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Sustainability: Living without Plastic

An information guide looking at different facets of sustainable living and how to start making a difference

What's the problem with plastic anyway?

Plastics have only really be around for about 100 years and they were a huge innovation when first created. They tend to be light weight and very durable. However, plastics have seeped more and more into our daily lives, and items that will not degrade for hundreds of years are now discarded after only a few minutes of use. 

Plastic waste can have many negative effects on our environment, wildlife, and health:

  • Most of our clothing contains artificially created materials like elastic and polyester. These shed microfibers every time they are washed. These microfibers are too small for water filtration systems to catch and so go straight to our waterways, getting consumed by wildlife.
  • Wildlife in and around waterways as well as in the open ocean often mistake plastic for food and consume large amounts of it. They can starve because their stomachs are full of inedible material.
  • Plastics contain hormone disrupting chemicals that can cause health issues including infertility, impaired cell growth and repair, and damage to fetal development.
  • Plastics are made to last and they don't biodegrade. In the oceans they just break down into smaller and smaller pieces, and they continue to be consumed by smaller and smaller animals.
  • Very little of the plastic that is produced is recycled (only 9% of what has ever been produced) and many plastic types are only "down cycled"  being made into something else because it cannot be refashioned into its original form. Example: Plastic bottles being recycled in a park bench or tires into playground flooring.
  • Many of our plastic items are made to be used for mere minutes before they are disposed of and go to the land fill. Take-away containers, plastic forks and potato chip bags are just a few. 

Available Titles

Big Systemic Changes

Simple Swaps and Next Level Actions

Ready to start decreasing single-use plastics? Try some of these suggestions:

  • Bring reusable shopping bags to the store (keeping some in the car means we always have them ready) 
  • Carry a refillable water bottle instead of buying bottled water.
  • Bring a reusable mug to the coffee shop, rather than using a disposable cup.
  • If eating out, bring a collapsible take out container to bring home any leftovers.
  • Buy in bulk. Bring some washable cotton bags to the store and buy staples from the bulk bins, like rice, beans, flour, and sugar.
  • Keep a washable set of cutlery nearby (in purses, bags, glove compartments, or at our work desk).
  • If using a straw often, look for a metal, bamboo, or glass straw that can be easily cleaned.
  • Support local plastic bans.
  • Look for produce that isn't packaged in plastic.
  • Try reusable coffee filters or refillable Keurig pods to decrease plastic waste.
  • Try beeswax wraps in the kitchen, rather than plastic wrap
  • Swap out plastic sponges for Swedish dish cloths. 
  • Switch to silk or bamboo dental floss in a refillable container.
  • Look for shampoo and conditioner in bars instead of bottled.
  • When buying new clothing, look for natural fibers and well-made styles that will last.

Microfiber and Microbead pollution

Plastic pollution isn't just the bottle we see floating on the ocean, or the potato chips wrapper in the storm drain. Plastics break down into smaller and smaller pieces and can be consumed by animals all the way up the food chain. 

Clothing not made from natural fibers, like polyester, spandex, and acrylic, shed small plastic particles and fibers every time they are washed. These fibers end up in our waterways and oceans. 

Many products also have microbeads, tiny particles of plastic, added to them to aid in exfoliation or other cosmetic purposes. These little beads often get past water filtration and treatment plants and make it to open water. They have high surface areas and absorb toxins around them. They are then consumed by small wildlife, which are consumed by larger wildlife, and so on, concentrating the toxin-filled plastic in larger animals like apex predators (including humans).

Some companies have voluntarily removed their plastic microbeads and replaced them with wax or other natural alternatives. 

Using an app like Beat the Microbead can help us identify which products contain microbeads before purchase. 

Adding a Cora Ball or a Guppyfriend washing bag to our laundry during every wash can help catch and remove a significant amount of microfiber pollution before it can make it to our waterways.

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