It may be the dream of environmentalists everywhere to live in a world completely void of plastic, but the reality is that plastic is all around us, and virtually in everything we buy. What does the word actually even mean? Derived from the Greek term “plastikos” which literally means fit for moulding, plastic is a product derived mostly from a wide range of synthetic or semi-synthetic compounds.
Why is plastic so bad for us? How did it gain such a deplorable reputation and when did it become such a negative word?
Invented in 1907 by Leo Baekeland who developed the process to make plastic for the masses, it was only in 1947 that the humble plastic bottle made its debut to the world. Speeding forward to the 21st century, we have grown to realize that this once humble material is not only incredibly difficult to recycle, it is created using non-renewable resources like petroleum and natural gas, and require huge amounts of energy to manufacture and transport, ultimately contributing to an avalanche of environmental issues for the planet and all of her inhabitants.
It is truly difficult not to worry about the vast role plastic plays in our life and society. As we sit on plastic furniture, with plastic accessories on our desks and plastic sunglasses on our heads, type on plastic-filled laptops while speaking on plastic cell phones and doodling with plastic pens, the question of a life without plastic seems almost implausible. Will it ever truly disappear from our radar? For now, it seems unlikely for the total eradication of our chemical companion, but it is certainly possible to minimize the usage in our everyday lives.
Revolutionize Your Shopping
In our modern society, it is not uncommon to encounter plastic at almost every turn, from our home furnishings to the packaging on our foods and materials in our clothes. How do we actively reduce the amount of waste we create and live in greater awareness?
To take your own bag to the grocery store might seem like a small step, but get into the habit of bringing reusable cloth bags or naturally woven baskets when shopping for everything, be it food, clothes or garden supplies. This might seem like a no-brainer and an easy solution, but the truth is that most people think nothing of accepting the convenience of plastic bags while shopping, stubborn in the perception that one more plastic bag really wouldn’t make a difference. That is, until you clean out the kitchen cabinets one faithful day to realize that a hundred flimsy plastic grocery bags have been accumulating silently, waiting to be used and re-used. Multiply that by 10 years of dormant plastic accumulation, accelerated by the same scenario in 100 households, and again by the 1000 residents in your own estate, and we have barely even reached the tip of the plastic iceberg in our generation of waste.
Make the brave (and economical) decision to go big or go home – Buy local, and buy in bulk. Maintain longevity in dry goods like nuts, beans and pasta in sturdy re-usable glass containers, and seal the moisture in luscious oils, dips and condiments in re-sealable ceramic jars. There are options abound which will not only safeguard your carbon footprint but keep your expenses in check.
Build a Plastic-Free Kitchen
Rome wasn’t built in a day, and nurturing a plastic free kitchen environment will certainly take time. For most households, the majority of all waste is generated in the kitchen. Start by parting the inevitable sea of plastic by eliminating as many traces as possible. Begin with small decisions, and replace all plastic tools, wares and equipment with alternatives like glass jars, wooden spatulas and porcelain dishes.
A well-stocked larder should also contain as few canned food options as possible – Often lined with plastic containing the chemical bisphenol-A (BPA), these toxins are not discernable to the palate and are harmful to everyone at home.
Living a life entirely free of plastic might sound impossible and even impractical. It needs a commitment to education, continued experimentation and persistence in order to transform our choices from ignorance into awareness, and with some thought, initiative and common sense, we can certainly work towards drastically reducing our own plastic footprint.