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How to Live a Life Free From Toxic Plastics
Do you think it’s possible to live a life free from toxic plastics? Or at least live a life with far less plastic? You might be surprised at how easy it is to live without it, especially once you get into the habit. For some people, some of the suggestions and ideas here might be next to impossible, but for many of us, we can not only live a life with a minimal amount of plastic in it, we can also reduce our plastic consumption when we can’t avoid it. Recycling, buying used rather than new, upcycling, or reusing the plastic things we can’t avoid (such as computers, laptops, and portable hard drives).
The following list isn’t meant to be overwhelming, nor is it meant to shame anyone who simply can’t do everything on it, this list is just a tool to help you find new ways and give you new ideas for avoiding plastics as much as possible. The life of our planet might depend on it one day. Take on as many of these ideas as you possibly can. Imagine what the world would be like if everyone did?
1. Don’t Become OCD About It
You will only drive yourself crazy if you become obsessed with eliminating plastic from every aspect of your life all at one time. By the way, you can tell your friends what you are doing, but don’t pressure them into doing the same or judge them if they don’t follow suit. Let your deeds, rather than lectures, be your strongest argument. Once your friends see what you are doing, they will more than likely begin to take up some of your habits.
If you should get some new plastic into your life, have a plan for what to do with it. You might be able to recycle it. Most stores will allow you to return (so they can later recycle) that stash of plastic grocery bags. Save batteries and non-functioning electronics so they can be given to recycling programs when they are offered. (Most cities offer electronic recycling at least once per year) If you have an item with plastic that is still functional, see if you can sell it through EBay or Craigslist, or call a non-profit organization to see if they will accept it as a donation. Reuse that plastic until it can no longer function, and then try to recycle what is left. Avoid buying new items with plastic, things that contain plastic, or are wrapped in plastic, as much as possible.
3. Agree to Stop Using Stupid Plastic
Some of the plastic we use is just downright stupid when you think about it. A plastic Easter basket? Why not use one made from natural straw or wicker? A plastic drinking straw? Why not drink right from the glass? A plastic bag to hold a greeting card or a couple of cans of cat food? Just hold it in your hand, stick it in your pocket, or drop it in your purse if you forgot your shopping bag. Plastic “bones” for a Halloween decoration? Think twice before you buy or use stupid plastic.
4. Buy Natural Fibers
Look for rubber flip flops, rather than plastic. Buy leather or canvas shoes, rather than plastic. You might not be able to find underclothes that are completely free of plastic, but at least buy ones that are mostly made from natural fibers. It’s not that hard to find underwear made from 95 percent cotton. Buy your socks, underwear, t-shirts, and other items without plastic packaging if possible.
5. Avoid Plastic Pet Stuff
Your cat will use a plain old cardboard box for a litterbox, but you will end up needing new ones rather frequently. Buy a used cat box from a thrift store or garage sale. Use natural cat litters made from wheat. Some are even sold in paper bags, rather than plastic containers. Use glass, ceramic, or stainless steel bowls for your pet dishes. Choose pet toys or furniture made from natural materials, rather than plastic. Give your dog real bones to chew on (buy large enough pieces that they can’t break them, such as the knuckle bones from cows). Rather than expensive plastic toys, cats will play for hours with a cork.
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6. Household Ideas
Use natural rubber gloves with cotton flocking. Use laundry powder in a cardboard box or use soap nuts. Buy vinegar in glass bottles and make your own household cleaners. Use powdered automatic dishwasher soap that comes in a cardboard box, and a bar soap or plain old baking soda for hand washing the dishes. For super difficult, baked on mess, use a copper scrubber. These are sold in every supermarket and are often sold in a little cardboard box. Compost your food waste or use your green recycling container from your city waste disposal. Use paper bags if you must for other trash.
7. Carrying Stuff
Always, always, always carry reusable shopping bags. Find a small one that folds up neatly to stash in your pocket, purse, or briefcase for unexpected items. Use backpacks or messenger bags. Keep a separate set of bags in each car, so you won’t forget to move them from one car to the other. If you are walking into a store, any store, grab a bag or two, just in case. You can use them for more than just groceries, you know! Canvas bags can be used for electronics, clothes, office supplies, toys, drugstore items, you name it.
8. Give It Up
Sometimes, the only way to deal with some plastic is to just give it up. Learn to live without bottled water. Buy a reusable stainless steel water bottle for everyone in the family. Fill them up before you leave home or before you leave a destination. Buy a filter for your home and you will have an endless supply of filtered water for pennies. Give up those individually packaged anything, such as juice, rice, or beans. Bring your own container to the store and refill from bulk as much as possible. If you don’t live in an area where you can do this, at least buy the largest package possible, to reduce the amount of plastic you are buying and recycle that container when you are finished.
Don’t buy produce that is packaged in plastic, such as apples, cabbage, or potatoes. Buy from your local farmers market, or buy them in bulk. You can reuse those little plastic containers for things such as berries. Many sellers at the farmers market use sturdy cardboard, or will gladly take, and reuse, your plastic containers for foods such as strawberries or cherry tomatoes. Say NO to more plastic bags, and put your carrots or apples in a small cloth bag instead. Don’t buy sodas in plastic bottles and don’t buy juice in plastic bottles. Learn to live without plastic bottles. Just say NO.
