Are You Ready to De-Plastify Your Life?

Four years ago I took the Take Back the Tap! pledge sponsored by Food & Water Watch to give up bottled water and, instead, drink tap water. (Research shows that most bottled water is actually municipal tap water anyway!) And when you figure in the costs of company water-rights, bottling, labeling, and marketing pre-packaged water, you pay up to 10,000 times more money for bottled water than water from your own tap! And where does that plastic go? The EPA says that in 2011, the US alone generated 32 million tons of plastic waste, and only 8% of that waste was recovered for recycling. Can you imagine what the global statistics might be?

Within 6 months, I extended my pledge to no plastic bottles at all. And I was surprised how easy that first year was! I have several reusable bottles on hand (such as BPA-free Nalgene, glass and stainless steel) that I fill and chill before I leave the house. If I forget my water and stop for a portable beverage, I only buy a drink if I have an option available in a glass bottle.

Consider how deeply plastics permeate our lives – plastic bags; dinnerware and eating utensils; baby, bath and pet toys; athletic footwear and backpacks; hairbrushes, razors and toothbrush handles; coffee cup lids, straws; household cleaners, personal care  products, makeup and pill containers; even facial scrubs, shampoos, and chewing gum contain plastics.

Plastics play a part in most all food products – from production to packaging to home preparation. And though plastics have made our lives easier, what if they are making us sick?

BPA and Phthalates

When I learned about the cancer-causing and hormone-disrupting chemicals in plastics, I knew I wanted to rid my life of plastics as much as possible. I know I may sound like an alarmist to some, but this really is a serious, possibly life-threatening concern that I hope you’d rather be aware of than ignore:

  • When subjecting plastics to the stressors such as light, age and heat, undisclosed additives used for strengthening, flexibility and color can leach out and contaminate food. These chemicals can off-gas into the air, enter our digestive system, and migrate through our skin into our bloodstream.
  • Bisphenol-A, aka BPA, is known to be a serious endocrine (hormone) disrupter. BPA can be found in the lining of aluminum food and beverage cans, polycarbonate bottles, baby bottles, and composite dental fillings just to name a few. Heart disease, diabetes, obesity, altered functions of reproductive organs, infertility, as well as learning and behavior issues have all been linked to high BPA levels.
  • People who drink from plastic bottles show a two-thirds increase of BPA in their urine. One serving of canned food daily for five days led to significantly elevated urinary levels of BPA. (Harvard School of Public Health study)
  • An unborn baby’s exposure to BPA through its mother has been linked to depression, aggressive and anxious behavior (especially in girls), hyperactivity and less emotional control (Harvard School of Public Health). Studies in young children have linked exposure to asthma.
  • Phthalates, chemicals used to soften and make plastic flexible, are found in plastic  bottles and food containers, plastic bags, plastic wrap, food packaging, PVC pipes and vinyl teething toys. Phthalates are also found in cosmetics and personal care products including perfume, hair spray, soaps, shampoos, nail polish, skin moisturizers and lotions, many of which are soaked up by our skin and enter into the bloodstream. The human health effects of phthalates are not yet fully known, but they are suspected of being hormone disruptors, especially affecting the male reproductive system, and are “reasonably anticipated to be a human carcinogen” (National Toxicology Program).

To me, this is frightening, but needed, information! Think how pervasive plastics are in our world! But you have the choice whether to clean up your food and your personal care choices.

My pledge against plastics has broadened these past few years and it’s my hope that you’ll pledge to begin to rid yourself of plastics, too.

I’m not sure if it will be possible to completely end our use of plastics, but I continue to reduce my plastics usage especially those related to food and personal care products. It’s best to start in baby steps, choosing one or two items to eliminate first. Once you get those down as a habit, add another form of plastic to eliminate. Here are some  examples:

  • I no longer cook in anything plastic. If I’m not sure if a plastic storage container is BPA-free, I am switching it out for glass. Most glass food-storage containers have plastic lids but I make sure they don’t touch the food. (Discount stores like TJ Max, Marshall’s, and HomeGoods are great places to look for glass storage containers. I use canning jars for cupboard storage. These Fido jars from Crate & Barrel and these from The Container Store are a good investment if you’d like to be match-matchy and decorative in your storage.
  • I don’t buy any foods in plastic containers and very few in plastic packaging.
  • There are few canned foods I buy anymore and only if I know the plastic linings are BPA-free. (Seven Companies You Can Trust to Be BPA Free. Muir Glen brand canned tomato products are now also BPA free and should be added to this list.)
  • This year, in 2014, it’s time to say our final good-byes to ziplock bags, baggies, and plastic produce bags (for everything but the freezer).

I Challenge You To A Plastics-Free February!

Plastic-free living requires taking a stand for the things that sustain us and help us live our healthiest life. A healthy body is not possible without a healthy environment. So I invite you to join me in the odyssey of de-plastifying your life.  Give it a try for 28 days and see what changes you can make at your house.

Here are other resources that may be helpful for you:

  • Lunch Skins or Snack Taxi (includes retail listings) as options for reusable bags for snacks, sandwiches and produce. Lots of options on Etsy, too!

More Evidence We Should Solve Our Plastics Issues

When I first saw this video about sea birds on an island – uninhabited by people – out in the middle of the ocean 2000 km from any other coast line, it made me catch my breath and tear up. It just doesn’t seem right that our use of plastics are taking the life of animals from a tiny yellow finch to a huge gray whale who mistake this plastic debris for food. As stewards of this Earth, we have to do better!