10 Tricks to #plasticfree
Alas we have hit #plasticfreejuly again! Each year I hear these words, I think, why is it just for the month of July!? For me, being Plastic Free means living in reciprocity with the earth. Our daily choices become a gratitude practice, opting out of the things that threaten the planet, which in turn makes us more aware of our impact.
I began to get on the #plasticfree bandwagon when while in Southeast Asia. I would buy from local farmers and for takeaway foods, I would purchase things like fresh tempeh or small sticky rice sweets wrapped in banana leaves instead of plastic. I would refill my water bottle, eat fresh meals, and have fruits for snacks. In the Philipines they are getting on board in supermarkets with produce being packaged in banana leaves, in Australia the reusable coffee cup as well as bulk bins have become very commonplace, and in places in South Korea, waste is weighed to be charged to you. If its culture that predicts a lot of the plastic use, then as Americans its important to look at how our convenience-based lifestyles are adding up. So often we go into a coffee shop to purchase a take-away coffee, a drink in plastic, a snack in plastic, and then a meal in a takeaway container for later. Wow. The rubbish bins are getting stacked just because we have forgotten how to cook for ourselves or to take the time out to live a little slower.
So let's put this into 10 easy ways to lighten your plastic footprint in celebration of our oceans and our precious resources.
1. Support your local farmers
Many of you know that I am all about getting to know local farmers, buying produce that is freshly harvested, locally grown, and farmed with practices I can trust. When you head to a farmers market with your own bags, you are taking away the need for the plastic and packaging as well as the possible many kilometers or miles that the produce has been flown for you to have it sometimes many weeks later. Not only is it more beneficial to the planet to support small-scale sustainable organic farms that are close to you but it also benefits your health to eat produce that is picked at its peak time.
2. Use bulk bins
I know this one requires a little scouting out, but bulk bins have become more and more common across most cities and towns. Most health food or bio shops either offer these or know a place that do. Bring your own bags and fill up on pantry staples like powders, grains, legumes, nuts, seeds, etc. Not only does this reduce the need for packaging, it also allows you to purchase just the amount you need and is oftentimes much more cost effective. Personally, I enjoy purchasing ingredients that do not have packaging as its nice to connect just with the ingredients instead of all of the marketing copy that is attached to a packaged product. I'm very much a minimalist though so bulk bins for this reason provide me so much joy.
3. Use a refillable water bottle
This seems like a no-brainer yet still I see people showing up while traveling or to gyms and yoga studios with those tiny single-use bottles that were given to them or purchased while in transit. Did you know that on almost all flights (except lame Norwegian Air) they will refill your water bottle for free? Most places these days provide filtered water or drinking fountains for your use. Forgot your reusable water bottle? Consider buying a glass beverage and reusing that vessel for the duration of the time you need before recycling it.
4. Natural skincare
This one may challenge a few of you and I'll go into depth on it later, but it is not only possible but it it oftentimes much more cost effective and healthier for you to make your own skincare products. I now refill small bottles with serums, salves, and body oils I create, etc. with the bulk supplies that I find. I use bar soap when possible or simply refill my smaller travel bottles with the larger containers of things like Castille Soap or Dr. Bronners (best product for travel out there!). My body oil base is usually either Sweet Almond Oil, Sesame, or a blend of Argan, Jojoba, and Rose Hip Seed.
5. Slow Living
Take some time to prepare your foods. What? I know! Its really that simple. Personally I find that I like to live in the slow living principles but may be a bit tight on time still so when I prepare food, I usually do so for the next meal or two. I have also been known to prep food on Sundays for the next few days or even through the end of the week. My go-to is to do the farmer's market shop and then spend an hour or two prepping the vegetables for the rest of the week. Mind you this habit was created out of necessity as I used to only have a small mini-fridge and the veg literally wouldn't fit in (!) but I found this to be a nice relaxing way to prepare for the week ahead, making cooking and food prep easier as you've already done much of the chopping, steaming, etc.
6. Beeswax food wrappers
Have you seen these? Skip the plastic wrap and opt in to using these washable and reusable solutions. Personally I just stick bowls of food and cut veg straight into the refrigerator but should I be preparing meals to take out of the house or want to store things like dairy, this is what I would use!
7. Bamboo straws
You may not realize how huge this is. Why on earth are we using plastics just for moments that will live for our lifetimes? Bamboo straws are becoming more and more popular and are becoming an easy solution for anyone who needs a good sip. Not only is it less harmful to the planet, it also allows you to feel more connected to what you are consuming as its not coming from plastic, which has a feeling of being disconnected from our mother earth...am I alone on this? Check out a friend's bamboo export operation here. She buys from my favorite juice bar in Bali and sells them in the US.
8. Refill bottles
Like I've said in the Natural Skincare portion, it makes so much sense for us to stop buying so many beauty and hygiene products in small plastic containers. While I will preach natural skincare and whole ingredients for our skin food, I will ask that at the very least in terms of the plastic use to reduce your use by refilling small travel containers, soap bottles, kitchen supplies, etc with bulk or larger bottles/bags. For me, I've gotten into creating my own natural cleaning solutions since I've gotten on board with DoTerra, using EOs for many needs. Read more here on their website about the difference essentials oils and products you can create. As for toothpaste, it is possible to go the powder, herbs, cocounut oil with essential oils pulling route, but we will get to that later.
9. Make your own snacks
This one may seem obvious but if you think about a lot of our conveniences - snack bars, candies, chips bags, nuts, etc. they are coming in plastic! This plastic is not even recyclable and often is what gets thrown on the roads and washes in to the oceans. Consider making your own with ingredients sourced from the bulk bins (cue your addiction to peanut butter and dates) and think about eating more fruit.
10. Reusable shopping bags
Many shops these days are offering only the brown paper bags or are charging for the small plastic ones. While its important for you to bring your own shopping bags both to stores and to farmer's markets, let's not forget that we often put the produce in single use plastic bags as well. If you are needing to do so, perhaps consider reusing these or going without. Give your veggies a good scrub before you eat them...and remember that the produce coming straight from the organic farm will be much cleaner than any pesticide dusted, packaged, and transported piece of veg you will find 😉.
To recap, not only is it more beneficial for your health to cut out plastics and your exposure to certain chemicals like BPA and BPS, the act of conscious shopping and slower living, brings us back into harmony with nature.