BirminghamMommy Plastic Challenge: Take 30 Days to See What Plastics You Can Live Without

By Kate Agliata:

Up for A Challenge? Take 30 Days to See What Plastic Products You Can Live Without

As a new parent I really struggled with bringing certain un-recyclable plastic products into our home. “Where would they eventually end up?” I wondered. After all, we can’t keep burying things beneath the Earth’s surface forever. And then add to that the mounting concern over learning about the serious health risks associated with bisphenol A (BPA), a highly toxic chemical used to make hard plastic and toys. It was all too much. My parenting instincts kicked in, and I stopped heating food in plastic containers, and began hand washing my children’s plastic dishes. I even traded in my beloved Nalgene bottles for bottles labeled BPA-free. I thought I’d covered all the bases, I thought I was doing enough to keep my family safe, and as an added bonus, reducing my family’s contribution to the local landfill. But I thought wrong.

Recent studies continue to warn of plastic products made with a litany of toxic chemicals (many of which still contain BPA). These studies talk about the adverse effects upon children who are exposed to these chemicals and the increased risk for developing cancer, and reproductive and developmental disorders. Studies also indicate that most plastics contain certain chemicals that are widely known to increase estrogen levels. Scary stuff there. On top of the rising health concerns, there is also the fact that our Earth is practically oozing with waste and plastic products that simply won’t go away-because they can’t.

Plastic is made from nonrenewable resources, petroleum or natural gas. The manufacturing process for the sheer volume of plastic products used by today’s society necessitates millions of barrels of oil each year. In fact, it takes the United States an estimated 1.6 million gallons of oil each year just to create plastic bags alone. Plastic is virtually impossible to break down-the material is simply not capable of biodegrading. And even worse, the toxins released from this un-biodegradable plastic leaches into the surrounding soil, water and air, contaminating our most precious natural resources, as well as compromising our health.

So what can we do? If I asked you to try and eliminate plastic from your life, you’d probably think I was crazy. After all, plastic is pretty much unavoidable, right? It’s in our phones and computers, our furniture, and our children’s toys-heck, it’s even in our cars. I could think of a gazillion different plastic products that we use and depend upon every single day. Complete elimination of it all seems impossible,  but beginning to let go of the single use disposable plastics, can be a much more realistic alternative.

Erica Frey-Delaportas, a Birmingham mom of two little boys, explains that by using less plastic on a daily basis, her family is actually already doing something that comes naturally to most parents- multitasking. “One simple choice of not using plastic wrap or plastic containers for leftovers has multiple positive results,” says Frey-Delaportas. “By using ceramic or glass containers with lids, I am saving money, not letting dangerous chemicals leach into my kids’ foods, and we’re also reducing the amount of plastic waste destined for a landfill.” For lunch on the go, she also suggests replacing juice boxes with a thermos, and Ziploc bags with reusable lunch containers.

So what else can you do?

Ban the bags. Seriously, you can do this. Get in the habit of bringing your own cloth bags to the store-every store. And once you’re there try to keep the momentum going by asking yourself things like,“do I really need to put one produce item in its own plastic bag?” Instead, let it hang loose and toss it sans plastic into the cart. And what about that huge stash of plastic bags you’ve been hoarding under your sink? Do you know you can actually bring them to some stores, including Publix, to recycle?

Say no to stupid plastic. suggests avoiding “stupid” or unnecessary plastic, like straws for example. Sure they’re fun, especially for the little ones, but they’re not essential. And if you already know you won’t use the plastic hangers some stores give you with clothing purchases, leave them behind-they’ll surly be used again.

Plastic water bottles. This is one plastic elimination that I know will be tough for some of you. You know who you are too, I’ve seen you at the store buying them in bulk-there are some of you who even do it every week. Alright listen up: You can do this. Here’s what I want you to do, first, purchase reusable water bottles (preferably aluminum) for each member of your family. Make it fun, let them write their name on it, or even decorate it if they want. Second, every day fill them with water-and yes, I mean the water from your own tap. Third, when grocery shopping, resist walking down the water bottle aisle (side note: think about that, a whole aisle just for water?!). Fourth, put a pretty glass jar on the kitchen counter. Fifth, once a week insert into glass jar the money you save from not buying pallets of plastic water bottles. Sixth, one year later, use that money to pay for a family vacation. Simple as that. I promise.

Don’t buy it if you can’t recycle it. Well, at least try not to anyway. Believe it or not, there is actually plastic out there that is not recyclable. Even if you intend on passing these items on and on, in their end there is only one way out-through the trash. Americans recycle very few plastics as it is. In fact, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) reports that in 2009 Americans recycled only seven percent of the 30 million tons of total plastic waste generated that year. Just to make my point well heard, let me repeat that, seven percent. If you can’t recycle it in some way, shape or form, try not to bring it into your life.

Cook more, buy less take out. By doing so you’ll avoid plastic take out containers, spend less money on your food budget, and ultimately have more time with your family in your own kitchen. It’s a win, win, simple as that.

Get motivated, learn the facts, and take pride in whatever accomplishments you achieve! For a complete guide to recyclable items and to learn more about which plastics to avoid, please visit Healthy Child, Healthy World: Be Wise with Plastics.

About Kate:

Kate, a freelance writer and mother of two, most often finds creative inspiration in writing, but occasionally at the bottom of an empty wine glass. She has hijacked her family’s former lifestyle and is in the midst of creating a simpler and greener approach to life. To follow her family’s challenges and successes in this endeavor, visit her blog, at Kate’s Musings. She and her family have lived in Birmingham since 2009.

2 thoughts on “BirminghamMommy Plastic Challenge: Take 30 Days to See What Plastics You Can Live Without

  1. I’m really looking forward to hearing from all of you readers about this challenge! I’m also hoping that you’ll be willing to share with us your experience with this challenge, and perhaps offer up some ideas and suggestions about how you and your family work to decrease your plastic dependency!

  2. Another way to cut down on waste in general is to use cloth diapers, cloth pads, and reusable menstrual cups (for the female population). And you’ll save a ton of money as well. The average cost of disposible diapers for 1 child is $2000. You can buy a case of cloth diapers at my local green parenting store for $150, less than 10% of the cost of disposibles. And it will take them from newborn all the way up to potty training.

    And another way to use less waste is to use alternative cleaning products, such as soap nuts for the dishwasher and washing machine. When they’re done you can throw them in you’re compost bin because they’re biodegradeble. Also, vinegar is a great subsitute for so many products from window cleaner to hair conditioner. You’ll be able to cut down on detergent boxes and bottles.

    Becoming green has certainly become one of my greatest challenges, and it’s been a wonderful one too!

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