I’ve written this post every day since Friday. I feel really torn. “Is this too big of a step?” I asked myself. “Is this too hard?” Not only is this a complicated and loaded subject, but it is one of the most multifaceted and pervasive. So this weeks’ green challenge can be either one of three choices, or the first choice and then the second and third choice. It’s completely up to you.
The first is to seek out an alternative to buy for the next thing you want or need that is plastic. An example of this would be to go buy wooden hangers instead of plastic ones.
The second step or option is to purge an entire room (and then your house?) of everything you don’t need or want that is plastic.
And the third option or step is to choose a room (and then your entire house?) and replace as many things as you can that you need and use, with plastic free alternatives.
Before I go any further, please do your best to recycle or donate anything you get rid of. If you are deeply conflicted about someone using your plastic Tupperware and getting sick from it, then you can recycle it :)
Back in 2008, I did something really radical and I got rid of everything plastic in my kitchen. I mean EVERYTHING. Six years ago, this was considered really paranoid and strange. I should clarify that I DONATED everything, but took the radical activism even further and REFUSED TO BUY REPLACEMENTS. Why? Because I only had four stove burners and two hands, and how much kitchen stuff do I really need? You’re going to see how quickly the idea of minimalism folds into this plastic escape plan…
But I digress.
Plastic…is toxic $hit. Why? Because its made of highly toxic chemicals that cause cancer and infertility. If you don’t believe me, there’s endless amounts of info on the internet. It pollutes the planet during production, poisons us when we use it, and then kills animals who eat it. As it degrades, it leaks those toxic pollutants back into the water and soil, and it takes millions of years to break down.
One thing you might NOT have thought of is all the things that contain plastic. Tupperware is a no brainer- but did you know that plastic is in your shampoo, your sneakers, lining tin cans, your clothing, packaging ALL of your food, and even what your PIPES are made of? It’s everywhere, and that should terrify you. Because it’s toxic.
Yes, those are BPA free plastic lids, but they’re a great alternative for airtight storage that can be uncovered and reheated in the toaster oven
So where do you begin? Stop shopping. Ok ok, stop shopping the same way you used too- try alternative markets and thrift shops. My favorite place to shop is lifewithoutplastic.com, but alternatives to things can be found in the least likely places- even The Walmart. I hate The Walmart. I’ll go without before giving my money to a company that treats it’s employees the way it does.
This blogger is a plastic free activist, who has a LOT of great ideas, and wrote an amazing book that I highly recommend.
At first it’s kind of hard- I’ll admit that I’m still using plastic bottled shampoo because none of the natural, plastic-free alternatives have worked for my extremely long and fine porous hair. But I make my own toothpaste, my own laundry soap and dish soap, many of my own gifts, and I buy in bulk. I’ve made a list by room or things that can be replaced with plastic free alternatives.
Here is the basic hierarchy:
1. Determine if you actually need it (re: can it be fixed?)
2. DIY (do it yourself)
3. Buy or barter used
4. Buy sustainable, minimal packaging, plastic free or near plastic free
5. Buy from recycled plastic
6. Buy from plastic that can be recycled
Here are ideas-
Bathroom: (see this post here for an extensive list, including shampoo, soap, razors, toothpaste, deodorant, mouthwash, floss, toothbrushes, brushes, feminine hygiene, and more)
Laundry soap: DIY or use soap nuts
Fabric softener: Use wool laundry balls or put 1/2c vinegar in your rinse cycle
Whitening: Use peroxide or extra washing powder
Stains: Peroxide or soaking
Viewing: Rent DVD’s or get Netflix, get music digitally
Appliances (vacuum etc.): Buy used or repair broken ones
Furniture: Buy used and not prefab., bamboo, pine, etc.
Carpets: Buy natural fiber or used, rag rugs, etc.
Textiles (curtains, etc.): Buy organic or natural fiber, diy from natural fibers, or get used
Clothes: Buy natural fibers instead of nylon, poly fabrics, and fleece (yes, your clothes are plastic), or buy used (I LOVE consignment shops), or diy/upcycle
Books: Buy used or on kindle, or borrow from the library
Shoes: Buy hemp or latex shoes and flip flops, Tom’s, and other sustainable brands
Appliances: Go for vintage like old metal fans, old metal alarm clocks, etc.
Furniture: Look for cedar chests, local pine furniture, bamboo, or used
Bedding: Vintage quilts and DIY quilts are GORGEOUS! (but in case you don’t know how and can’t find any, check Etsy or look for natural fibers)
Mattress: Natural latex mattresses don’t off-gas, and I can’t recommend used here because of bed bugs and mattresses degrade
Pillows: buckwheat (not wheat- it’s gluten free) hull pillows are amazing and highly recommended, but I’ve heard of upcyclers making their own with rag stuffing (it’s cruelty free)
Hangers: Buy metal or wooden, hang less
Appliances: If you can (re: if you’re not gluten free or have food allergies), buying used is best, but this area is hard for finding non-plastic appliances (most percolators are mostly plastic free)
Most pots and pans are not plastic
Storage: Use mason jars, Lunch Bots stainless steel, Pyrex with BPA lids, Weck jars, Crate and Barrel jars with rubber seals, etc.
Plastic wrap: Bees wraps or other beeswax wraps, tin-foil, parchment
Home Lunches: Tiffins, planet box, lunch bots, or reusable sandwich bags
Water bottles: stainless steel, glass, mason jars, ecojarz lids
Straws: Glass or paper
Spices: Buy in bulk and refill your jars or buy Frontier brand in glass jars (including vanilla)
Cereal/granola/beans/rice/flour/sugar/etc: Buy in bulk
Tea: Buy in bulk to reduce plastic packaging
Other: DIY baked goods, including waffles and bread
Dishes: Use ceramic or glass, and for children, I get metal camping dishes
Go to the farmer’s market where berries are in berry boxes, cheese and tofu are sold without packaging, and produce is sold individually and without stickers
These washed out containers are great for sending people home with leftovers too!
Other clever ideas:
Instead of buying new furniture, consider transforming waste-stream furniture. Our tv stand/entertainment center is a transformed dresser.
Instead of buying plastic storage containers to organize cupboards and closets, use clemetine boxes or cardboard/shoe boxes covered in cloth or paper.
Learn basic hand-stitching and use felt to make things you need- I’ve made a glasses case and an ipod cover out of ecofelt (it’s made from recycled plastic). Felt things can make great toys too.
Fall in love with baskets- they are awesome for organization and thrift shops usually have an abundance of them for cheap.
Join Freecycle- its a great way to pass on items you don’t need and to score things you do.
A lot of dry goods from healthfood stores are coming in plastic re-sealable bags- wash them out and reuse them for times when mason jars and stainless steel containers would be too bulky or heavy (like stashing sliced fruit in your purse/bag). I also like to use things like plastic flour bags to put my produce in at the store to replace the plastic bags they offer- this is a good idea if you don’t know how to sew your own mesh produce bags.
Join pinterest. You’ll catch the DIY bug soon enough….
Attend workshops and read a lot- I’ve learned all of the skills I have written about here simply by READING and OBSERVING!
The ipod cover I made