is wrapped this way.)

• Swapping bath and body products. This category is a work in progress as we slowly use up things we already had. I just found some great natural deodorant that comes in a cardboard tube (it’s like those push pops I ate as a kid. Ha.) and I have been using this face bar for cleansing that is packaged in just a cardboard box. Once we work through the shampoo we have we’ll switch to a shampoo bar (I’ve liked Lush bars in the past, but the nearest Lush store is a pain to get to so we may see what is available in our neighborhood). I have yet to find a conditioner I like (plastic-free or otherwise, honestly) so for now I don’t condition. (I have short hair so I don’t feel like it makes much difference.)

We have been using bar soap instead of body wash for quite awhile because my husband prefers it and I always thought body wash was a huge waste of money for how quickly I went through it. I buy bar soap at the grocery store because we can get it completely package free.

I just ordered an all-metal razor here as I finally used up all my old plastic razor cartridges. I’m excited to try this one–the company even takes back the spent blades to recycle. My husband will also switch out razors after he gets through the supplies he already has.

As for makeup … hahahahahaha. I have a seven month old. I’ll get to un-plasticizing my makeup in oh, two years? I haven’t put makeup on in months. Just face oil (which comes in a glass jar) and sunscreen (which is unfortunately in plastic, but I make exceptions for things like preventing skin cancer.)

• Paying attention with baby things. This is a huge one and the one spot we decided not to be too hard on ourselves. That said, we cloth diaper, I’ve had extremely generous friends who handed down nearly all my child’s clothes so far and I’ve bought a lot of toys second hand or purchased wooden toys. There is still plastic around, but I think considering all the baby stuff you can buy, we’ve done a good job of limiting the brand-new stuff.

We have a long way to go in eliminating plastic. I’m not sure we can ever fully eliminate it–we do have to have a phone, a computer, a car and carseat, which all contain plastic. But boy, if everyone did the simple things like reusable water bottles, cloth bags and reusable produce bags, it would go a very long way in helping our planet.

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