To kick off the new year, we thought we'd provide our top ten ways to go plastic-free to those of you who would like to make some lasting changes in 2018. I can't think of a better New Year's resolution, than to live more sustainably!
1. Sustainable drinking straws (stainless steel, bamboo, glass, paper): The amount of single use, disposable plastic straws used globally on a daily basis is frightening. And the impact they have on our environment is equally so. The Plastic Pollution Coalition has estimated that over 500,000,000 plastic straws are used every day in the U.S. alone. Yes, I said billion. And they find their way into our waterways and oceans and create havoc with the marine life, either by maiming, trapping or killing birds and fish, or ingested and getting into the food chain, which then brings up concerns over our own food safety. How much are we affected by the plastic ingested by the fish we eat?
What strikes me the most with disposable straws is that there isn't any real need for them. We use them because we're used to them. But wouldn't it be just as easy to use paper straws or bring along our own stainless steel or glass straws? I think so! Check out the ones we love HERE!
2. Cloth shopping bags: Single use, disposable plastic bags is another big contender in the plastic pollution debacle. Think of it this way: they're made from a non-renewable resource (crude oil), and once they're made, they're impossible to get rid of. So basically it's a huge waste any way you look at it. And once these bags are made and distributed to stores around the world, the consumer uses them for maybe 20 or 30 minutes to get their goods home, then throws them away. Why? I just ask myself why? What's the point? Why spend so much time and effort to produce such a wasteful product that creates so much pollution throughout it's lifecycle? Cloth bags are easy to come by, easy to carry, and I believe, much more efficient than it's plastic counterpart. And more comfortable too!
3. Bamboo toothbrushes: Yes, every single plastic toothbrush that you have ever used in your lifetime is still sitting somewhere. These don't biodegrade, and from the research I've done, most recycling programs don't accept them.
And moreover, since this is another item that is frequently replaced (every 3 months or so) by most people in the world, it's another item that creates horrendous amounts of unnecessary waste. So here I go again asking myself "Why?". Why are we all using these wasteful, non-biodegradable items when there is an equally effective product out there that could replace it? I think for most people it is lack of education. We just don't know any better. Well, I can tell you I've been using my Brush With Bamboo toothbrush for quite some time now and it's amazing. And not only is the handle sustainable, but the bristles are made from 62% castor beans and can be recycled too! Click on the picture above to see more details. Happy brushing!
4. Reusable water bottles and coffee cups: #4 follows suit as the previous three. Throwaway, single use plastic bottles and coffee cups are items used by millions, maybe billions, of people every day, and it's unnecessary.
It creates harmful waste that doesn't need to occur. All we need to do as a whole is agree to carry our own reusable drinking vessels (preferably a sustainable option made from renewable, biodegradable materials). And while we're at it, let's find a way to provide clean/free drinking water throughout our cities and towns that everyone has access to. Water should not be a commodity! Here at Plastic-Free HK we're big on providing sustainable options to replace the big plastic polluters that we all are privy to and threatened by on a daily basis. I've done lots of research on good options, and I sing the praises of both Pura Stainless and S'well bottles. And for coffee, there's nothing more efficient and stylish the our Ecoffee Cups!
5. Food storage: Plastics are big in the food storage industry. Plastic wrap, plastic baggies, plastic containers. You get the picture. Eventually these items will break or wear out and you will need to throw them away. And into the landfill they go. So we see these items as important ones to find sustainable options for. Some great alternatives are beeswax wraps instead of plastic wrap and lightweight stainless steel and silicone food containers for storage at home and on-the-go. You can view all of our food storage items HERE. Such simple changes that will make lasting impact. (And FYI, we will be stocking silicone freezer bags sometime this month!)
6. Sustainable soap options: My family is almost completely switched over to bar soap in all of our bathrooms and showers/bathtubs. My husband and I have been using it for quite some time, but for some reason I fell under the spell of believing my toddler son needed a "special" liquid soap for his bath time and that we needed "special" hand soap for our bathrooms. There are some marketing geniuses out there, that's for sure! I was duped for a long time but now realize bar soap works pretty well across the board. And for our dishwashing liquid, I only buy from companies that use 100% post consumer materials to produce their plastic bottles, which means they're only using plastic that is already in the system. The two companies I support completely are Ecover & Seventh Generation. It's so important to consider the source! Get to know the companies you are giving your dollar to. It matters!
7. Plastic-free produce: Here in Hong Kong, it's an uphill battle finding produce that is not wrapped in plastic a million times over, but there definitely are options. The two things that have helped me the most are farmer's markets and wet markets.
8. Buy fresh meat & cheeses: I found an amazing butcher I love and trust that I can buy fresh meat from. I either bring my own container for him to put the meat in or he wraps it in paper and off I go! I've also found the best quality cheese sold right here in Sai Kung where I can buy it without the plastic too. If I can remember, I bring my beeswax wraps and he uses this for transport. If not he has paper as well. Again, a bit more planning and effort goes into purchasing these items, but the benefits for our environment far outweighs what it costs me. I buy as much as I can from the farmer's markets because this produce is mostly local and very often organic. And for everything else I try to pick up at the wet markets around town. It does take a bit of concerted effort, but to me it's worth it and makes me feel like I've achieved a small miracle when I come home with produce that is free of plastic wrap or plastic containers.
I've also recently started ordering weekly produce from Eat Fresh and am hooked. Local, organic produce that gets delivered straight to my door without any plastic packaging. Check them out!
9. Drink more water: A lot of plastic waste comes from beverages: juices, sodas, etc. At home we use a Big Berkey gravity water filter, which is long lasting and sustainable, making it a very good investment. (And can I just say, I'm so in love with this water filter! Highly recommended!) I fill my water bottle up before I leave the house and have yummy teas throughout the day as well. When we want juice for our son or guests, we either buy it in a glass jar or make it fresh. For awhile I got into buying apple juice for our family, but every time we emptied it I felt a little sad that I was putting more plastic into the system, so I stopped and found other sustainable options that I felt good about.
10. Refuse!: This is one of the greatest lessons I've learned this past year as I educate myself about plastic pollution: refuse the things we don't need or will only use once. Just say NO!