If you are following me on Instagram, you would know that i often talk about my personal journey towards reducing use of plastic in my daily household life. Although, I am no where near to my goal at this point but i feel it is important to share the initial steps of my journey with you all.
P.S: It’s much more difficult than it sounds but quite easier to do than it looks like! 😊
Even after taking a lot a few different measures for reducing plastic waste on a regular basis, we still find a lot of plastic just lying around our house, mostly because every single thing in this world is either made up of plastic or wrapped in one and it’s almost too difficult to avoid it in most cases. Say for example, packaged foods like bread, how do you avoid that? OR a bag of chips, packed cookies, milk bottle or skincare products, makeup, shampoo bottles, medicines, hand soaps and what not? These are the things i found briefly looking around the room and its countless really.
I am sure there are innumerable things that we cannot control or get rid of or stop using (we all are aware of that) and we will have to wait a couple more years until brands/companies find solutions to a few but what i know presently is that there are a few simple measures that can be taken at a personal level to reduce use of plastics in our daily lives for creating a better environment for ourselves inside and outside.
Although i was going to wait to share this post on my blog, the reason being i am not even close to my goal yet, but since it is #zerowasteweek (3rd- 7th sep) i didn’t wanted to miss the opportunity to raise awareness about the environmental effects of use of plastic and how we all can contribute & be supportive at small personal levels.
“#zerowasteweek is inspiring people around the world to dramatically reduce waste they create for good- through reuse, recycle and repurpose materials for a longer life.”
Although #zerowasteweek inspires us to practice reducing waste to zero% throughout the week but it certainly an aims to inspire people around the world to adopt a plastic-free lifestyle in support of reducing plastic waste loading up landfills, taking forever to decompose and affecting the environment adversely.
>> Plastic is versatile, lightweight, flexible, moisture resistant, strong, and relatively inexpensive. Those are the attractive qualities that lead us, around the world, to such a voracious appetite and over-consumption of plastic goods. However, durable and very slow to degrade, plastic materials that are used in the production of so many products all, ultimately, become waste. Our tremendous attraction to plastic, coupled with an undeniable behavior of increasingly over-consuming, discarding, littering and thus polluting, has become a combination of lethal nature. Environmentalists have long denounced plastic as a long-lasting pollutant that does not fully break down, in other terms, not biodegradable.
In 2004, a study lead by Dr Richard Thompson at the University of Plymouth, UK, reported finding great amount of plastic particles on beaches and waters in Europe, the Americas, Australia, Africa and Antarctica. They reported that small plastic pellets called “mermaids tears”, which are the result of industry and domestic plastic waste, have indeed spread across the world’s seas. Some plastic pellets had fragmented to particles thinner than the diameter of a human hair. But while some cannot be seen, those pieces are still there and are still plastic. They are not absorbed into the natural system, they just float around within it, and ultimately are ingested by marine animals. All sea creatures, from the largest to the microscopic organisms, are, at one point or another, swallowing the seawater soup instilled with toxic chemicals from plastic decomposition. The world population “is eating fish that have eaten other fish, which have eaten toxin-saturated plastics. In essence, humans are eating their own waste.” << Source: www.plastic-pollution.org/
Today, i am sharing my personal insights and experiences because i understand it is probably 10 times easier to learn about such issues through a familiar voice than reading it from newspapers or online publishings, and way easier to stand up and be a part of it.
The first step towards reducing plastic waste in your household is to literally look around and take notes on each & every product that is being used in your daily life and is made up of nothing but plastic. Take a closer look at all the unwanted, unnecessary stuff you bought and now have no idea about how to reuse or recycle it. The first step is to understand and identify the intensity of use of plastic in your life (medium or high or literally touching the ceiling high 🙄) and categorize them according to their use and life. Some of the products such as plastic bags have a “working life” for about 15 mins but lasts forever in landfills.
So, ✍ categorize and make a list of :
>> All that is unwanted and unnecessary — reduce its consumption gradually and slowly to zero.
>> And all that is important and cannot be avoided, in that case– find alternatives that are better for you and the environment.
Easy much? I think so! 😊
Here are the few things that plays an important role in reducing plastic waste at personal level and are honestly quite easy to avoid:
1. PLASTIC BAGS
Plastic bags is one of those things i really really want to avoid and stop using completely (zero waste) but i am still not there yet. We often carry a purse or a handbag with us to keep our belongings safe wherever we go but carrying another bag for shopping somehow feels like a burden, right? But it isn’t really! I still have a few old plastic bags lined up in one of the kitchen cabinets that i want get rid of but i always try to carry a reusable one for grocery shopping or visiting nearby farmer’s market. Spot my jute tote bag in the picture that has been quite useful for grocery shopping visits.
Cotton totes, jute bags, heavy paper bags are all good alternatives to carry along, you can make one on your own using old unwanted clothes. If you are someone you carries a handbag all day long and certainly do not want to add up to the weight on carrying another one for last minute shopping plans, here are some light-weight options that will fit inside your handbags.
EVER ECO Reusable cotton net bags
BAGGU Reusable bags:
Cotton and Linen mesh bags:
2. PLASTIC BOTTLES AND CUPS
This is such a common mistake that we all as humans indulge in without realizing its consequence on the environment we live in. More than 60 million plastic bottles end up in landfills and incinerators every day – a total of about 22 billion last year. Americans used about 50 billion plastic water bottles last year. However, the U.S.’s recycling rate for plastic is only 23 percent, which means 38 billion water bottles – more than $1 billion worth of plastic – are wasted each year.
