Plastic Free Week: The What, The Why, The How / by lee tilghman

Starting tomorrow, I'm going going to consciously reduce my plastic use for a week. Today's blog post is all about the What, the Why, and The How of #LFAplasticFreeWeek.

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Plastic. It's everywhere.  I'm not kidding. Just peep into your local grocery store, US Post Office, bodega or toy store and you will plastic everywhere. We bottle our water in it, wrap our sandwiches in it, store our crackers in it.

I like to think I am pretty aware of my own plastic consumption. This began at age 18 when I worked on organic farms for 2 years. I learned all about the magic of bulk items, reducing, up cycling and recycling. In California, we have a ban on plastic bags. I bring my cloth totes with me to the farmer's market. I use a period cup. I bring a S’well water bottle with me wherever I go. I use cloth bags to store vegetables in. But there is always room for improvement. And I am definitely not perfect. 

This will be an experiment of sort, and a difficult one, I know.

Yes, doing things like buying groceries in bulk is great and all, but they offer plastic bags to put those items into. The thing is, using plastic is convenient. And cheap. But let's be real - it’s killing our earth, which I'll get into later. 

Consciously trying to live a plastic free life is difficult is an privilege.

Running around worrying how I’ll get my cacao nibs home in my glass mason jar is indeed a first world problem. But as someone who has a job in the wellness space, I feel like it’s my duty to draw more attention to this issue and make more of an effort in this area.

This is not just an environmental problem. It is a class, race, and social justice issue. Many people don’t have the luxury of worrying about their plastic use. But I recognize my privilege, and the next step for me is to reduce my own consumption of plastic. So I'm doing an #LFAPlasticFreeWeek. 

Especially during the holiday season, it’s a very difficult thing thing to avoid. Our wrapping paper is even covered in plastic wrap. This is the month of consumption, after all: material items, wrapping gifts, it’s a lot. Because of this, I wanted to try to live 7 days without using plastic. 

The What

Here are my guidelines:

No single-use plastic. 

  • No plastic straws
  • No plastic tea bags (you know, the “luxury ones”) 
  • No plastic water bottles
  • No plastic tupperware
  • No makeup wipes
  • No takeout (unless I bring my own glass tupperware to the restaurant)
  • No single use tea bags (favoring loose leaf in a tea steeper)
  • No plastic period materials (no tampons or pads)- silicone cups only!
  • No plastic utensils
  • No plastic USPS bags/Fedex bags - cardboard only
  • No bubble wrap
  • No plastic cups
  • No plastic floss (some floss is made from endocrine disrupting plastic)
  • No zip lock bags
  • No plastic bags at the grocery store (that includes not buying any items that are wrapped in plastic or transporting them in plastic)
  • No plastic stirrers for coffee
  • No single-use plastic items (coffee cups and lids, juice bottles, etc.)
  • Making an effort not to purchase items in plastic (new makeup, deodorant, plastic floss, food in plastic bags) 
  • No vegetables in plastic wrap (no baby carrots- only the loose carrots instead and washing them myself)
  • No leafy greens wrapped in plastic or in plastic containers-  only the loose leaf lettuce and wash them yourself at home. 
  • No saran wrap

What’s okay:

  • Utilizing items in my home that I already own that contain plastic
    • Cell phone
    • Fridge
    • Containers for food: protein powder/coconut butter/collagen, yogurt, etc. 
    • Library or credit cards and things of the like
    • Kombucha (with a plastic top)
    • Reading glasses
    • Toothpaste, deodorant, etc. (but if you want to make your own - go ahead!)

I will be collecting all of my plastic usage in a mason jar so I can see how much plastic I used at the end of the week. 

Items I will be using in place of plastic

The Why

  1. 91% of plastic isn’t recycled - https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/07/plastic-produced-recycling-waste-ocean-trash-debris-environment/ 

  2. Plastic takes 400+ years to biodegrade - https://news.nationalgeographic.com/2017/07/plastic-produced-recycling-waste-ocean-trash-debris-environment/

  3. Over the last ten years we have produced more plastic than during the whole of the last century. - https://www.ecowatch.com/22-facts-about-plastic-pollution-and-10-things-we-can-do-about-it-1881885971.html 

  4. The average American throws away approximately 185 pounds of plastic per year. -https://www.ecowatch.com/22-facts-about-plastic-pollution-and-10-things-we-can-do-about-it-1881885971.html

  5. In fact, more than half of all bottled water comes from the tap. -https://www.foodandwaterwatch.org/about/live-healthy/tap-water-vs-bottled-water

  6. Great Pacific Garbage Patch is the largest marine trash vortex, but there are many more in existence, and it's far from being the only one. -https://www.nationalgeographic.org/encyclopedia/great-pacific-garbage-patch/ 

  7. Plastic is an endocrine (or hormone) disruptor. Plastics are xenoestrogens, meaning they mimic estrogens in the body. And an excess of estrogen can cause hormonal imbalance. This can effect weight, mood, energy levels, sleep, fertility, sex drive and appetite. Read more about plastic and hormonal imbalances and plastic here. 

  8. You eat much fewer processed foods.
    • Going plastic free is a great way to ensure that you will be eating much fewer processed foods- which is better for our bodies, AND the planet. 
    • Many of your favorite snacks in plastic are things you can easily make yourself (hummus, crackers). The benefits of making this stuff yourself is that you’ll learn how to make it, it will be healthier since you will be making it yourself and you’ll get a huge boost of confidence knowing that you can indeed make your favorite ready-made snacks at home. 

The How

  • Be prepared. The night before leaving for work in the morning, pack your bag with your necessities: glass jar for coffee/tea, utensils, a cloth napkin, tote bags in case you go shopping. 
  • Meal prep - prep your food in the beginning of the week to prepare for plastic free week. 
  • Give yourself extra time.
    • Plastic free week requires extra time! Make sure you give this to yourself. Take into account that grocery shopping with take a few extra minutes since you’ll be taring out the items beforehand and wont have the convenience of grabbing plastic items. This mean you can bring your container first to the customer service clerk to weigh it, and then when you go to check out - they'll reduce that weight.
    • You’ll be doing a lot of cooking this week as take out items often contain plastic so give yourself plenty of time to cook breakfast and dinner. 

Good plastic free week recipe ideas:

  • Fat balls
  • Overnight oats
  • Chia pudding
  • Homemade granola
  • Homemade nut milks (sunflower, hemp)

It sometimes feels like as a country we are more concerned with being efficient, price-friendly, and immediately gratified than worrying about the future of our planet for us and our children. Fact is, most people don’t care about their plastic use. It's much easier using a to-go cup from your local coffee shop then bringing a mason jar with you in the morning and everywhere you go. 

Should we raise taxes on plastic items? Or ban plastic all together? What if Starbucks required people to start bringing in their own cups? What if we made it a requirement for students to bring their own reusable utensils, plates and cups to school? If just like homework, it was a requirement? What would happen then?

I think we have the capacity do this. And it starts small. With everyday actions.

We are smart enough to make an iPhone. We’ve been to space. We’ve created the internet.

I believe we can reduce our plastic waste. 

Join me in all your plastic-free glory by tagging #LFAPlasticFreeWeek. I can't wait to see what you're doing to reduce your plastic. Let's start a movement!