I must admit, getting rid of plastic in my home hasn’t been easy, but it’s something my housemates and I are diligent about each month. Plastic purging is a tradition that we perform to free our house and mind of clutter. We think about it more as an aspiration that can be deepened over time rather than something that can be done all at once. Although our efforts are more of a journey than a destination, we’ve made some great strides in reducing plastic. Once I started doing this, I really became aware of how much plastic is overused! I notice plastic in homes, on the subway, in restaurants and especially when I’m shopping for clothes.
Plastic is all around us. It lines the insides of cans, can be found inside many of our water bottles, food storage containers and much of the packaging for our food and drinks. For many of us, it is throughout our home; it can be in our window frames, furniture, wallpaper, flooring, clothing, eyeglasses, teeth, toothbrushes, computers, phones, dishes, utensils, toys, etc. The list goes on.
Why is plastic a problem? Evidence shows that in addition to causing many environmental issues, plastic can harm our health by disrupting our hormones, impairing brain function, stimulating the growth of cancer cells and causing resistance to chemotherapy.
Here are 14 tips to get you started.
1. Keep your jars. Replace plastic food containers with jars and stainless steel or glass containers.
We use jars of various sizes to store our grains, spices, lunches, leftovers, etc. We also use plastic-free stainless steel storage containers for storing lunches and leftovers in the fridge. I get them from the Big Carrot Grocery store in Toronto. A wonderful way to purchase jars and other glass containers on a budget is from your local thrift or antique shop. If your kids are bringing the stainless steel containers to school and use microwaves to warm up their food, it’s handy to pack a bowl or plate to transfer their food into.
2. Replace non-stick pans with cast-iron, stainless steel or glass cookware. My partner found our cast-iron pots from an antique shop. It is also possible to find them in most kitchen stores as well as second hand stores.
3. When possible, purchase items that don’t come wrapped in plastic or in plastic containers. When items come in plastic, transfer them into non-plastic containers.
4. Stop the bottled water habit. Instead of purchasing water, consider getting your water tested or look up what contaminants may be in your area on the www.pollutionwatch.org website. If you chose to buy a water filter, buying one with recyclable filters can reduce waste and your impact on the environment. For water on the go, jars and stainless steel water bottles do the trick. Be sure to avoid aluminum bottles.
5. Consider finding plastic wrap and sandwich bag alternatives. At our home we use cloth bags and cloth napkins to wrap sandwiches, and jars to store other food items.
6. Cook fresh or frozen instead of eating canned foods. We’ve stocked up on mason jars and plan on canning our own tomatoes this year.
7. Clear out your fridge of plastic bags and take-out containers. Empty condiments into glass jars. You’ll be impressed at how much more space you have in your fridge. We label our containers with oil pastels to keep things organized.
8. Transfer personal care products into glass bottles and recycle the containers. Consider using natural products or even making your own. My partner brushes his teeth with baking soda, I use cold press oils to moisturize my skin. Support local companies that make organic products and that disclose all of their ingredients.
9. Replace your vinyl shower curtain with one made with a natural material. Our organic hemp curtain does the trick.
10. Stop buying dryer sheets and use natural products to clean your home. Vinegar, soap flakes, baking soda and borax are some of our staples.
11. Make a resolve to replace foam furniture such as memory foam mattresses and pillows that contain harmful plastics and chemicals. Sheep wool stuffed pillows are naturally anti-microbial, dust mite resistant and hypoallergenic. They can also be washed in your washing machine.
12. Purchase non-toxic toys for your young children, and ask that they receive non-plastic gifts made of wood, cloth, paper or metal for birthdays and special occasions. Painted and plastic toys can often contain harmful contaminants.
13. Read clothing labels. Polyester, spandex, fleece and rayon are all plastic products. When possible choose items that are locally made and fabrics that are made of natural materials such as hemp, cotton, bamboo, linen, viscose and silk.
14. Reduce waste. Many reusable bags are also made of plastic. I bring cloth bags with me to the market and keep one in my purse for unplanned purchases.
The most difficult plastic-free challenge for most households is food storage. Let us know how you reduce plastic in your home. Share your experiences and resources by visiting our Facebook page.