12 Clever Ways to Replace Plastic

Plastic is convenient It’s also in some surprising places, and this article is not just about plastic grocery bags or food storage. There’s been an ongoing debate over paper versus plastic, basically coming down to a question of  Natural Resources. There are valid arguments on both sides, some can get pretty complicated and detailed. Here’s how I break it down to simplest terms on both sides:

  • Point A  Plastic and disposable materials like diapers fill up the landfills with chemicals and introduce more chemicals to the environment through manufacturing.
  • Point B  Paper and natural materials like cloth diapers and fabrics require the use of natural resources (trees,cotton,etc), water and energy to produce and keep clean.

I  suppose  I will be drawing a line in the sand and putting myself into the cloth diaper and natural materials camp.  I believe it is better for our world to be good stewards of our natural resources and avoid the use of plastics and synthetic materials that disrupt our delicate body systems. I also believe we can consume less so our natural resources can be conserved. I do feel better when I’m  surrounded by natural materials like wood, bamboo, cork and organic cotton(as long as they don’t have chemical finishes on them (which will be an entire article on it’s own).

For the most part, plastic does not breathe (unless it’s a high tech performance fabric for athletic clothing), and it’s in many places you might not think of.  So I’m probably going to offend the fashonista’s and Vegan’s out there, no offense intended, just my perspective!  

Plastics have been linked with hormone disruption, and their toxicity remains even after they  break down. They threaten marine life when they are not disposed of properly.  My husband saw this first hand on the West Coast of Africa where shreds of black plastic washed up on the shore littering the beach with garbage. Plastic is just not REAL, it’s imitation. Sure there are benefits, it’s waterproof, and I do encounter plastic throughout my day, but I’m working to replace it with materials that are natural. If you take care of them, they’ll last a long time. These materials feel good in your hand, they have substance, and they’re good for you.

Here are some simple, and fun things that can replace your plastic:

 

1. Stoneware storage with a wooden lid instead of tupperware

                                                                                    

2.  Glass straws have substance and don’t leech plastic into your drink

 

3.  Surround your organic foods with natural cotton or hemp


4. Use glass canning jars, recycled jelly & spaghetti sauce jars for storage


5.  Beverages stay fresh longer and taste better in glass


6.  Choose wooden or cloth toys instead of plastic Colorful, durable wooden blocks inspire creativity


7. Choose shoes made of fabric or leather so your feet can BREATHE


Shoes -Does anyone remember  jellies? They were as plastic as you can get, and they were shoes.  Today, plastic shoes come in pretty close replicas to leather. They are so common you may have  to read labels to know what you are getting.  Shoes made of man-made materials (PVC/plastic) do not breathe, it’s like wearing a plastic bag on your foot,  they might even make your feet sweat. Imagine all the reflexology points on the soles of your feet drinking in the man-made/synthetic materials. I do prefer leather shoes (sorry, vegans) because they BREATHE, give good support and they conform nicely to your foot. Another great option is fabric or cloth shoes.

Toms.com has a big selection of ethically made cloth shoes and they donate a pair to someone in need for every pair they sell. They even have vegan shoes!

8. Plastic Purse? PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) is PLASTIC, it often has that distinctive “Plastic Smell” which is just chemicals being released into the air (VOC’s).  Skip the plastic handbags and opt for fabric,  leather or recycled materials

 

8.  Plastic Purses  Skip the “Pleather” and go for fabric or real leather handbags (fair trade and ethically raised animals)

9.  Clothes   Maybe it’s a stretch, or a little crude, to call clothes plastic (PVC raincoats are clearly plastic, aren’t they?).  Just like processed, packaged foods, poly(est)er should not make up most of your “clothing diet”.  I realize that some technical clothing is helpful for athletic training,  I’ve got a degree in Textiles and can appreciate high tech fabrics that support a rigorous training schedule. Our family makes good use of technical fabrics – my yoga practice, my husbands’s  marathon training,  football volleyball, basketball & baseball players to name a few, place high demands on the clothes we wear.  I see firsthand how important it is to have functional, yet pure clothing.  When you’re done working out, make sure you replace the sweaty man-made materials and cover your skin with breathable natural fibers like cotton or linen. More high tech fabrics are now designed in anti-microbial versions which I try to avoid as much as possible.  Have we seen a positive impact from using anti-bacterial soaps?  No.   Likewise, I think we are asking for more problems by expanding anti-bacterial products to clothing we might wear for long periods of time.   Patagonia is one of my favorite clothing companies because they are investing in our environment, creating clothing that is good for people and trying to make a positive impact on the world.  

As long as people  buy plastic clothing, manufacturers will continue to produce it, adding a little (or a lot) more PVC to our world.


10.  Skip The Receipts  BPA is a chemical used to create plastics. It was banned in children’s products (bottles and drinking cups) in 2010, but it continues to be used on some papers including many store receipts.  You can read about the full findings and which  store’s receipts have it and which ones don’t at EWG.org. 

11. Yoga Mats – Traditional yoga may be practiced on a deer or other animal skin or fur. Modern America has come up with a plastic version. Yes, many yoga mats do contain PVC and all those chemicals are being absorbed into your skin. Make sure your mat is PVC free. You’re nose will often know, strong chemicals emit a strong odor. There are natural mats in many different materials: wool or cotton (which provide cushioning but can be slippery and are best for practices like Thai Yoga) My favorite is a  natural rubber mat like mine from JADE yoga. My natural rubber mat has excellent gripping texture that gives you amazing support in your “Down Dog” (zero slipping in the hands and feet, even in “hot yoga”). And I don’t have to worry about what mystery chemicals may be in a synthetic mat.

Choose a natural rubber yoga mat instead of one made of PVC or other mystery materials

12. Support businesses that are going green. Many restaurants and natural food grocers are providing compostable and biodegradable containers for take-out foods. This takes a big burden off of landfills and avoids the use of styrofoam and plastic containers that can contaminate our food. Vote with your dollars when you shop and dine out to support businesses that are working to make our world a better place. It’ll be good for you and the planet. In.gredients.com is a soon to be opening store in Austin, Texas where consumers bring their own storage containers and buy foods from bulk containers, the plan is for the grocer to be “zero waste”. A vision of how are shopping patterns may change.

 

How are you replacing plastic? Your choices matter! Small changes can make a huge impact on our world, and together we can make the world a better place.

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2 Responses to 12 Clever Ways to Replace Plastic

  1. kate January 2, 2014 at 4:16 pm #

    Great article – loads of plastic-free, UK products sourced up at my blog to help you cut some trash from your life x

  2. Susan P January 3, 2014 at 7:40 am #

    Hi Kate! Thanks for stopping by. You have some great content on Living with Less Plastic. I can’t believe England has approved the production of plastic money. All the more reason to cut down our use in any other places we can. Cheers!

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