April 21, 2018

Reducing plastic in your home – Part I

It’s Earth Day, let’s celebrate our beautiful planet! But it sure isn’t feeling so lovely at the moment. Since moving to this country eight months ago, I have been astonished at the amount of waste that is generated. And I’m not just pointing the finger at everyone else, I’m pointing it right back at me. When I’m carrying my trash and recycling down the hallway I’m aware of how much waste I produce every week, it’s too much. There needs to be a better way.

Concerns for the environment have become ever more critical over the past few years when we see how much plastic is ending up in our oceans and rivers. And recycling the amount of plastic and waste we produce isn’t sustainable either. For over 20 years, China has been the world’s recycling bin, accepting an enormous quantity of recyclable waste from nations worldwide. But from January 1st this year, China refused to take recycling from the US and it’s piling up; we are in a global waste crisis. Waste management facilities in several countries, including the U.S., Canada, the U.K. and Germany, are groaning under the weight of trash that no one seems to know what to do with.

And of course it’s important to remember that not all plastic can be recycled. We really need to reduce the amount of plastic in our homes. Many studies are starting to show the detrimental health problems caused by plastic too. It is widely known that plastics from food packaging can leach into food and enter the body. But I don’t want to put my science hat on here. I want to share some practical solutions that we can all implement in our homes. I am going to start with the grocery shop this week and will be writing more about storage, personal care and clothing soon.   

Grocery Shopping
When you do your grocery shopping think about the 4 R’s: reject, return, refill and reuse.

Reject

  • Reject as much packaging as possible – buy fruit and vegetables loose and take your own containers and baskets. I particularly love my Hutzler Colander basket which is perfect for the farmer’s market as well. Farmer’s Markets and CSA Shares are a perfect way to reduce packaging as well as supporting local businesses.
  • Reject teabags! They contain plastic; buy loose leaf tea instead – a perfect excuse to get your pretty cups and saucers out whilst it’s brewing.
  • Reject single packs and cartons and bulk buy instead – it is usually cheaper too.
  • Reject plastic packaging where you have cardboard instead. Buy pasta in a box instead of a packet, buy laundry powder in a box instead of a bottle.
  • Reject plastic lighters and use matches instead, or invest in a refillable metal lighter.

Return
Return containers for berries, cherry tomatoes, etc. to the farmer’s market to be reused.

Refill
Use bulk buy stores where you can, refillable items use far less packaging. Wholefoods has a great selection of items and Litterless has a store directory too. Hopefully more stores will open locally at some point in SoMa.  Some stores offer refillable options such as olive oil and cleaning products.

Reuse
Reuse your shopping bags whatever they are made of, but jute, hemp or linen ones are the most sustainable and come in such pretty designs these days. Reject plastic bags from any store you visit. Try and carry reusable bags with you at all times whether in your car or in your purse. 

Support Local
If you would like to get involved locally in SoMa, please support SO Not Plastic, a fantastic local group aiming to educate and empower people to reduce their daily use of plastic, especially single use.

On May 4th-6th, SO Not Plastic are encouraging all SoMa residents to join in their BYO-Bag  campaign when they shop by:
1. Refusing single-use plastic bags
2. Using a reusable bag, if a bag is needed
3. Using a paper bag, provided by participating stores

This will coincide with River Day on Sunday, May 6th.  During River Day, residents commit to cleaning out the Rahway river that runs through the towns. In many instances, they are pulling out plastic bags which are so detrimental to our living environment.  South Orange River Day is an annual, community gathering celebrating environmental education and awareness with food, fun, music, and art. Why not come along and support this fantastic cause?


In the mood to read more? Check out these related posts: Spring Cleaning; Green Cleaning Products Eco-Paint for your home; The Incredible Baster; Beekeeping in early spring