Monday, May 14, 2012

10 Ways to Precycle Plastic!

My goal this year was to avoid plastic completely as a practice for 2013 of Plastic Free Life!  but I've been both more discouraged and inspired with the past 5 months.  Things I thought would be easy to avoid have gotten more incorporated into our life and things I didn't think about have presented new challenges as well.  BUT, I thought I should give some sort of check in for both myself and readers on how we're doing as a family and how you too can cut out plastic.  To precycle plastic is similar to recycling but instead of recycling you just don't buy it PREventing the need to do anything with the waste, because... well, there isn't any.

So, let me start by saying that we already don't use a lot of plastic so the things I mention might be more or less extreme for you to consider based on your current plastic consumption.  Also, my major problem isn't with plastic so much in itself, as a functioning object, rather the waste produced by plastic, i.e. everything shrink wrapped or clear packaging that can't be recycled for various reasons.

1. Store your food in glass.  We use a combination of ball jars and pyrex (however those have plastic bpa free lids) and a few snack bags like these.  I haven't used a plastic baggie in years.  I feel really good about the fact those baggies aren't ending up in the trash and therefore the landfill.  I'm proud my daughter's food has not been tainted with leaching toxins nor am I contributing to carcinogens released by the production of such bags at a factory level.

2.  Purchase your food in paper and forgo the plastic produce bags.  The bulk section of the grocery store is really key for avoiding plastic and other packaging.  Everything is in big tubs and you can find things at a percentage of the canned or prepacked prices.  We only buy our beans, nuts, dried fruit and the like in these sections.  I use paper lunch bags to purchase the items in.  I prefer to store items in ball jars but the weight can't always be fully deducted from the scale and therefore costs more money SO, I use paper bags and when they get worn out I recycle them, also the bags are pen friendly so I don't have to waste those plastic tags on writing down the skew number.

3. Shop in the Bulk section.  I mentioned this above but it deserves it's own spot.  By shopping in the bulk section you are doing 3 or more things to reduce environmental impact of your food. 1. You're not purchasing the packaging for the item.  You can reuse your storage containers and you don't have to throw away the ones you purchased your items in.  In effect; precycling.  2. You're not purchasing water.  As in, the dry items have to be hydrated at your home, for example, beans soak in water, same for rice and grains.  This saves on transportation.  We all have tap water (in the US) and it's cheaper to use that water, than to buy the items already hydrated.  Once hydrated, they're bigger because they're full of water causing more shipping containers and more trucks full of each item. 3. Avoiding toxins.  The biggest thing on canned food right now is BPA free, everyone (who cares) is making the switch to BPA free cans, but why worry about if your food has been soaking in toxins. If you just buy them dry YOU know whats in the food and water.  Also, the other preservatives in canned food are simply not good for you, buy bulk and you avoid all of the above. (I realize the items in the bulk section may be stored in plastic but they're reusable plastic containers and maybe if we voice our opinion as consumers the stores will store them in glass jars instead!)

4. Make your own soap, shampoo and or tooth powder (recipes 1 and 2).  When you make these common items yourself, you're precycling the packaging they come in.  Almost all soaps, shampoos and tooth pastes come in plastic packaging.  In fact, at the moment, I can't think of ANY that don't.  Expect handmade ones like the company lush; but even then, there may be ingredients you're not into using.  Some ingredients for these at home hygiene products may come in plastic packaging as well but it's usually for more product and I've always been able to find a paper, metal or glass packaged alternative to the ingredient items as opposed to the premade products.

5. Make your own cleaning supplies.  We use vinegar to clean everything, so I buy a bulk container (plastic but recyclable) of vinegar and mix my various recipes for cleaning, I store the mixture in reusable spray bottles or recycled ones.  Preventing the new production of the toxic chemicals and new plastic containers for cleaning supplies.  I've also found glass containers of vinegar, unfortunately it's too pricey and small of an amount for me to use for cleaning, I do however buy it for the vinegar I plan on ingesting.

6. Make your own cooking spray.  I know my husband had a hard time when I gave up cooking sprays.  The container may be recyclable in some areas but the plastic lids are not.  So, we use a BPA free spay bottle with this recipe.  I buy all my oils in glass jars from the grocery store and I always try and buy the biggest version so it lasts longer and the bottle is more likely to be reused when I know it can hold more, if not I just recycle the glass.

7. Bring your own food containers when eating out (just keep a spare set in the car!).  We don't eat out often, mostly because there are still very few restaurants that can commit to using 100% organic and local ingredients, and we try to avoid the other stuff.  However, when we do eat out we usually don't finish ALL the food we order and while some places do offer environmentally friendly packaging it's usually not all that recyclable after the food has been in the container, and who wants to wash a container before they recycle it.  Just reuse it!  So we keep Pyrex with us or ball jars and we use those.  Of course, sometimes we forget but we make the effort! which is half the battle.

8. Bring your own cup when ordering coffee.  or any other gourmet drink.  This is one of the biggest impacts on my household.  I ALWAYS bring my glass cup with me to get coffee, or my ball jars with straw lids, and the coffee shop knows its me when they see my drink on the espresso line.  I even had the owner offer one of their cups to me when I forgot mine, and he told me I could bring it back the next day! I can't even tell you how disturbed I am when I see the trash cans at the farmer's market filled to the brim with plastic and paper cups.  THE FARMER'S MARKET! and they have some recycling bins! It's just easier to throw away these items than to find a recycling bin or reuse them!  If you could make one daily change this would be my goal for you, especially if you're a coffee drinker like me.  As a stay at home mom, it's my daily outing with my daughter and if I was just buying and throwing away plastic everyday... well, I'd be a hypocrite.  But  you'd just be wasteful :) please if you own cups, use those for your to go drinks!

9. Bring your own bags to the grocery store. duh.  But don't buy a new one if you forget the ones you already own, just ask for paper and reuse, then recycle it.  It's more wasteful to own 20 bags (like my mother) than to just make a one time paper exception when you forget.  As much as the media tries to tell you; you can not buy your way to sustainability.

10. BUY USED.  I saved this one for last because if you made it all the way to the bottom of this list I know you're committed!  This is the most challenging change for any American to make, I still struggle with it.  But whenever possible; buy used, this means everything (well almost everything) clothes, movies, books, electronics, any objects.  The items you're buying used have already been packaged and distributed so instead of you buying it new and the previous owner just throwing it away, you buy it.  Saving money, trash and benefitting the person selling the items.  I know a lot more items would end up out of the trash if the original owner thought someone else might use it.  And that brings me to my next point! Before throwing something away, ask yourself if you could repair or reuse the item.  If its not destroyed, donate it.  Salvation Army or Goodwill or any other charitable organization will take your fixable and clean items.  When we all do a little something extra to benefit the earth, we benefit ourselves and each other!

Hope these 10 things make precycling plastic easier for you or maybe gives you a starting point or goal. Good Luck!  If you have any additional suggestions, please, leave a comment!

p.s. follow my healing and cleaning board on pinterest to find out what else we make ourselves, or how we clean and heal naturally without the use of toxic, cacinogenic and plastic ingredients and packaging.

Oh! and all images on D.I.Y. Cupcake are copyrighted unless sourced from another website. so please don't steal photos without linking back, please and thank you.

1 comment:

  1. Awesome and interesting article. Great things you've always shared with us. Thanks. Just continue composing this kind of post.

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