Have you ever stopped to look around you and see how much plastic there is in your life? This past week I have been reading Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too by Beth Terry and let me tell you it has opened my eyes. I knew plastic was a problem but there were several things I really had no clue about. Like the fact that the little symbol on the bottom of most plastic containers does not necessarily mean it is recyclable. It is just a code that recycling companies use to help them sort the plastic. Or the fact that recycled plastic does not go towards making more of the same product. For example plastic bottles don't become new plastic bottles...often they become fleece blankets or stuffed animals.
Last year I realized that 99% of our garbage was non recyclable plastic and so I have been working for ways to reduce the amount of plastic that comes into the house. Reading Beth's book has showed me that I am on the right path but has also given me so many tips on new area's to look at. Like did you know that styrofoam is a type of plastic?
This past week has been a challenge as I have tried to learn from Beth and eliminate plastic from our life. I set out on Thursday to the store to find storage solutions for our pantry and do you know how hard it is to find storage solutions that do not contain plastic?? Needless to say I walked out of there with very few items but I felt good that I stuck to my goal of less plastic. My behaviour this week must have rubbed off on Joe too as he put an empty SodaStream flavour plastic container in the dishwasher and asked if we could find some way to reuse it. UMMM YES!!
Beth is seriously the Plastic Free Diva. We can all learn a lot from her and to make it a bit easier for you I asked her some questions about her book and her journey to be plastic free.
What is a product that has plastic in it that you were really surprised to learn about?
Chewing gum. Almost all chewing gum is either made from plastic or packaged in plastic or both. If you see "gum base" in the ingredients list, that could mean plastic (polyvinyl acetate) or natural rubber or a number of other things. The only way to know for sure is to contact the company and ask. Even Glee Gum is made with a combination of natural and synthetic (plastic) ingredients. I was also surprised to learn that milk cartons, and all paperboard containers that are leak proof, are not coated with wax as many people think, but plastic. And metal food and drink cans and aluminum bottles are lined with plastic as well.
What was the product that was the hardest for you to find a replacement for?
The hardest thing at first was finding an alternative for frozen microwavable meals because I was a convenience food addict and DID.NOT.WANT.TO.COOK. But I soon discovered that ALL frozen foods are packaged with some plastic, even those that come in cardboard trays or boxes, so I had to learn to love the farmers market. And it's been really good for me!
The plastic that I still end up with are some prescription bottles (they can't be refilled in California), packaging tape (even though I always request no plastic packaging when placing an order, vendors have a hard time with tape even though paper tape does exist!), envelope windows (even though I've removed myself from most paper mailing lists and do my banking and bill paying online), supplement bottles from my cats' homemade food, and miscellaneous bits of plastic that I don't expect.
With all the information out there about bottled water and how it is basically tap water why do you think so many people still buy it?
The bottled water industry has spent vast amounts of money to convince people that bottled water is purer and safer than tap water. And the tap water industry is basically our government, which doesn't have the kinds of funds needed to counteract those claims. But the truth is that tap water is actually more highly regulated than bottled water. And bottled water can contain chemicals that leach into it from the plastic bottle.
What is one moment in your journey that stands out the most?
Wow. There have been so many moments in the last five years! Getting into great conversations with people in restaurants and stores when they notice me bringing my own containers for take-out or meat for our cats. Meeting and interviewing plastic-free heroes, like 10-year old Milo Cress, who started a campaign to get restaurants to stop automatically handing out plastic straws. Connecting with other green bloggers and blog readers who are trying to reduce their plastic consumption.
But I would say one of the biggest moments happened in January 2009 after I had started a campaign to get Clorox, the owner of Brita, to take back and recycle Brita water filter cartridges. After 8 months of hard work and worry and connecting with every bloggers and organization I could find and collecting over 16,000 petition signatures and over 600 used Brita water filter cartridges, I got a call from Brita that they had developed a way to recycle the filters. It was an amazing testament to what we as citizens can do when we put our collective voices together.
Reducing our own plastic consumption is very important and a necessary first step. But going further to get companies and our government to change is what it will take for us to really solve the plastic pollution problem. And the most important lesson that I've learned in the past 5 years is that I have a voice, and it's my responsibility to use it.
Fast Plastic-Free Facts
Amount of plastic you dispose of each month: About 2-1/2 ounces. And I don't dispose of it but keep it in my collection for educational purposes.
Number of reusable bags in your purse right now: 2 ChicoBags and 1 cotton produce bag, but if I were planning to shop, there would be more.
Last time you had a beverage in a plastic bottle: Over 5 years ago.
Favourite plastic free product: Baking soda. Seriously. It's my deodorant, my dish washing "soap," my "shampoo," my general household cleaner, my deodorizer, and my once-in-a-while antacid.
Favourite resource for plastic free products: There are several and it depends on what kind of product. LifeWithoutPlastic.com, Etsy.com, and at this point, my own PlasticfreeGuide.com. But also? Google. Without search engines and the Web, this process would be a lot harder. So it's ironic that my plastic computer helps me get the plastic out of my life. But I found it secondhand, so it's okay. :-)
I highly suggest that you pick up a copy of Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too. It really will change your life. You can get it on Amazon in hardcopy (it is compostable!) or electronically (this is what I got!). Also, check out Beth's website as she has more fantastic tips and also has a forum for readers to support one another as they take inventory of their plastic and look for ways to make changes.