5 things you can do right now to ditch plastic for your health and for the planet

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By 2050, there could be more plastic than fish in our oceans. We live in a throwaway culture without enough room to throw the trash away. This not the world that I want to pass on to future generations!

The sea is full of plastic which is contaminating the food supply chain. Fish ingest plastic debris. Which means we’re eating plastic too.

Together, we can make a difference by making changes to protect us from unhealthy toxins, live a healthier lifestyle, and reduce waste. 

 
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Have you heard of The Great Pacific Garbage Patch? It’s a huge trash vortex spanning the waters from the west coast of North America to Japan.

The Eastern Garbage Patch is located between the coasts of Hawaii and California. It’s mostly full of plastic trash that’s not going away.

When plastic trash gets covered with algae and other plant life, fish eat it. It smells and looks like their natural food supply. Scientists find plastic inside of all sea life including whales, tuna, shrimp, salmon, and even wild anchovies.

Disposable plastics were meant to make life easy, disposable and convenient. But the convenience is not worth the havoc it plays on our health and to the ecosystem. It seemed like a great idea, but we are drowning in toxic plastic that leaches into our food and water.

It’s not too late to make healthier choices and changes.

 
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Plastics are full of chemicals which are linked to serious health issues. BPA (bisphenol-A) is a hormone disruptor, a synthetic estrogen that’s used to make rigid plastic products including baby bottles and beverage bottles. Temperature changes (freezing, heating) can increase the leaching effect.

I used to cleverly (I thought) freeze small water bottles to keep my kids lunches cool at school. Little did I know how unhealthy this was. If you're doing this, please stop.  

Studies have shown links to early puberty, breast cancer, infertility, and low sperm counts. BPA has been detected in breast milk, exposing babies to this hormone disruptor.

PCBs and other pollutants in the ocean are absorbed by plastics. This becomes a human health hazard when we eat fish that has eaten contaminated, toxic plastics.

Ironically, the seafood that we eat more of because of the health benefits may be harming us at the same time.

Some mind-boggling facts about bottled water alone:

  • 1500 water bottles are consumed in the United States every second.

  • Over 50 billion water bottles are used in the United States every year.

  • Only about 20% are recycled - incredibly less than I imagined.

  • 17 million barrels of oil are needed to make these water bottles.

  • Bottled water costs 1000 times more than tap water. It’s often simply bottled tap water.

    (source: MSLK Watershed)

 
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Why not drink your own, free tap water out of safe, non-toxic stainless or glass containers?

Sure, plastic is easy, convenient and disposable. Single-servings that you can toss without bringing anything home to wash make it quick to grab and go can be awfully tempting when you’re busy. But it creates unnecessary garbage that does not decompose, and fills landfills.

Think of the typical meal packaging that gets tossed. A yogurt container, plastic spoon, single-serving cracker packaging, single serving almond butter, water bottle, plastic container of fruit = 6 pieces of plastic plus a brown bag and napkins. Multiply this by all the people in your family. Every day. That’s a lot of trash! The plastic doesn’t disappear once it’s in the garbage can.

With the overwhelming amount of plastic, how can just one person like you or me make an impact? By rejecting unnecessary plastic waste whenever we can.

If we don’t get a handle on the plastics we’re throwing out, with nowhere for it to go, we may soon be living in cities built on giant plastic landfills.

You and I can make a difference by starting with five simple changes below. Let's think globally and act locally.

5 THINGS YOU CAN DO RIGHT NOW TO DITCH PLASTIC:

  1. Stop using disposable water bottles. Switch to stainless or glass containers. They’re reusable, and have no harmful chemicals. Plastic bottles become more unhealthy when they sit in a hot or cold car. Stainless and glass are safer and can be sanitized in the dishwasher. Use filtered water, or tap, depending on your town’s water report. Save a ton of money this way. Buy a fun, stainless Hydro Flask stainless container with the money you save!
  2. Take the carbon footprint quiz to learn your individual impact on the environment. The carbon footprint is the total amount of greenhouse gases produced to directly and indirectly support human activities. This quiz shows the impact of other activities besides plastic usage, too. It’s eye opening!
  3. Bring your own bags when shopping. Use cloth bags, reuse bags, even produce bags. Keep reusable bags your car. Buy a tiny, fold up bag that fits inside your backpack or purse for when you have an unexpected need for a bag. I just learned about these reusable produce bags.
  4. Reject products with unnecessary packaging. 40% of plastic worldwide is found in packaging, and ends up as 60% of waste. Why do some manufacturers plastic wrap every roll of paper towels in a 6-pack when they are already individually wrapped? That’s totally unnecessary. Shop with an eye for packaging that’s more environmentally friendly.
  5. Shop for products that are designed and packaged in a more environmentally friendly way. I get it. Sometimes disposable items are needed. Think about how to minimize waste and avoid disposable products whenever possible. Choose paper cups instead of plastic cups for parties and picnics when glass isn’t practical. Skip individually wrapped snacks and drinks. Instead of plastic baggies for lunches and snacks, pack snacks in a reusable container or a bento box. For personal hygeine products, switch from plastic applicator tampons to cardboard applicators or a silicone Diva cup.

We live in a throwaway culture, but we’ve run out of room to keep throwing away. The quick, easy single-use and disposable plastics come at a high cost to our health and our world.

Plastics are filling our oceans, rivers and streams with trash. By challenging our habits and making fairly simple changes, we can cut way back on plastic use.

We inherited a beautiful planet. It’s the only one we’ve got. Let’s pay it forward, and leave the world a healthy place for future generations.

Sources:
Guess What's Showing Up In Our Shellfish? One Word: Plastics. NPR
Carbon Footprint Factsheet, University of Michigan
Great Pacific Garbage Patch, National Geographic
Water bottle image by freeimageslive.co.uk - gratuit

 

Denise Fountain is a Life Transitions Specialist and Certified Professional Coach. She works with women going through transitions to rediscover themselves and create lives that are happy, healthy and whole again. Together with her clients, she explores the connection between stress, health and happiness, and guides her clients to move forward to make lasting and sustainable changes.

Denise is passionate about helping women live their best lives. Denise provides coaching for clients living anywhere by phone or Skype, and is available for speaking engagements and workshops. Sign up for updates. Contact her at denise@denisefountain.com to learn more about how Denise can partner with you to create the life you dream of.