Be Green – Avoid Plastic
This is the last of this series of posts on plastic. Today I offer some simple strategies for daily life which can help to reduce the amount of plastic that you buy, and then need to either re-cycle or put into landfill. Simple ideas which concentrate on the “Reduce” and “Re-use” part of the 3Rs (Reduce, Re-use, Recycle).
I am told that in the UK, you are legally entitled to leave any unnecessary packaging at the store checkout – the store is then obliged to dispose of it properly. Make a statement and leave the excess packaging of the goods you’ve bought, at the till.
If you bring sandwiches to work, don’t use plastic bags to carry them. Reusable containers are good, and also consider re-using things in your home – for example, old bread bags, used foil, the wax linings of cereal packets.
Buy loose fruit and vegetables from a local market – there’s normally much less packaging, and you only buy the amount you want, so you might reduce food waste too. Or, better still, grow your own – it’s easier than you think!
I haven’t done it myself, but I’m told that making your own bread (with a bread-making machine) doesn’t take long as you simply put everything in, and the machine does the rest. So you could load it up at night, and have fresh bread in the morning. (Have you done this? What’s your feedback?).
I was always taught not to eat or drink when outside – I still look askance at people carrying water bottles to do the shopping, but on the other hand it is good to keep hydrated. So, if you want to carry water, buy a reusable container for it – and the good news is that it doesn’t have to be expensive. You can buy stainless steel bottles from Amazon.com from as little as $8! (And of course, you’ll be re-filling your new water bottle from filtered tap water rather than expensive bottled water, won’t you?) (grin)
Use your bottles when you buy take-away coffee too, instead of plastic cups.
Don’t use air fresheners. Use natural alternatives instead.
When ordering drinks remember to say “no straw please” if you don’t want one.
Use reusable cloths instead of paper towels to clean up around the house.
Use matches instead of plastic lighters.
Food leftovers – don’t cover them with plastic cling-film. Use a dish covered with a plate, or put them in a reusable container with a lid.
Use junk mail and other paper to stuff into boxes to ship, instead of bubble wrap or plastic peanuts.
Before discarding 6-ring plastic holders (e.g. on beer cans), cut them up first. It’s still plastic, but at least it won’t throttle an animal. This turtle – rescued and named Mae West – had a plastic milk-bottle ring stuck around her as a baby, and she grew around it. She’s deformed, but one of the lucky ones to survive.
Oh, and don’t take your reusable bag into the supermarket, pat yourself on the back for being eco-friendly, and then proceed to buy half a ton of plastic as wrapping!
Kids Toys – avoid plastic toys where possible. Look for FSC-certified wooden toys which can last for generations. If well made, they are safe to chew, and can be handed down, given away or sold. (Less to the landfill). Keep the box the toy came in – it can be a toy too! Find non-toxic crayons and let the kids loose with recycled materials like cardboard. Many toys contain batteries – you don’t want kids chewing on batteries, so decide if all that battery-powered noise is worth it. Many children are just as entertained by a simpler toy – and you get to keep your sanity! If older kids want electronic toys, get rechargeable batteries. One of the best things you can give your children or grandkids is your time. Spend time with them outdoors, play hide-and-seek, show them the world of nature – they’ll remember those occasions long after their toys are gone.
And, last but not least: Spread The Word! Tell people about plastic, about the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, about how long plastic lurks, about what it’s doing to wildlife. And then lead by example!