We here at Birmingham Mommy want to help make the world a cleaner, safer place for our children and yours. That’s why we’re taking the opportunity this Earth Month to share ideas with you for how you and your family can be more earth-friendly, and how you can help others in your communities to do the same. Reading the science on climate change can be scary and overwhelming, but there are many ways individuals can have an impact on improving our world and preserving it for future generations. Join us in this five-part series was we talk about fairly simple ways we can all be part of the solution.
An environmental cause that has gotten lots of recent attention is the banning of plastic straws. Let’s be real – banning plastic straws is not going to save the world. And paper straws are kind of meh. But, the idea behind moving away from plastic straws is a good one. It takes energy to produce those straws, which means more heat-trapping gas released into the atmosphere. Also, once created, a plastic straw will take 500 years to fully decompose. In other words, virtually every plastic straw ever created still exists on this earth in some form or another. Unfortunately, only about 2% of plastic gets recycled and 14 billion (billion with a B) pounds of plastic ends up in the ocean every year leading to sad stories like this one. Straws are convenient and make life easier BUT they aren’t required for getting liquids into our bodies. So substituting metal or bamboo straws for disposable plastic straws, or cutting out straws all together, is a good starting point to talk about our reliance on throwaway materials – especially single-use plastics. For Lent this year, I’ve given up single-use plastics for meals and it’s been an interesting but very doable experience so far.
Giving up single-use plastics means relying less on the places you go to provide you with what you need and, instead, having a system for bringing those things yourself. I keep the following items in a cloth bag every day: A re-usable cup with lid and straw, a reusable recycled plastic to-go container, a porcelain to-go coffee cup, and a neoprene case that holds silverware. It sounds like a lot, I know, but the system really only takes a few minutes a day to maintain. When I go to a restaurant, I decline plastic silverware and use my utensil kit; pretty easy and no one even looks at me sideways. You can buy wipes to clean the silverware in between meals and, of course, I put them in the dishwasher every night. As for plastic cups, I order my drink but let the restaurant know I have my own cup and don’t need one. No place has refused to let me use my own cup and three times I’ve been given my drink for free since I wasn’t using their cup. Win! If I have leftovers, I put them in my reusable to-go container, which you can find here.
Once you’ve tackled single-use plastics, by far the biggest contributor to plastic pollution, look around the house for other ways to reduce your plastic use. The bathroom is a great place to start. Using bar soap for washing your face, hands, and body is an easy switch – especially when the soap comes wrapped only in paper or “naked.” Using shampoo and conditioner bars like these from Lush and Nourish are a great way to have clean, great smelling hair without adding to our plastic problem. You can even find solids (i.e., no plastic bottle) for shaving and moisturizing. When you can’t cut out plastic entirely, look for brands that use recycled plastic like Love Beauty and Planet. If you have to buy products in regular old plastic bottles, check the Recycling number on the bottom that looks like this —–>
before you buy. #1 and #2 plastics can be recycled curbside and many kinds of #5 plastics can be recycled through the Gimme 5 Program, available by mail or at many Whole Foods locations.
We’d love to hear about ways you and your family are reducing your reliance on plastics! From taking cute fabric bags when you shop to packing kids’ lunches in reusable containers, every little bit helps. Want more ideas? Next time you grocery shop, notice how much of the produce is encased in unnecessary plastic. Oranges already have peels – do they really need to be in a plastic bag, too?
Check out this creative solution and then message your favorite grocery stores to ask them how they plan to reduce plastic packaging.
For even more ideas, and some tips on saving some green while going green check out this article!
Kristen is a local Mom to three, ages 12, 9 and almost 6. She’s the author of our Parenting with a PhD series who also happens to have a passion for educating others about the benefits of living a greener life. She hopes that leading by example will encourage others to try some alternate ways of shopping, and incorporating small changes that can make a big impact on our future.