I used to always have mixed feelings about New Year's resolutions. While I didn't like the thought of "procrastinating" until the start of a new calendar year to make big (or small) promises of change to myself, I did often find myself waiting until January 1st to reflect on ways to improve my life and the lives of those around me. The other issue I had was making a New Year's resolution and keeping it. Quitting my beloved chocolate addiction, watching less TV, cleaning the bathrooms once a week...all things I said I would do but never made it past week two.
Then, a couple years ago I started keeping my resolutions because I chose to only adopt a new practice that I could really get behind and was truly passionate about. For example, one year I stopped using canned foods, which helped me discover my love of cooking. Another year I stopped using plastic straws by recycling all the plastic ones I had and replaced them with reusable glass and stainless steel ones (I made a cool video HERE where I talk about how much I love reusable straws). And this year I am making a resolution to reduce my use of plastics, which I'm suggesting for you to try this year too!
I understand the development of modern plastics has played a significant role in medical and scientific advances, but I am choosing to use fewer plastics as my resolution because I think the consumption of single-use plastic items has spiraled out of control--even costing us our personal and environmental health.
• Recycling plastic may not be as sustainable as we think.
Unlike aluminum and glass, I have read that when plastics are recycled they are made into new products (like doormats or textiles instead of water bottles) that will still end up in a landfill at some point, a process referred to as down-cycling. Also, I found it interesting to learn that every time you purchase a plastic soda bottle or food container, it is often made using new instead of recycled plastic, which results in more plastics in our environment. To top all that off, 91 percent of plastics in the US are NOT even recovered through recycling bins and instead go straight to landfills. That being said it's better to recycle the plastics than not!
• Plastic is a material that cannot be broken down completely.
Even when it does break down into smaller particles, it attracts toxic chemical that can be ingested by wildlife, contaminating the food chain. The careless use of disposable plastics has resulted in toxic consequences such as the great Pacific garbage patch, which is not the only trash vortex of its kind by the way.
• Chemicals used in plastics may also have a harmful effect on human health.
Toxic chemicals such as BPA, polycarbonate, polyvinyl chloride, and many more that cause known health issues, are used to make plastic products. These chemicals break down over time and are often accelerated by heat, which can lead it to being absorbed into our bloodstream and tissues. We're ingesting these chemicals all the time through food containers, beverages, cookware, utensils, toys, food packaging, cosmetics, and the list could go on.
While I have been reducing my use of plastics in our home for the past four years, I still have my vices. So this year, I'm going to work on becoming more plastic-free, and I hope you will too!
If you'd like to join me, the first step I would suggest to help you reduce plastic pollution is to acquire reusable products. Having reusable items with you at home and on the go will help you avoid buying those single-use plastic products. For example:
• Carry a glass or stainless steel water bottle with you. You may even need more than one eventually. I take one with me practically everywhere because whether it's the gym, airport, or work, you can find water fountains to fill up nearly anywhere these days. My favorite is this glass one because of how much water it holds.
• Choose glass or stainless steel food containers instead of plastic ones. Doesn't it gross you out when your plastic leftover containers turn color or shape? Recycle them and switch to glass. Glass doesn't absorb food colors or smells, or leach harmful chemicals, not to mention that your food won't absorb that plastic-y taste.
• Try reusable snack and sandwich bags. Typically made from cotton cloth and nontoxic fabrics, they're a great alternative to throwaway plastic baggies. You can also make small investments in reusable utensils and glass straws. These three items alone will replace your use of their plastic counterparts, which you may use more frequently than you think! All of these types of items not only prevent additional plastic waste but also prevent the absorption of certain toxic chemicals into your body.
My second tip is to always remember that any step you take towards reducing our use of plastic will make a difference. Keeping this in mind will help you stick to your plastic-free goals!
I invite you to live a more conscious, healthy life in 2015 and on-going. If you'd like to learn more about plastic pollution and to see how you can take action, visit http://plasticpollutioncoalition.org/.