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7 Simple Plastic Swaps

Growing up, I never thought twice about plastic. Obviously when you're young you don't think about anything of the sort; you just live and play. But just as I grew up with technology (albeit much less than the kids do today), I also grew up with plastic in every corner of my life. Unfortunately therefore, it has been the 'norm' in my lifetime. But it really isn't normal at all. This is a big contrast to the amount that my parents, and especially grandparents, had in their childhoods and a lot of their lives.

Once I started becoming more and more aware of the exorbitant amount of plastic that engulfs our everyday lives, I started to realise that it is in just about EVERYTHING. That was a very scary and sad realisation. As I touched on in my 'Our Convenience Culture Crisis' post, our expectations for convenience more often than not unfortunately rely on plastic and waste. And when conveniences have been part of most of our lives, it makes it more and more difficult to give them up let alone reduce. Luckily, our younger generations have woken up to the big, gloomy fact that the plastic problem is no longer an issue to be shoved to the side and ignored.

Too many companies have been greenwashing people or just not focusing on reducing their planetary impact for too long, and they've been getting away with putting the onus on the consumers during that time. But if we all actively make choices, even just small ones, that go against these consumption norms, the impact will slowly but surely build up and will bring attention to the demand for change. Most of us have probably witnessed the shift in sustainable actions and choices made by companies over the last couple years, which is good, but unfortunately a lot of the onus is still on the consumers. So, we really have to be aware of the greenwashing and we also have to stay optimistic and motivated about how small, consistent changes do make a difference. I'll be talking about some of these small changes below, in particular the changes or alternatives that aren't mentioned enough. Although these are not huge changes in and of themselves, they definitely do add up and they are the more 'easy' ones in the scheme of things. Some of these are for replacing single-use plastic and some are just an alternative to popular everyday plastic products, but hopefully making just some of these changes will motivate you to make more and more:

Skincare Products

Unless you're someone that gets away with having great skin by just splashing your face with water, you likely use some kind of skincare products. Most brands have packaged their products in plastic tubes and bottles for so many years, and so for most consumers, this is all they know. But luckily so many brands have either started packaging some of their products plastic-free or new brands have been created and focus on being completely plastic-free. I love using facial oils like the one here, and they also usually happen to be packaged in glass! Another popular material some brands are using for their packaging of tubes and lids is aluminium, which is easily both upcyclable and recyclable, like glass! All this is NOT to say that you have to forego your favourite moisturiser because it's packaged in plastic, but maybe try switching up or trying a plastic-free cleanser or makeup remover instead (once you've finished your current one of course)!

Phone Cases & Accessories

More than 1 billion plastic phone cases and screen protectors are sold every single year! That's crazy! Also, millions of cases are thrown out each year because they were for 'older' models. The amount of plastic that this adds to the already unthinkable amount we already throw away each year is not only disgraceful, but also completely avoidable with companies like Péla now in existence! I've had these two Péla cases for over 2 years now and they're undoubtedly some of the best purchases I've made! I know it seems weird to say that about phone cases, but here's why; they're completely COMPOSTABLE, they have the coolest designs, and they actually protect your phone! They also have a plastic-free liquid screen protector that you can buy that also works - those plastic film screen protectors are not needed anymore once you try this one! Here's a link to some other sustainable phone case companies to check out!

Plastic-Wrapped Fruit & Veg

When I lived in the US, buying loose produce was actually surprisingly very easy! However, it is not the case in most countries or cities. It does take a bit more effort to try to avoid buying fruit and veg, or most things really, wrapped in plastic. You have to remember to bring your reusable produce bags and you have to take time to fill your bag and sometimes weigh the items. But I think that can bring some of the enjoyment back to the process of grocery shopping. Picking your fruit or veg yourself, although it's not at all comparable to actually picking it from a tree or the ground, can be quite a grounding activity, at least if you try to have that mindset. So, although it is often not as easy as it should be to buy most things plastic-free, try to buy whatever you can, because it does add up. You end up bringing less waste into our house, so your bins don't get full as quickly, and you are also indirectly advocating for change when you choose loose over plastic. Just remember to bring your reusable produce bags every time! Also, consider growing your own favourite herbs indoors too, it can be fun and satisfying, and obviously requires no plastic!

