How to start a zero-plastic lifestyle this new year
How My Zero-Plastic & Waste Challenge Started...
Have you ever painted one wall of your house, or remodeled one room then realized that you just couldn’t stop there because everything else looked so desperately wanting of a facelift?
Well, that’s what it’s like for me on my new dedication and pledge to living a minimalist lifestyle this year. It started with some severe purging since the kids flew the nest, but then one day, my husband shared a video article on the extents of damages caused by plastic, it lead me to my newly personal challenge of no-waste and no-plastic living starting on December 5th, 2016. I’ve seen variations of these videos showing "animals eating ocean plastic because they smell like food" then perish, but now I wanted to ramp up my effort to decrease my consumption including plastic to make a personal difference. When you’re in a relationship, it’s much easier when your partner and you are on the same page, and even though he didn’t start us on the journey, his action was the catalyst of my personal challenge to zero-waste and plastic. And so, this is my journey and what I’ve learned in my first 15 days.
I thought that I've always been a health and environmental conscious consumer who’s mindful of not using plastic and non recyclable products. But once I started to keep track of everything that I couldn’t compost or recycle, I couldn't be more wrong. Besides the negative impact plastic has on our environment, it also has been studied and concluded that plastic may be harmful to babies and reproductive health, Here is one report from the Environment & Human Health, Inc.
15 Lessons learned on my first 15 days of zero-waste and plastic-free challenge:
- Buy chocolates from sources without plastic wrappers. (Ahem, leftover halloween candy wrappers are not recyclable)
- Do research and purchase from online vendors who use no plastic or only recyclable packaging
- Avoid beauty or cleaning products with micro-beads and harmful products. Use EWG app before purchase http://www.ewg.org
- Buy from bulk sections and use own fabric bags
- Get E-receipts because the thermal paper receipts are not recyclable and they contain harmful chemicals including BPA. See details here https://www.pca.state.mn.us/quick-links/green-chemistry-and-design-bpa-thermal-paper
- No matter what people believe, Starbucks coffee cups are not recyclable, read it for yourself from the Starbucks website: https://www.starbucks.com/responsibility/environment/recycling and from CNN: http://money.cnn.com/2016/07/21/news/starbucks-recyclable-cups/
- What else? Our tall kitchen plastic garbage bags are non-recyclable plastic, that’s no good. We need to either go “naked” and clean the bin daily, or buy recyclable bags
- Of course, let’s not forget, our dog’s poopy bags to pick up her poos when we take her on walks are not recyclable either, so we need to add these to the list to change
- Dog and Cat food bags: These can’t be recyclable so they would need to be up cycled somehow or find a vendor whose food I’d feed my pets with recyclable bags. I don’t have time or the wherewithal to make food for them
- I’ll be making some produce, bread and pastry bags that look like these https://www.pinterest.com/pin/239324167677524341/ or https://www.pinterest.com/pin/186195765822485925/ and will keep them with me to avoid using plastic produce bags, or wasting more paper bags
- Food wrappers and containers. When we are not at the farmer’s market, food is wrapped with plastic and I’ve been looking to see what plastic numbers they use to see if they are curbside recyclable. As a rule, I just avoid buying items that are packaged in plastic.
- By the way, anyone of us can start a petition at www.Change.org to influence the way we’d like our products packaged plastic-free. Here’s one example: https://www.change.org/p/california-state-senate-protect-the-california-plastic-bag-ban-for-the-sake-of-ocean-wildlife
- Have a vegetable garden. We have fresh veggies and don’t need to buy a lot of things at the farmer’s market. We canned the tomatoes, beets, and pickled and dry some fruit and veggies.
