By Wendy Gabriel on December 13, 2012

Going plastic-free can be great for your personal health and your personal space.

There are many reasons to reduce the amount of plastic we buy. First, plastic is made from nonrenewable resources extracted in ways that pollute our air and water.

Second, plastic is made from chemicals, and some have been found to be toxic to both the environment and to human health, like hormone-disrupting bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates. BPA is an industrial chemical that has been present in many hard plastic bottles and metal-based food and beverage cans since the 1960s.

On the basis of recent studies, both the National Toxicology Program at the National Institutes of Health and the Food and Drug Administration have some concern about the “potential effects of BPA on the brain, behavior, and prostate gland in fetuses, infants, and young children.”

A phthalate is a plasticizer that is added to plastics to increase their flexibility. Phthalates are found in everything from toys and food packaging to nail polish and wall coverings, and, according to the Environmental Working Group, they have been found to disrupt the endocrine system.

Lastly, single-use disposable plastics live forever in landfills and very few types of plastic are widely recycled.

With that in mind, here are some practical ways to reduce your plastic use:

  • Bring your own bag. When making your shopping list, always add a reminder to bring your own bags with you to the store. Even before heading to the mall, remember to bring a bag so you don’t have to use any of the plastic store bags. I found this great tip from Rodale.com: “If you forget your reusable bags, carry your items out by hand. After doing that a few times, you’ll probably NEVER forget your bags again.”
Of the 380 billion disposable plastic bags used each year in the U.S., only 1% are recycled.

— Stopwaste.org

Flip & Tumble reusable bag

Reusable bags, like these made by Flip & Tumble, are perfect for shopping or toting. Find these and others at Reuseit.com.

  • Make your own food. When you cook from scratch, you avoid all the plastic packaging from premade and processed food. An added benefit: Making food at home is typically healthier and costs less.
  • Avoid sodas and other beverages bottled in plastic. There are so many ways to avoid bottled beverages. Bring your own bottle whenever you leave the house. I have stainless steel bottles filled with filtered tap water always ready to go.
Americans buy an estimated 34.6 billion single-serving (1-liter or less) plastic water bottles each year. Almost eight out of 10 end up in a landfill or incinerator. Hundreds of millions end up as litter on roads and beaches or in streams and other waterways.

— Container Recycling Institute

  • Buy milk in returnable glass bottles. Most areas have a local dairy that provides milk in returnable glass bottles rather than plastic or plastic-coated cardboard. I buy Crystal Ball Farms milk, which is available at a local natural grocery store in my area.
Keep in mind that recycling is no substitute to reducing what you buy in the first place.

— Beth Terry, myplasticfreelife.com

stainless steel drinking straws

These stainless steel straws are a great alterative to one-time-use plastic. Find these and others at Reuseit.com.

  • Use glass, stainless steel or wood dishes and utensils. We have always used “real” dishes and avoided plastic since my girls were old enough to give up breastfeeding and their glass baby bottles. And instead of plastic, we use stainless steel straws. Reuseit.com has a wide inventory of reusable items, as the site’s goal is to help eliminate disposables from everyday life.

For more great tips on how to reduce your plastic use, visit myplasticfreelife.com.

About the author

Wendy Gabriel is a freelance eco-writer based in Fargo, ND. She is the founder of MyGreenSide.org and tweets at @MyGreenSide. Wendy is a wife to an amazing man and a mother of two awesome little girls. Everything she does is seen through this lens. Her passion for sustainability is a gift from her parents, who were green long before it was "cool to be green." You can hear Wendy each Tuesday when she brings Simple Tips for Green Living to "The Christopher Gabriel Program." Stream the segment at approximately 8:20 a.m. (CST) at WDAY.com.
Learn more about Wendy Gabriel

Comments

There are no comments for this post yet


Articles by Wendy Gabriel

Scary Facts About Halloween Costumes

By Wendy Gabriel on October 27, 2014

Many store-bought costumes are rife with toxins. Opt instead to reuse household materials for a safe Halloween celebration.

Blog Action Day: Recycling and Inequality

By Wendy Gabriel on October 16, 2014

Could nationwide single-stream recycling programs be the answer to the dismal recycling rates in the U.S.?

Kamik and its Amazingly Eco-Friendly Boots

By Wendy Gabriel on October 8, 2014

Kamik's durable, all-weather boots feature recycled components and are made using 100% recyclable EcoLogic Rubber.

Lifestyle Articles

Halloween Reuse Idea: Frankenstein Goody Bucket

By Maggie Wehri on October 28, 2014

No need for the plastic bucket or elaborate bag this year — this homemade goody bucket will have your trick-or-treaters screaming with reuse delight!

Scary Facts About Halloween Costumes

By Wendy Gabriel on October 27, 2014

Many store-bought costumes are rife with toxins. Opt instead to reuse household materials for a safe Halloween celebration.

Constance Zimmer: From Recycling to Upcycling

By Constance Zimmer on September 17, 2014

Actress Constance Zimmer has long been a greenie. Now, she has turned her attention to educating her daughter to reduce, reuse and recycle.

Current News

1800Recycling.com Profiles Recycling Efforts in Austin, St. Petersburg, Knoxville, Champaign, Cambridge, and Other North American Cities

By 1-800-RECYCLING on October 30, 2014

“Recycling laws, policies and practices can vary substantially from city to city”

Recycling Profile: Thunder Bay, ON, Canada

By 1-800-RECYCLING on October 24, 2014

One of Canada's most strikingly beautiful cities has a robust sustainability plan in place over the next five-plus years.

Recycling Profile: Las Cruces, NM

By 1-800-RECYCLING on October 17, 2014

New Mexico's second-largest city collects recyclables at the curb twice a month.

Loading