Making Simple Changes, One Product at a Time, in a Disposable World
As I said when I began this series of articles. I am not writing for those of you that find it easy to be virtuous and plastic free seemingly overnight. Those of you who easily started making homemade cleaning products and have already only used rags for years. I am writing for the majority of us that find it harder to change and who have been made a bit lazy by the disposable world we were raised in.
In most of my previous articles which can be reviewed here, I have reviewed and experimented with new products that replace plastic one use bottles in the kitchen, laundry and bathroom. And I plan to add many more alternatives to future articles. but this month I did not buy anything new to report on.
1. My Paper Towels Addiction & Solution
I remember visiting one of my grandmothers in her apartment where she had downsized after my grandfather died. I noticed that there were paper towels hanging all over the kitchen in various spots drying as if on a clothesline. I asked her about it and she said that they could all be used several times and she just couldn’t understand using something once and throwing it away. It was not something that felt natural to her. The disposable world we lived in didn’t make sense and just felt wrong.
I was reminded of this memory recently as I confronted my own massive paper towel usage…a shameful secret of mine. I go through rolls and rolls quite easily. I know these articles are about becoming plastic free, but it is all related, and I must confront my paper towel addiction if I am to truly move beyond the disposable mentality that is destroying our environment.
Bamboo Paper Towels
So I found these reusable washable paper towels from a company called Ecocharming. Can’t say I was able to really replace my paper towels completely, but they were wonderful for basic cleaning jobs and can be rinsed out and reused many times. Cotton rags work well also but I never manage to use them for the food and messy clean up jobs and wash them in my washing machine on a regular basis, sad to say.
Between the bamboo reusable paper towels and rags I have definitely cut down on my paper towel dependence but I am still a work in progress. I’ve decided to finally purchase some cloth napkins for the dining table so I will be reporting back on how that goes!
2. Using More Environmentally Friendly Products
I continue to be pleased at how long all the concentrates I have bought from companies like Supernatural, Cleancult and TruEarth to name a few, have lasted. I have truly not found them more costly except for the initial outlay for the starter kits or reusable glass bottle etc.
What has really impressed me about these new products mentioned in my previous articles is how quickly they became a part of my routine and it is hard to imagine an excuse to return to the old one time use plastic packaging. I no longer miss my ziplocs and simply refilling my glass bottle of hand soap with the soap concentrate and filling it with water and giving it a good shake now feels like a new normal.
Basically much of our plastic consumption is just habituated behaviors that we humans are always loath to change at first, but really after that initial resistance it easily becomes our new habituated behavior. One that is friendlier to the planet hopefully.
HEALTHY EATING: Jean Trebek’s exceptional veggie burgers
3. Simplifying & Letting Go of Clutter
I think one reason my new cleaning products have lasted so long in part is the continued journey towards simplifying everything. Much of the time a rag with nice hot water can do the trick and no spray cleaner is necessary at all. Buying less and having less clutter around in general makes for fewer things to clean. Realizing that many clothes don’t need to be washed after every use cuts down on loads of laundry.
Handy tip…make sure your teenager knows that cleaning their room doesn’t mean tossing all their clean clothes that were barely worn or tried on once and thrown on the floor do not belong in the laundry hamper!
INSPIRING: Teenager and head baker at Michaels Desserts, is helping the homeless one cupcake at a time.
4. Be Aware of Plastic Packaging
Other musings on the notion of simplifying and mindfulness that can help us move away from one use plastics is just shopping with awareness. I am beginning to notice so many items in the grocery store that were never packaged in plastic until recently.
Eggs are one example. There are still many eggs that come in cardboard, but now quite a number are showing up in plastic. Milk cartons used to all be made of paper cartons and now a number of gallons have appeared in one use plastic bottles. Many condiments that were always housed in glass now frequently show up in plastic. It can be easy once we pay attention to always choose the non plastic option when there is a choice.
Especially annoying are all the greens and veggies that come in large plastic boxes. It all can be hard to avoid but there are choices. Certainly a trip to the farmers market can avoid lots of packaging issues but I know is not always possible for all of us. Trader Joes has made an effort recently to replace some of their veggie packaging with cardboard that is compostable.
I still don’t understand why we all suddenly need body wash and liquid soap in plastic bottles when bar soap is sufficient in every way! And why are we suddenly buying plastic pepper mills and once we are done grinding up its supply of peppercorns we just throw it away and buy another. Is it really that hard to buy a good solid reusable pepper mill and just refill it with peppercorns?
How lazy have we become in the face of all these ever expanding disposable conveniences?
RELATED: Journey to a Plastic Free Life: Getting Rid of Plastic Bags
Why Do This?
I have received several comments both in response to these articles and from friends asking why this is such an issue if we can just make a point of diligently recycling all our one use plastics. And certainly we must do so when we have a plastic bottle and the option of trash or a recycling bin. We must also be mindful that if it isn’t clean and rinsed it will most likely be tossed out into trash at most recycling plants. But the problem with recycling goes further than that. I would like to quote extensively from an article from a Times magazine special edition on Sustainability, which explains it better than I can.
These excerpts are from an article entitled, Fighting the War on Plastic By Leah Douglas.
“The work of environmentalists largely succeeded at making recycling a mainstay of household and municipal waste management, and over time,”reduce, reuse,recycle” became a ubiquitous mantra. But recycling turned out not to be a silver bullet for managing plastic waste.
“Some plastic products are good candidates for recycling, such as beverage bottles or rinsed out peanut butter jars.”
“But the vast majority of plastics can’t be appropriately recycled .Materials like plastic film and wrap, flexible packaging like granola bar wrappers, plastic bags, and very small plastic items such as floss picks are generally not recyclable. A study from 2017 published in Science Advances estimated that of all plastics produced globally by 2015, just 9 percent had been recycled.”
Also, “..China, our biggest buyer of recycled waste, decided to no longer accept our poorly sorted recyclables..”
“Plastics that aren’t recycled, including some of what we toss optimistically into our home recycling bins, end up in landfills, or worse. Scientists estimate that 8 millions tons of plastic are dumped into the world’s oceans each year.”
By Lisa Rogers
Lisa Rogers is a psychotherapist in private practice in Los Angeles, specializing in eating disorders and addictions.
With a desire to become as environmentally responsible and as plastic free as possible, Lisa takes us on her journey each month of finding new ways to eliminate single use plastic with sustainable reusable alternatives.
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