Plastic. It's only been around since 1907 and yet every single piece of plastic created since then still exists today (with the 5% exception of incinerated or recycled pieces.) Every year enough plastic is thrown away to circle the earth four times, including 48,000,000,000 plastic water bottles. 48 BILLION. The fate of all these discarded materials is pretty grim, and while recycling can alleviate this damage, we have been trying to progressively cut down our use of plastics altogether.
Part of my reasoning is safety. We've all heard about the carcinogenic and hormone-disrupting properties of Bisphenol A and phthalates, and yet still, an estimated 90% of adults have detectable levels of BPA and phthalates in their blood. Even BPA-free plastics have been found to be equally unsafe. Here are just a few of the side affects credible research has linked to plastic exposure: diabetes, liver toxicity, heart disease, low-sperm count, irregular ovulation, high blood pressure, genital disfigurement in baby boys, hyperactivity and developmental delays in children. In the video above, Allegre Ramos from Ember Living explains which types of plastic tend to contain more of these harmful chemicals, and which ones tend to have less.
Beyond the safety and waste issues, I have a more personal, aesthetic dislike for plastic. Actually, I should say that I have a huge preference for the weight and feel of natural materials and that using plastic has been somewhat of a chore to me. There's a practicalness of the cheap, durable plastic things I've had in my life that made me feel obligated to slate them for my primary, everyday use and save the nicer things for fancier times. Then, two springs ago, I ran out of plastic bowls and reached for a gorgeous, swirling-blue handmade stoneware bowl for a boring, everyday bread recipe. As I kneaded the bread, I held the soft, organic form of that beautiful bowl and this delicious, irreverent joy came over me like I was stealing back all the saved-up fanciness for that mundane moment. That afternoon I put all the obligatory plastic in a box for the Goodwill and have used all my best ceramic, stoneware and glass things every single day since.
The same goes for textiles. I am a firm believer in natural fibers firstly because of the environmental and health impacts, but mostly because I love the feeling of cotton, linen, wool and silk against my skin. You can read a little more on my natural textile philosophy here.
I don't think we can ever fully escape plastic, (I'm typing on plastic keys right now) but if you want to reduce the plastic in your life, chances are you already have a lot of things already in your home that you can sub-out (we use old glass jars for everything!) If, however, you're looking for some replacement options, I have complied a list below of some plastic alternatives that I personally use (or want to try when the funds allow.)
- Plastic wrap: Bees Wrap, or Bee Eco Wraps. (also, this!!)
- Tupperware: Bare Ware, or Pyrex (recycle the lids and use beeswax wrap over the top.)
- Food storage bins: Anchor Hocking Jars (glass made in China tends to have levels of lead and cadmium; it's best to go for US or European made glass)
- Kitchen sponges: A real sponge, copper scrubber, or a dish and bottle scrubbing brush
- Trash bags: Try compostable trash bags, or go liner-free if you keep your food scraps in a separate compost bin.
- Shopping bags: Canvas bags from an ethical brand, or these inexcusably polyester ones that I still just can't resist.
- Bulk foods bags: Simple Ecology, or you can sew some yourself, just don't forget to include the tare written somewhere on the bag so the grocery store won't charge you for the bag's weight.
- Lunch box: Eco Lunch Boxes or a waxed canvas lunch bag
- Cups: Mason jars, or Duralex
- Baby plates: Innobaby, or this adorable castle plate!
- Baby cups: Kid Kanteen (yeah, it has a plastic lid) or just give them a jar and teach good manners early!
- Pacifier: Natursutten, or Ecopacifier
- Shower curtain liner: Here is a hemp one, or go with a heavy cotton and expect to wash often. You can also rub beeswax on a cotton liner and make it more water proof!
- Toothbrush: Pig bristles... or these cute ones with numbers.
- Floss: A silk floss option! Cool!
- Water bottles: Kleen Kanteen, or my favorite, Earth In Canteen made of stoneware, or this pretty cult favorite (with silicone)
You can go as far as you want with this whole plastic-free thing, but personally, I would rather not spend a ton of money on replacing items that don't come into physical contact with my family as often as the items listed above, (like this ridiculous leather fly swatter!) I am also painfully aware of the fact that so many of my cleaning, health and food products come in plastic containers -but, while those things can't always be avoided, I can always check the bottom of the products to see what type of plastic the container is made out of (Remember, 1-2-4-5 stay alive and 3-6-7 straight to heaven!)