Let’s talk about plastic-free living.
It is not easy. Actually, it’s darn near impossible sometimes. I am all too familiar with the draining scavenger hunt to find the plastic-free version of the product that I’m looking for, or the plastic-free packaging of the food item that I need. When and if I do find it, the cost is often much higher. Can you relate to this at all?
We as consumers do have the influence and power to decide which brands do well by supporting them with our dollars… The problem is, this is usually easier said than done. Very often, consumers just can’t afford to support the companies that align with their environmental values…Or they don’t always have the time or energy to even find the eco-friendly version of the product they need….And this largely contributes to the endless loop of supply and demand for products that are literally killing the planet.
I know, it’s freaking sad. But it’s also truth. Truth that we need to be real about. And take responsibility for… and show some respect for this miracle of creation that we call Earth.
On the flip side of that, we need to go easy on ourselves and consider what we’re up against here. We are living in a world that is not set up for the average consumer to live plastic-free, especially those who are truly financially limited. If you care deeply about the environment, but you can’t afford a plastic-free lifestyle, be gentle on yourself. You are not the root cause of this madness.
So what is the answer? ...
Is it going broke by purchasing a slew of products that you can’t afford? Is it burying your head in the sand about the effects of plastics on the environment, and continuing to stock up on plastic products? I say, neither. I think the answer is actually somewhere in the middle here.
So first of all, some good news:
Options are becoming more common.
There are actually a lot more eco-friendly brands sprouting up as more consumers have become aware of the realness of these problems, and the demand has been growing. I have started a list of the eco-friendly online stores & brands that I have learned about so far. Maybe you’ll find a plastic-free product, or maybe just a store that will at least use sustainable packaging to ship the product. See if there’s anything that currently works for you!
Start by doing what you honestly can,
even if that’s one little change.
Begin to integrate sustainable options as you go. Start with the items that are easiest for you. Switching to plastic free floss or lip balm, for example, are a couple simple switches at a very low cost. Get into the habit of being selective about your plastic purchases, and notice how much your purchase throughout the week.
Learn about what is recyclable in your area,
and aim to save the plastic purchases for the products you can easily recycle.
While plastic-free is optimum for the environment, it is much better to recycle plastic than to send it out to a landfill… This can be tricky as the materials accepted in the blue recycling bin recycling centers varies. So be sure to learn pay attention to the standards and details of what you can recycle in your weekly trash pick-up.
From there, find out if there are any additional recycling programs in your area.
For example, stretchy plastics are not recyclable in my blue bin, but there is a local dry cleaning business in my area that collects stretchy plastics to recycle into dry cleaning bags. While I do strive not to buy plastic, I know that I can at least recycle this type if I can’t find any other option.
Also keep in mind that smaller plastics (like chapstick and floss) are typically not recyclable in the blue bin. They are just too small to make it through the process. Try to find out if your area has any programs to collect smaller plastic containers.
Terracycle is another resource for recycling! They provide recycling options for a variety of popular brands.
Do not throw out all plastics &
splurge on a boat load of eco-friendly replacements.
On the contrary~ SAVOR those plastics that you have and make them last as long as possible. They are much better for the environment in your home than in a landfill or the ocean, so the best thing to do is to get as much use out of them as you can.
When it is absolutely time to get rid of the item, try to either find a recycling option or donate to a Good Will or thrift store.
Groceries & Produce:
Stay away from plastic-wrapped whenever you can.
Not only is plastic harmful for the planet, but the chemicals in plastic can actually start to leech into the produce, which is harmful to our bodies... And not only THAT, but produce that needs to be plastic-wrapped has likely lost a lot of nutrients anyway; if it's plastic-wrapped, this indicates that it’s likely traveled a while to get to you. The longer it’s been since it was harvested, the lower the amount of nutrients. This is one of the reasons that local produce is best! If buying local isn’t an option for you, find unpackaged fresh produce on the grocery shelves that is still looking bright, vibrant, and fresh.
Purchase things like grains, nuts, seeds, and tea from the bulk bins.
I know this has been trickier this past year with COVID precautions, but some areas do still have bulk items at local stores or farmers markets. If you don't have this option, try to find the item in cardboard packaging rather than plastic.
If you still must purchase plastic-wrapped produce or grocery items, aim to get the types of packaging that you can recycle.
Imperfect foods is also great resource for grocery delivery!
Support B Corporations
B Corporations are companies that have met the highest standards of social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability. They’re assessed and scored based on how the company impacts its workers, customers, community, and environment. B Corp companies are constantly looking for ways to increase their Impact Assessment Score, and therefore their sustainability metrics as a whole. Supporting B Corporations helps the planet in more ways than just eliminating plastic!
At the end of the day,
remember that it's about progress, not perfection.
Our society is just is not set up in a way where we can be 100% plastic-free100% of the time... but we can do what we can to move our world and the marketplace towards sustainable solutions. Start your eco-friendly transition, and strive to do what you truly can from where you are now.