My biggest pet peeve is seeing liter on the ground. It makes me so sad, especially when I have spent my entire life living in such beautiful areas. In May 2016, I traveled to a rural village in Morocco called Zawiya Ahansal. In recent years, an incinerator was installed a few miles outside of the village for garbage and waste. Until then, there has been no solution which has led to the village being covered in trash and litter. Once the incinerator was installed, there were still many barriers. With it being a few miles out of the village (to avoid as much air pollutants as possible) villagers would have to travel that distance just to take out the trash. A road has been created and recently the village has worked on putting in garbage cans throughout. Now they even have access to a “garbage truck”. Though it is much more convenient than it used to be for the village, this is something we take for granted every single day that I never truly realized. I regret arguing with my parents (Or Kade) about taking out the trash for it is such a privilege to have access to a reliable garbage disposal system.
- Chemicals added to plastics are absorbed by our bodies. Some of these compounds have been found to alter hormones or have other potential human health effects.
- Plastic debris, laced with chemicals and often ingested by marine animals, can injure or poison wildlife. I went to the museum of natural history in Anchorage Alaska and the exhibit on waste in the ocean break my heart. It was devastating to see how much humans have destroyed certain wildlife’s homes.
- Floating plastic waste, which can survive for thousands of years in water, serves as mini transportation devices for invasive species, disrupting habitats.
- Plastic buried deep in landfills can leach harmful chemicals that spread into groundwater. Just because you can’t see it, doesn’t mean it’s not there. People are exposed to chemicals from plastic multiple times per day through the air, dust, water, food, and use of consumer products.
Public Health is a passion of mine and when you look at the Social Determinants of Health, environmental factors are a huge contributor to one’s overall health. Recent studies show that your life expectancy change decrease by 10 years just because of the zip code you live in and this is because of environmental factors.
So what changes have we made?
- We try to avoid using any form of single-use plastic. This. Is. So. Challenging.
- Switched from using grocery bags (paper or plastic) to my own freezer bag or canvas bags. This is hard though because sometimes I just simply forget them at home. And that’s okay! But I feel so rewarded when I can leave a grocery store without any plastic bags.
- Reusable produce bags. They can be found here at Natural Home Reuseable Produce Bags 5 Pack.
- Safety Razor. First, let me say how much money I saved by making this change in my life. The safety razor itself was $20. I have sensitive skin and have tried a variety of razors. The only ones that work well for me are the expensive venus Gillette razors and I have coarse leg hair so I go through them fairly quickly so I buy a pack about once a month. $25/month X 12 Months=$300/year on shaving my legs. That is ridiculous. With the safety razor, the blades last much longer than the plastic venus Gillette and you can buy 100 blades for $5. That will last me over a year. So not only is this a great money saver, it reduces my waste from throwing away plastic razors all the time.
- Napkins (and paper towels). I keep seeing a joke online that millennials killed the napkin. Well, if that’s the case I am okay with it. Kade and I switched to reusable napkins and they have been working great. Simply throw them in the washer and you’re good to go. This also saved us money.
- Straws. Set of 10 Stainless Steel Straws, HuaQi Straight Reusable Drinking Straws 10.5” Long 0.24‘’ Dia for 30 oz Tumbler and 20 oz Tumbler, 2 Cleaning Brush Included (10 Straight Straws + 2 Brushes） Another single-use plastic. I have purchased stainless steel reusable straws. I keep one in my purse, one at work, and a couple at home. Sure, I get weird looks when I go to a restaurant and pull one out, but who cares? I am refusing to use that one plastic straw.
- Buying items in bulk. We have been trying to save mason jars and other containers to shop in bulk more. There is so much you can buy in bulk that I never knew until recently. Rice, granola, pancake mix, snacks, dried fruit, nuts, grains, quinoa, etc.
- Reusable water bottles and coffee cups.
- Another thing that we have done has been to just be a little more conscientious when shopping. For example, Costco has Bao Buns that we really like. There are 2-3 different brands and we have our usual brand but we decided to switch it up one time. We opened the box and every single Bao Bun was individually wrapped in plastic compared to the other box where they package them in bulk and used less plastic. Not only did we switch back to the Bao buns with less packaging and waste, I emailed the company and let them know that I preferred companies who do use minimal waste.
- Shampoo and soap bars. This one has been hard. If you know me, you know I have fairly long and thick hair. It is so hard to switch from the expensive bottles of Shampoo and Conditioner to bars. We have a local shop that has homemade bars, which I liked. I also have tried Love Beauty and Planet at Target which seems to lather and cleanse really well. So far I have only tried one conditioner bar, the Ethique Bar. This has worked okay, but I am interested in trying other brands as well. Switching was very hard and I immediately noticed my hair was dryer and harder to comb through. I would say this lasted 10-14 days with washes every 2-3 days but like most other things, my hair adapted. I am still using a detangle spray in a plastic bottle which I would like find an alternative too also. The bars last quite a while and are so much more affordable that non-reusable shampoo and conditioner bottles. Highly recommend.
Does our household still have plastic and create waste? Yes, of course. One thing I haven’t figured out is how to replace my large garbage bags. I don’t want to throw garbage into the bin creating a sticky and stinky mess. I have noticed how much longer it is taking our household to fill up those bags than it used to. One thing that we will do is when we use up a large bag of dog food or cat food, I will re-use/re-purpose that bag as a garbage bag vs. just throwing that away. This is an achievement in my mind! I would love to hear any other ideas about limiting your waste.