9. Bags You Can Do Without
Buy fresh bread that comes either in no bag, or a paper bag. Bread stored in a cloth bag will keep just fine for a few days. Alternatively, you can make your own bread from scratch. Speaking of that, buy flour in larger sizes, as most times, flour sold in bulk will come in a cloth bag, which you can reuse in dozens of ways! Buy popcorn in a glass jar, then make your own flavored popcorn and store it in used tin or glass containers. You can also bring your own container for meats to the butcher. Or ask them to seal your meat in paper, not plastic.
10. Dairy Items
If you can, find a local dairy that still sells milk in returnable glass bottles. Although even these milk bottles will sometimes have a plastic cap, a small cap is far less plastic than an entire plastic milk carton. Some manufacturers use cardboard cartons sealed with wax, but double check because many are sealed in plastic, rather than the old fashioned wax.
Buy large rounds of cheese that are unwrapped from your local deli. If you think you won’t use that much cheese, split it with friends, family, or neighbors. Make your own yogurt with a homemade yogurt machine. The machine itself can be bought second hand. The best ones have plastic outsides, but the actual yogurt containers are made from glass or ceramic. Don’t buy large plastic containers of ice cream. Buy hand scooped and ask them to put it in your own container if they don’t use cardboard containers.
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11. Avoid Frozen Foods
Almost all frozen foods– potatoes, vegetables, meats, or dinners– come in plastic containers. Sometimes you can find frozen vegetables in cardboard boxes, but these are rare. Cook foods from scratch as much as possible.
12. Skip Plastic Holiday Ornaments and Decorations
Most artificial Christmas trees are made from very toxic PVC. Buy natural trees, or use a live potted tree that you can plant later on. If you search online, you can find some artificial trees made from natural materials such as recycled wood, glass bottles, or cardboard. Buy only glass, ceramic, or natural ornaments and forget the cheap plastic crap. Kid love to make their own ornaments from paper, glue, and natural materials such as pinecones, dried flowers, and other natural items.
Use real hard boiled eggs for Easter and skip the cheap plastic ones. Find ways to wrap Christmas (and other gifts, such as birthdays) gifts rather than use plastic tape. Wrap them in cloth (dishtowels are fun) reuse old gift bags, wrap with string, rather than plastic tape, reuse wrapping paper, ribbons, and bows, or simply present the gift as is. Try to give things that will be used and appreciated, rather than more plastic stuff.
13. Healthcare and Medicine
Try making your own natural health remedies, rather than buying more stuff that is generally sold in plastic containers. You can make your own cough drops, use essential oils to clear up stuffy heads, and make your own gummy chews or tinctures for instant flu or headache relief. Use cloth handkerchiefs that you can rewash, rather than tissue. Although tissue is made from paper and is often sold in a cardboard box, they often come with plastic wrap, or have that little plastic piece on the top of the box. Why add to the landfill when you can reuse a hankie over and over again?
Prescription medication bottles are recyclable, so be sure to put them in the proper recycling bin. Ladies, use plastic free feminine hygiene products. You can buy washable cloth liners and pads, or use the Diva Cup, which is simply washed, then reinserted. Buy toilet paper that is wrapped in paper, not plastic. Buy an old fashioned safety razor or at the very least, a refillable razor. Make your own deodorant, toothpaste, and shampoo and store them in glass containers, or reuse the plastic bottles you already have. Use bar soap, rather than liquid hand soap in a plastic container.
14. Slow Down
Much of the plastic in our lives comes from the always on the go lifestyle most people think is necessary to a successful life. This simply isn’t true. Cutting back on plastic will help you slow down a little at the same time. Take an extra 15 minutes in the morning and cook your own breakfast, rather than grabbing a bagel and coffee at the local coffee joint.
Eat at a real restaurant for lunch, or pack your own homemade lunch and take the time to eat it, rather than eat in the car. You will avoid a lot of plastic, and you will probably be eating healthier at the same time.
15. Food Storage
There is no problem if you want to keep using your plastic food storage items. Using them until they can’t be used anymore is a better alternative than throwing it out. But you can start saving all your glass bottles and jars for storing items now so that you won’t feel the need to buy more plastic items when the ones you have now finally break. You can always store food in glass or ceramic bowls with a plate on top, rather than use plastic wrap.
Bowels with saucers or plates on them are really great for keeping in the fridge, also. You can also freeze foods or liquids in glass bottles, as long as you leave some space so the food has room to expand. Always allow the frozen bottles to defrost at room temperature or in cold water to avoid breaking them. There are also stainless steel containers for sale online. Read more about food storage ideas without toxic plastics.
Don’t worry if you end up using or buying some plastic. It’s hard to become accustomed to living without it. Over time, you will find many creative ways to do without and one day you will find yourself wondering why you ever thought you needed so much plastic.