In honor of Earth Day, I wanted to write about something I consider super important - something that I try every day to implement in my life, and a topic that many people still have limited knowledge about: the danger of excess PLASTIC.
We all know that plastic has made our lives “easier” – it’s cheap and extremely durable. But over the past years, it’s gotten completely out of hand - plastic is in EVERYTHING. It’s essentially an icon of our convenience culture that now dominates our modern lives.
As a result (and unbeknown to many) we are hurting ourselves and our planet.
What Do You Need to Know?
Plastic pollution is affecting our land, waterways and oceans, and harming many marine animals, from entanglement as well as from problems due to ingestion of plastic waste, and exposure to the chemicals within the plastics. I recently read in UK Independent magazine that “there are 500 times more pieces of microplastic in the sea than there are stars in our galaxy and by 2050 it is estimated there will be more plastic than fish”…”Some plastic is toxic and can disrupt hormones crucial for a healthy existence. Even when it is not dangerous itself – or not known to be – plastic acts like a magnet for a range of other poisons and pollutants we have spilled into the natural world”.
Honestly, we can go on and on about the harm its doing to our environment. Its terrible. And while some populations are at least great at their recycling efforts (like my friends and family in California), there are still many countries (like sadly the country I live in) where recycling is almost non-existent. And every year more and more plastics are being produced and contributing to this epidemic of plastic pollution.
Pollution aside, one of the main things that has really propelled me to cut back on plastic is the harm is does to our bodies. Many of the chemicals used in manufacturing plastic are toxic and disruptive to our health, in particular our endocrine (hormone) system.
So apart from our pollution issue, here are 2 key ingredients to look out for in plastics:
-BPA & alternatives. BPA is one of the most commonly known chemicals in plastic that has been shown to create hormone imbalances, creating negative developmental, reproductive, neurological and immune effects in humans. Research has linked long-term BPA exposure to birth defects and cancer. Nowadays, BPA is finally being removed from many plastic items, but I’ve read that recent studies are showing that the chemicals used to replace it are not much better.
-Phthalates. Another chemical (used to increase the flexibility of certain plastics such as PVC) that has been known to affect our hormones, disrupting both male and female reproductive systems.
What can we do?
Its obvious that we can’t completely eliminate plastic from our lives (it's sadly on my laptop keyboard now, and forms part of my watch, and more). BUT every one of us can start taking baby steps to reduce our plastic consumption, choosing replacements that are better for us and the environment… like choosing glass and stainless steel over plastic.
So now, let’s take ACTION.
Here are 10 easy steps to cut back on your plastic exposure:
1. Use glass, stainless steel and silicone containers to store your foods. I suggest these:
- Glass Mason Jars. I use these from Ball.
- Silicon Food Storage: I recently discovered these food containers that are super lightweight and collapsible and pretty awesome.
- Pyrex Glass Containers and Glasslock: I use these for everything. They do have plastic lids but I avoid the food touching lids (and never heat with the lid). They're a pretty inexpensive and easy first step.
- Lifefactory Glass containers with silicone tops – these are great and completely plastic-free.
4. Swap your electric water kettle for one with no plastic - opt for stainless steel (I own and love this one from Smeg) or glass and stainless combo. (Note: it's especially important to avoid plastic in items that you heat up because that's what most causes chemicals to leech!)
5. When buying facial products, 1) avoid products with “polypropylene” or “polyethylene” on the ingredients list, which is indicative of microplastics in the product (crazy!) and surprisingly is in many of the Neutrogena, Clean & Clear and other common face washes/scrubs, and 2) look for facial washes/toners/moisturizers in glass containers. I’m a huge fan of SW Basics and my latest obsession is this facial moisturizer from Herbivore Botanicals.
7. Avoid plastics in your cothes. I recently learned that many types of synthetic fiber clothing also contain plastics and plastic chemicals (crazy, right?!). So when possible, opt for natural fiber clothing (like cotton, wool, hemp, linen, etc) over synthetics like polyester, lycra, etc. Especially for your underwear and for your babies.
8. For drying your laundry, swap out your blue plastic dryer balls (and avoid dryer sheets; please read this blog on why to avoid them) and opt for organic wool drier balls (I use these) to which you can add essential oils that will leave your clothes cleaner and smelling fresher (in a totally natural, non-toxic way)!
10. Swap out your baby’s disposable diapers for re-usable cloth diapers, such as GroVia, Bummis, bumGenius which are eco-friendly, comfty and free of toxic solvents and formaldehyde. (Just think of how much you save in terms of waste and money!)
Make an effort to take at least one, if not more, of these steps, starting today. By making these swaps, you'll end up cutting back on plastic waste, you'll reduce your toxic load, AND you'll save tons of money in the long run.
Share my blog with others, so we can all be part of this ripple effect to improve our health and that of our planet!