When looking at your recycling bins what´s the material you consume the most? In my case, and I think probably in yours, what I consume the most is…plastic. Actually, this comes with no surprise because plastic is everywhere. For example:
- Kitchen utensils
- Bathroom accessories
- In the composition of various hygiene products and detergents *
- Household appliances
But did you know that plastic was only invented in the second half of the 19th century and that its boom only came after World War II? Yep, before this time we lived without plastic, something that seems impossible now!
Plastic takes more than 400 years to decompose, but globally less than 1/5 of all plastic is recycled. So where does it land? In the oceans. It´s estimated that 8 million metric tons of plastic lands in the oceans every year affecting around 700 marine species. I got to confirm the scale of this catastrophe. When I was in Cape Verde doing volunteer work I had the opportunity to visit the Island of Santa Luzia. This is a desert island where many turtles spawn on the beaches. One of them is called Praia dos Achados, something like Findings Beach, and do you know why? The findings are the trash brought by the sea currents. After all we, humans, don´t need to live there to pollute that paradise.
As a consumer I find myself struggling to break this cycle as plastic is all around me. However, I know that I can minimize my consumption as well as you, if you want. So today I am sharing with you some of my strategies to reduce plastic consumption:
1. Bamboo brush for the teeth: instead of the conventional toothbrush made with a plastic handle now I use one with a bamboo handle and I really like it!
2. Luffa to wash dishes: nature is incredible! Luffa is a climbing vine and its fruit is used as a sponge to wash dishes or the body! I admit that, at first, it was a bit strange to wash dishes with it as it was tough, but it´s only a question of habit and the truth is that it gets softer with usage
3. Soap nuts for laundry: soap nuts are also a 100 percent natural option. You can read more here
4. Homemade cleaning products: I´ve been cleaning my house with homemade cleaning products for some time now, not only because of the environment, but mainly because of my health as I want to avoid the ingredients present in the conventional products. You can read more here
5. Reusable bags for produce: here in Portugal we have to pay for the grocery plastic bags, but we still have free plastic bags for produce. In other words, it doesn´t take long to have plenty of them at home that wil inevitably end up in the recycling bin. In my case I´ve chosen to buy bags made of cloth and these are the ones I use for fruits and vegetables
6. Less packaged food: as my diet mainly consists of fresh fruits and vegetables*, I end up consuming less packaged food. Buying products in bulk might also be a good option*
7. Glass containers for storing food: instead of the typical plastic containers I use glass containers. As I don´t have a microwave at home anymore (my choice), I can put these food containers directly in the oven which is very practical!
8. Reusable cotton pads: conventional pads are made of what, have you ever thought about this? This video might clarify you. I use reusable cotton pads for several years now and this is my #1 option. And if for some reason I need a disposable pad, then I will choose one made of cotton, of course
9. Homemade hygiene produtcs: some I buy, but there are others I make at home such as my hair conditioner
All these changes were not made overnight. It is a continuous process about gaining awareness of my daily choices. Therefore, my intention with this post is not to say what you should or should not do (no moralism here!), but to share with you ways to reduce plastic consumption. And if you do not want to do this for the planet, do it for yourself. Because our health and the health of our planet are closely intertwined. 🙂
* In the form of microplastics which are particles of plastic, water insoluble, measuring 5 mm or less.
** Just make sure that there is stock turnover so you will not be buying, for example, nothing rancid as it might happen with dried fruit.