Even though it’s quite cheap and easy to buy a bottle of water or soda at any point, but its even easier to carry a reusable one along with you. For places where drinking water is not well suited, there are alternatives such as portable water filter jug that can be used in such cases. It is what we use at our house and it has a much longer working life. We make sure to carry a reusable water bottle wherever we go, to gym or to shopping, everywhere!
Now i am not a regular coffee drinker, but for all those who are and love Starbucks (of course, who doesn’t? 🙃), in case you didn’t know but plastic cups available at coffee shops also have similar adverse environmental effects as any other plastic products used. 16 billion disposable coffee cups are used each year, coated with plastic to laminate the inside along with plastic lids, out of which 4 billion are from Starbucks, your favorite coffee place 🙂 Reusable coffee mugs are a great alternative. Its time to make that switch!
3. PLASTIC STRAWS
Eliminating the use of plastic straws in our daily lives has been quite a difficult journey honestly ! Mostly because we are so addicted to it and we certainly do not realize how extremely bad it can be for the environment & marine life, while we are actually using it, right? Every cup of iced coffee from Starbucks or a to go drink from a restaurant comes with a plastic lid and a straw and somehow we are just okay using it, even though we know we are guilty (I know I am 😕) but in the moment it feels like a necessary thing to use to be able to enjoy our drink.
It’s amazing that big brands like Starbucks, McDonald’s are joining the effort to eliminate plastic straws worldwide by 2020. Cities such as Seattle, SF, Malibu and many others have banned plastic straws. Although banning is such a great initiative towards a plastic-free community but there’s a need a find an alternative solution for the majority of population who needs to use straws due a number of factors.
Here are a few alternatives : 100% compostable, flexible straw that is guilt-free so you can continue to using without destroying the 🌏. Repurpose straws are #plantbased , non-toxic and break down in as little as 180 days in an industrial composter. I recently switched to this product, carrying it in my bag wherever I go and refusing to use other straws. I feel much better about myself & as a contributor towards building a plastic-free community.
Other alternatives are : Reusable Metal Straws, Bamboo straws.
4. REPLACE SHOWER GELS WITH BAR SOAPS.
Every skincare product, shampoo bottle, moisturizer comes in plastic bottles and though shampoos and moisturizers are quite difficult to avoid, shower gels are mostly the ones that needs to be avoided. Most shower gels these days are made up of harmful toxins and even plastic in case few that contain micro-beads for exfoliation. This is quite a difficult step to take since we have become so addicted to buying products that claim to make us feel good over products that are actually really good for us.
We recently switched to an organic, handmade bar soap and absolutely love the feel of natural ingredients on the skin. Its equally moisturizing and refreshing, plus it is made up nothing but all things natural. Most of the products we use nowadays are either made up of plastic or wrapped in them. In any case, we are producing plastic waste, whether intentionally or not but taking small steps towards its reduction could help reach a bigger goal.
5. PLASTIC CONTAINERS.
We all have and still do love Tupperware, isn’t it? And still spend hundreds of bucks to get the desired color or shape, right? I know! We all have been there. But what do you think it is made up of? Any guesses 🙂
It’s time to switch to reusable containers and lunch boxes that are equally easily available in markets as plastic ones, we just need to understand the environmental cost of its production before actually buying it.
Learning the 4 R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse and Repurpose!
An easy step towards starting your journey to a becoming a conscious consumer and reducing plastic waste at a personal level is to understand the 4 R’s and to keep them in mind every-time you buy something new.
REFUSE: Learn to refuse in public! Refuse using regular straws, disposable cups, plastic bags or any other single-use products and carry your personal reusable ones.
REDUCE: All the unwanted impulsive buying and your overall plastic consumption by following the few simple steps i talked about in your daily life.
REUSE: Whatever is possible, whether it is plastic bottles, if you have them, at least re-use them multiple times before discarding them, reuse containers or things you own or wear. Also, reuse old clothes in different styles or transform them into something new. If you have fallen out of love with a piece of clothing, don’t throw it out, change it up. Tailor them to different shape or add new embellishments, dye it in a different color. There are countless options.
REPURPOSE: old items into new things. You can use old containers in your garden or some kind of decor DIY. Repurpose old clothes into something new, a table cover from a bed sheet, or a rug, a scarf from a T-shirt or a simple tote from old jeans. Just be creative! I will talk more about the fashion and DIY aspect in another post, stay tuned for that.
RECYCLE: Recycle whatever you can and is possible like cardboard boxes, papers, magazines, milk cartons, etc. We always segregate wet and dry trash, with separate trash can for all the recyclable waste, and generally recycle once every week.
Here is an example of reusing or repurposing a 3 years old jacket from a fast fashion brand that wasn’t making me happy anymore. I had fallen out of love with this piece but at the same time I wasn’t ready to just throw it away for no good reason. So I decided to add some new patches to it to match my style. I bought a few embroidery patches from @dhinakaransartsandcrafts last year and put them into good use, also added a few small regular ones in the front! I love how it added a cool factor to the simple piece and simply made it interesting. I will be sharing more such small DIY projects for redesigning or repurposing old clothes to add a new look, stay tuned for such exciting stuff. 😊
At the end, i want to say that its absolutely your personal decision to take as much time you need to make the switch to a much conscious life. Nobody is going to judge you for starting slow or starting late. In fact, the fact that you are reading this and trying to understand the need to reduce waste and plastic usage is in itself a great effort towards creating a better environment for you, your family and the world.
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Concept and styling: Tanvi Mutneja (@tanvi_msidhu)
Photography : Rajvir Sidhu