06/05 Health & Wellness Tip – Plastics

June is Great Outdoors Month so the focus is the environment. There are many things in our environment that have an impact on us and our health. Some of these things we have very little, if any, control over, while others we have complete control over.

I went for a hike the other morning. There isn’t anything unusual about that. I picked up numerous plastic bottles along my hike. Unfortunately, there isn’t anything unusual about that either.

Did you realize that a lot of the plastics end up in the ocean? This video – Trash Talk: What is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch? – gives a quick overview of the problem disposable plastics have created for our oceans. And this website, The 5 Gyres Institute, takes the discussion further. They say that only 5-10% of the plastics produced are recovered. Most of it ends up in our landfills or in our oceans.

Here are some of the ways that Greg and I reduce the amount of plastic we use in our home:

  • Refillable water bottles – I cherish my water bottle. It goes with me practically everywhere. I take it grocery shopping, inside the bank, to meetings I attend, etc. PlasticsCollageThere are so many places that you can fill a water bottle opposed to using disposal water bottles. For me, my water bottle is like Linus and his blanket. :o)
  • Canvas grocery bags – We keep our canvas bags in both our vehicles so we always have them when we stop at a grocery store. The thing I love about the canvas bags is we can throw them in the washing machine as often as we like.
  • Ziploc bags – Who says Ziploc bags are to be used only one time? Hopefully, no one. When we empty a Ziploc bag, we dry it out and reuse it numerous times. They live a very useful life in our home! Eventually, they do end up getting used for trash.
  • Glass food storage containers – I used to have a good-sized collection of plastic containers for leftovers. I didn’t like putting them in the dishwasher so we hand-washed them. That was a pain in the behind! So, honestly, a big reason I went to glass containers was so they could go in the dishwasher. My glass containers rock!

The Ecology Center in Berkeley, CA says that glass makes the most sense as a reusable container. However, many plastic containers can be reused up to 25 times. Just 7-8 reuses of a single bottle would significantly reduce waste and energy consumption.

California got it right when they passed legislation banning single-use plastic bags at retail stores. Some stores charge a fee for reusable plastic bags or recycled paper bags. The goal is to get people to bring in their own reusable bags. Several states have passed similar bans. I believe we should be charged money for every plastic bag we use –plastic grocery bags as well as the plastic bags in the produce section.

Buying produce doesn’t mean everything has to be in its own bag. Apples and other fruit doesn’t need a bag at all. Many of the veggies don’t either. When they are wet, I might put them in a bag depending on what else I am buying. When I do use a bag, I put several items in the same bag so long as the cost is not by the pound. For me, it is about reducing my need for plastic bags and plastic bottles as much as I can.

IKEA also banned both plastic and paper bags in 2008. They state that the polyethylene plastic bags will persist on our planet for up to a thousand years. You have to bring your own reusable bag or buy one of their bags.

Every small thing each of us does to minimize our use of plastics helps the environment. So take just one step today to do your part.

by Michele Spear