Household Cleaning Products

If you think about how many plastic spray bottles you've used and thrown away for cleaning products alone, it can seem a little embarrassing, at least it does for me... However, there are so many companies now that are doing something about that exact issue. From reusable aluminium cans to dissolvable tablets you mix with water and a reusable spray bottle, the choices are endless. The problem so many of us have is that we like to stick to what we know and what we've done for so long, because it 'works', or at least we think it does. But since so many conventional cleaning products are full of both toxins and chemicals, and they are completely made of plastic, I think it's time for us to stop letting routine and convenience rule our decisions and ultimately our lives. After you've used up what you already have, check out:

Ocean Saver, Clean Living, Smol, and Home Things, just to name a few!

Less Reliance on Compostable Plastics

Although compostable plastic in theory is better than regular plastic, if it's not actually composted in a commercial high-heat composting facility, it essentially acts similarly to how normal plastic does (i.e. not good). Compostable plastic doesn't 'break down' like how, let's say, a banana would, and a surprising amount of people don't actually realise that. Also, compostable plastics are NEVER recyclable, and so if someone mistakenly puts it in the recycling bin, it will contaminate the whole bin. Although compostable/biodegradable plastics are not made out of petrochemicals like regular plastics are, they are not the solution to the plastic crisis we're facing. So instead of all the praise being directed at compostable plastics, we should really instead emphasise using/bringing reusables (this goes for both people and places like cafés and restaurants) and also using what you have instead of buying new. We definitely also need to change the whole conversation and approach from "ending the plastic problem" to "helping the quality of the soil", "aiding the health of the oceans and the animals", for example. And arguably most importantly, we really have to prioritise educating people to avoid confusion and misinformation, and encourage positive change.

Kitchen Utensils and Cleaning Tools

As most of us use the kitchen every day, it's an area of our daily routines in which we can make a lot of impactful changes. And although most of us don't want to, we do have to do the dishes most days. So the first swap that you can consider is ditching the plastic dish brush for a bamboo/wood brush with natural bristles. Some brushes also have replaceable heads, so even less waste is created when it's at the end of its life! Another swap is opting for a natural dish sponge/loofah instead of the conventional, unnatural ones. A third swap is coconut bowls made out of coconut shells as a fun, sustainable, versatile alternative to plastic or glass bowls. And although it's not necessarily a utensil or tool, a huge part of the waste that is created in the kitchen is with single-use paper towels. So either opt for recycled paper towels (that don't come wrapped in plastic )or just standard tea towels (preferably made of natural materials) to dry your hands as well as the dishes.

No Styrofoam...Ever

Styrofoam - the material that is synonymous in my mind with those cups that are used in an office, or those takeaway boxes from restaurants. For so long, we never thought twice about this material, but it has both terrible health and environmental consequences that are blatant signs that it should be banned in our everyday lives. Luckily, these consequences have been addressed more and more over recent years, but many are still unaware and the material is still being used by many. In terms of the health consequences, styrofoam is a known hazardous substance since it's a petrochemical, like all plastics. It's made up of polystyrene and styrene has many ties to cancer. Also, especially when mixed with heat, the toxins from styrofoam easily leach into food and drink. And in terms of the environmental consequences, it's toxic just to make; the polystyrene industry ranks the 5th largest creator of toxic waste in the USA. Also, because it's so light and crumbles easily, it's very easy for it to end up and stay in our waterways and in nature. It will break up into microscopic styrenes (arguably worse than if it were not to break up), which will stay in the soil and water for hundreds of years. There are so many other issues related to this substance that its ban is just obvious at this point. Luckily it has been phasing out over the years, but all other alternatives like cardboard, metal and reusables should be used instead!


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