Over the past several years the environment has increasingly become a concern of mine. Growing up in a rural area, I have always had an appreciation and love for nature. I spent a great deal of time exploring the ponds, creeks, and woods behind our house with my sister. We would ride horses and go camping with my childhood best friend, all the while learning to respect and appreciate all flora and fauna around us. Admittedly, at times, I had a secret longing to be one of those children living in a heavily populated neighborhood riding bikes and playing tag. Today, I do not regret how and where I was raised. It offered experiences and lessons learned that I do not think I would have had the pleasure to take part in if I grew up in a more urban area. The quiet of the countryside, and the smell of fresh cut grass or hay can still send my heart and mind soaring to the comfort and familiarity of my youth. This love I have for the beauty of nature in all it forms causes me great concern when it comes to how we are slowly polluting and destroying it with the convenience of plastic.
As you note, I say “we” because I, too, am guilty for my own contribution to the plastic pollution. It is quite hard not to be as almost everything we touch contains plastic. From the toothbrush we use every morning to the hand cream we apply at night, each has a plastic component to the packaging or the product itself. I can go to my local grocer to purchase whole, organic food, but guess what, my salad comes in a plastic container and the produce I purchase does as well. How did we get to this point and are we too far gone to make a change? I currently work in a industry that is focused on conservation and sustainability in addition to reducing the carbon footprint, and I am realizing it is quiet an epidemic. If you want to make a change and a difference how and where do we begin?
I decided after the new year that I would try to be more conscientious of what plastics I purchased, and to make an attempt to reduce plastic usage the best I could. My first action was to no longer purchase plastic straws. I purchased a set of metal straws and placed those in the drawer to grab instead of the plastic stand-by. I have even tried to remember not to ask for a straw when dining out. Drinking directly from a restaurant glass feels a bit “dirty” to me and wakes up the small germaphobe that resides in me, but I do my best. Now that the simple plastic straw is removed, what else could I do?
This was turning into a bit of a game or a challenge. I turned my attention to all aspects of my life. I immediately moved to my kitchen cabinets. I found I had a number of plastic storage containers used for leftovers. I gathered what I had, and recycled what I could. I vowed to only purchase glass food containers going forward. No more plastic silverware, I will use the real deal and would not take any when ordering carry out. Our cabinets were also filled with plastic drinking glasses. I will keep what I have and recycle when it is time, but only glassware from here on out.
I did not have to move very far to find the next action item, the bathroom. Plastic galore! Just starting with something as inconspicuous as the toothbrush. Imagine all the toothbrushes that are sitting in landfills. If we change our toothbrush every three months, that is quite easy math; four toothbrushes per year per person in your home. Swapping out my plastic brush seemed to be an easy and welcoming way to get the family on board with my efforts. I broke the news to each of my children, and the look on their faces was that of confusion, but they obliged. I purchased each of us a new bamboo toothbrush. If I am being completely honest, I am not a fan, but my son loves it. It feels like having a stick of wood in your mouth as it rubs against the inside of your cheek, but some may not mind. So at least we are down one plastic toothbrush in the household.
I took a peak in my shower and realized I definitely had a plastic problem. The ledges were filled with bottles of shampoo, conditioner, body wash, face wash, etc. I was beginning to wonder how many products do I really need, but that is another post all in itself. As it was time to re-purchase each, I went with bar soap and bar shampoo. Yes, there is bar shampoo and it is quite nice. I need a great deal of conditioning for my hair, so I have yet to find a bar conditioner that I feel confident in trying, but I am not opposed to switching over. I use roughly one bottle of body wash per month, and with just changing back to bar soap, I am reducing 12 bottles per year. It may sound like we are talking peanuts, but if we each choose to substitute one item, that could have a substantial impact on the cost to recycle and the amount that finds it way to the landfills.
As more of us are becoming aware and realizing that not everything plastic is being recycled, we start questioning and taking matters into our own hands. I recently noticed that my favorite mascara is no longer being packaged in plastic, but rather in paper/ cardstock boxes. That is exactly what I am talking about, and would like to see from other manufactures. Let’s say goodbye to plastic milk jugs, coffee creamer bottles, butter dishes, and yogurt containers to name a few. Each of these can be packaged in waxed-lined cartons versus the plastic alternative. I am no expert on the subject matter, but I am certainly someone with compassion and concern. I cannot help but feel the deep need and responsibility to do something in an effort to ensure current and future generations are left with a world devoid of a plastic jungle.
One step I would like to further investigate is, as consumers, demanding manufacturers to reduce their plastic usage in packaging. Imagine all the shrink wrapping, plastic molding that goes into packaging products. If we start writing letters or spending our dollars on those products and companies that package environmentally conscious, perhaps this could facilitate change. There is power in the dollar and with the consumer who spends that dollar.
I am by for no expert on ecology, sustainability, or recycling, but as my research and attempts to reduce my plastic usage, and my overall consumer waste continues, I will be more than happy to provide a follow-up post. In the meantime I have provided a list below for each of the items I purchase from Amazon.com. Please check them out and give them a try.
Wishing you all a most wonderful Spring!
- J.R. Liggett Bar Shampoo Moisturizing Hair Formula
- YIHONG Set of 8 Stainless Steel Metal Straws Ultra Long 10.5 Inch Reusable Straws For 30Oz Tumblers Rumblers Cold Beverage (4 Straight|4 Bent|2 Brushes)
- Natural Bamboo Toothbrushes (4-Pack set) Individually Numbered, Biodegradable, Soft Bristle, Earth Friendly, Ecological, Light-Weight Wood, Recycled Cardboard, Environmental, Plant Based, Medium Size
- Sfee 17oz Double Wall Vacuum Insulated Stainless Steel Water Bottle Cup – Perfect for Outdoor Sports Camping Hiking Cycling +a Cleaning Brush