We just finished watching a new documentary that I cannot get out of my head. It’s one of those films that challenges the way you look and think about the world around you and at random moments after seeing it, you’ll be looking at something and all of a sudden a scene from the film will pop into your mind and cause you to reflect on its message.
It’s called “Bag It” and is airing on PBS as a part of Earth Week. It started out as a documentary about plastic bags and the impact they have on the environment, but it evolved into much more and also includes information on the environmental and health dangers associated with all disposable plastics.
As soon as the film was over we both knew, without saying anything, that we could do better. So we stood up, grabbed paper and pencil, and walked from room to room in the house noting all the plastic we had in the house and ideas for limiting or eliminating it from our lives.
The documentary’s website has a very practical list of 10 things you can do to live a less plastic life like giving up bottled water, which I think is HUGE. We are already doing that and about half of the other suggestions on the list, so we came up with our own list. Maybe this will help illustrate how small changes can be easy and will help eliminate as much plastic as possible from our lives.
1. Put those reusable shopping bags in the car. So often we get to the checkout line only to realize that we left our tote bags at home in the kitchen. What good can they do if they don’t go to the store with you?
2. Invest in a few reusable produce bags. 1/3 to 1/2 of our grocery cart each week is fresh produce. But for every fresh item that we buy (apples, lettuce, peppers, etc.), a wasteful plastic bag is used and our food is coming into direct contact with the plastic! This is easy to eliminate with reusable produce bags and they will go in the car with the others so we never forget.
3. Research local grocery stores where we can bring our own containers to stock up on bulk foods like granola, rice or quinoa. Again, normally these items go into one-use disposable plastic bags that end up in a landfill or worse, the great pacific garbage patch.
4. Replace plastic food storage containers with glass containers. We each have a designated glass container that we use to take leftovers to work each day for lunch because the most important thing is to NOT put plastic containers in the microwave to heat up your food. But we still have a stock of plastic in the cupboard, so over time we will be slowly weeding those out and never replacing them.
5. Do not use plastic plates or cups. We have done very well with not keeping any plastic dishes in the house, except for one item – my green smoothie cup. I use a plastic cup every morning to take my green smoothie on the road with me. It’s the only cup we have that’s big enough to hold 4 cups worth of smoothie, but that’s going to change. I’ll be searching for a plastic alternative that meets the requirements and eliminates one more piece of plastic from my daily life.
6. Stop buying plastic hangers. Not only are they cheap and break easily, but wood looks so much nicer hanging in your closet. We’ll slowly be changing over all of our plastic hangers to nicer wood versions and we’ll donate the plastic ones to a local goodwill or salvation army.
7. Swap our vinyl shower curtain liner for a cloth curtain or one made with PEVA. Most vinyl shower curtains are made with PVC which has all kinds of harmful effects and those are usually heightened with heat and humidity – hello hot shower! We’ll be looking for either a cloth curtain liner or one made with PEVA, a stable vinyl product that doesn’t contain hazardous air pollutants (IKEA curtains are made with PEVA and not PVC).
8. Remove as many plastic bottles from the bathroom as possible. We’ll start by switching to bar soap at the sink for hand-washing. Unless we had a reusable liquid soap dispenser and were buying soap in big bulk bottles, we are disposing of a plastic soap pump every 2-3 months and it’s just not necessary. A good bar of soap is just as effective and probably lasts longer than liquid soap anyway so we’re getting rid of plastic and saving a few bucks. I’m also considering switching from liquid face wash to bar soap and the husband is going to give bar shampoo a try.
9. Use as many personal hygiene and beauty products that are phthalate-free as possible. This is going to take some more research on my part and I know I may not be able to eliminate it entirely, but I will do my best to eliminate as much as I can. I’ll be using this list as a starting point.
Many of the plastic-free movements are based on improving the environment, and this supports that too. But for us, what made it real and urgent was learning that we come into contact with chemicals from plastic every day, and in some cases ingest them, and they cause real harm. It’s scary! We are choosing to do what we can to eliminate these toxins from our lives, as much as possible. And in doing so, we will be healthier and so will our environment.