- Before you beat yourself up too badly for the occasional “accidents” of buying items from the stores in plastic containers, check the numbers on the package to see if they are recyclable in your city. My city of Sacramento will take an extensive amount of materials for recycling
- There’s also Terracycle where you can look up to see if you can send any of the items you can’t recycle in your city but could be sent by mail, or dropped off at certain local drop-offs. You can start working with Terracycle as well on items you need to recycle. http://www.terracycle.com/en-US/
Zero-Waste & Zero-Plastic Beginner's Kit:
These are items I have personally purchased for home use as well as for Christmas gifts to start my children on a no-waste and no-plastic lifestyle.
5. Food Containers. I used these over the weekend to bring my leftover Vietnamese food home and the eggrolls stayed crispy, not soggy like other paper containers.
6. Beeswrap for food storage We don’t use a lot of Seran wrap but occasionally there’s a need for it so you can purchase some online. I made some wax coated fabric for sandwich or bowl wrappers. See my Facebook video here.
See my Facebook video on the bees wrapper I made for home use here
For a zero-waste and plastic-free holiday
- Use cotton or wool yarn, twine, cotton ribbons instead of plastic bows and tapes (use paper tape or glue)
- Use recyclable papers for wrapping papers or natural fibers
- Use newspapers or magazines pages for packing boxes and avoid plastic bubble wraps and styrofoam peanuts
- Recycle the plastic bags and foam peanuts received in the mail to UPS, USPS, or local shipping stores
How individuals can make a difference
Not only we have individual decisions to make and follow, we also have ways to petition the change we want to see such as writing our congress people, change.org, and become involved on the grassroots level such as neighborhood, community, and citywide. Additionally, we also work with our legislators to start some changes.
My 15 day no-waste and plastic journey made me realize that even with those of us who are like me in thinking that we are vigilant about generating minimal waste and plastic, but when we start tracking our consumption, our presumption can be devastatingly untrue, as I learn in my case. There is always more that I can do, once I see what I can’t compost or recycle daily. This is my personal challenge that has been met with skepticism and negative comments like, “good luck with that!”
I believe that even big corporations still have to listen to the collective voice of their consumers. We vote with our dollars and have a profound effect on their bottomline if they do not choose to listen to our wishes and demands. If there is a collective awareness of the negative impact plastic has on our environment, ocean, and planet, and if there is an ernest effort on everyone’s part, we can influence our legislatures and corporations to find eco-friendly alternatives to packaging and not continuing their path of manufacturing designed obsolescence products.
Furthermore, legislatures need to work with manufacturers need to practice responsible disposal or recycled of their products at the end-of-life so less would end up in the landfill. For example, “About 75 percent of end-of- life vehicles, mainly metals, are recyclable in the European Union. The rest (~25%) of the vehicle is considered waste and generally goes to landfills. Environmental legislation of the European Union requires the reduction of this waste to a maximum of 5 percent by 2015. “ Sources cited.
I’m optimistically hopeful as there have been many recent victories and I invite you to join me on this journey as the new year greets us in 2017. Here are some passed legislations for Mother Earth as testimonials on how strong consumers can be when we band together, working with our scientists and our governmental representatives.
- Ban of micro-beads in facial scrubs and toothpaste by July 2017 http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/23/science/ban-on-microbeads-proves-easy-to-pass-through-pipeline.html?_r=0
- California is the first state to ban single-use plastic bag http://www.sacbee.com/news/politics-government/capitol-alert/article113898813.html
3. Cancer-linked Flame Retardants Eased Out of Furniture in 2014. https://www.scientificamerican.com/article/cancer-linked-flame/
Here is my heartfelt invitation for you to join our community with other like minded minimalists and eco-conscious consumers, and get weekly tips and news, plus as a member. As a member, you can be added to our private Facebook group to get daily tips, support, and encouragement on this journey. Grab your 3 Free Intro E-Booklets to Minimalism to start now http://eepurl.com/clK9nj
I wish you the finest of holidays with your family, friends, dogs, cats, and birds! Be well, be happy, and just simply BE in the stillness of a beautiful winter for we are on the eve of this year’s Winter Equinox!
As always, I invite you to engage with me on my website and social media:
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