Mar 26 2012

Ways to Reduce Plastics in Our Lives

Simple Changes in Buying Habits Make a Difference-

At a recent program, sponsored by the Piedmont League of Women Voters and Piedmont Connect, the audience learned about the worldwide pollution of plastics and how we, individually, can help solve this ever-increasing problem by reducing the use of plastics in our lives.

Stuart Moody, from the Green Sangha organization in Marin, described the origin of plastics made from cellulose fibers, followed by  development of today’s petroleum-based plastics, which do not break down in the environment.  He showed graphic photos to illustrate the monumental devastation of plastics to the environment and human life:  of children in the Philippines swimming in plastic-polluted rivers, Chinese workers sorting by hand through mountains of plastic debris shipped from the U.S. and other countries, rivers in China and India once filled with fish, now steeped in plastic, and endangered  seabirds and sea turtles, killed by ingesting plastics.

What can we do about it?

Piedmont resident Sheila Hollander, who has made a personal campaign to eliminate plastics in her family’s life, offered numerous, simple suggestions:

• Always have a reusable bag with you. Carry a few in the trunk of your car, and try not to accept a plastic bag at any store.

• Invest in a reusable cup for coffee or tea and a reusable water bottle, so you never have to buy another single-use plastic water bottle. Remember to carry them when you travel.

• Reduce or eliminate using “Ziploc” bags. Use non-disposable containers for packing children lunches.

• Examine how your purchases are packaged. Avoid excessively or individually wrapped items and shopping on the internet, if possible.

At the grocery store and in the kitchen:

• Buy as many items in bulk as you can: coffee, tea, cereal, pasta, snacks, flour, sugar, rice, beans, nuts, dried fruit, peanut butter, olive oil, vinegars, maple syrup, soy sauce, body lotion, shampoo and conditioner, castile soap, etc. Store them in containers – new or reused.

• Use few or no plastic bags while shopping. Buy mesh or cloth produce bags (available at Whole Foods and Berkeley Bowl).

• Reduce or eliminate purchases of single-serving items: juice boxes, yogurt, cheese, potato chips, etc.  Buy larger sizes, if possible, and put the quantity you want to use in a reusable container.

• Reduce or eliminate purchases of items pre-bagged or sold in plastic containers.

• Shop at farmers’ markets all year long.  You’ll find local, seasonal produce, such as loose carrots, lettuce, strawberries, and fresh bread, not packaged or wrapped in plastic.    Hollander buys fresh bread at farmers markets and stores it in her freezer, wrapped in a pillowcase.

• For convenience food or take-out (or even restaurant “doggie bags”), use reusable containers you bring with you from home.

• Plant a garden to grow your own fruits and vegetables

• Use bar soap in bathrooms in your home. Don’t buy liquid soaps in disposable bottles.

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