We all know that we need to cut down on our plastic consumption for the health of the environment, however plastics contain a number of toxins such as BPA and BPS which have shown to be alarmingly harmful to human health. Plastics contain endocrine disrupting chemicals (EDC’s) – chemicals which mimic and disrupt hormones. Research shows that these chemicals can contribute to obesity, PCOS, infertility, some cancers and more. They are a large contributor to the current chronic disease epidemic. The following things are items I’ve found to be particularly helpful when trying to reduce plastic consumption:
- Re-usable coffee cups – it’s officially official. Disposable coffee cups are out, keep cups are in. Every coffee shop in Melbourne has reusable coffee cups for sale. They have never been so accessible, there really is no excuse to keep using disposable coffee cups. Did you know that despite looking like they’re made from paper, regular coffee cups are actually not recyclable? This is due to them having a plastic lining on the inside of them. It also means that when you pour a hot liquid inside (i.e. coffee) the heat reacts with this plastic and creates harmful substances, which you then ingest. That layer of oil on your long black in a takeaway cup? That ain’t oil. That’s a chemical cocktail of plastic residue.
- Insulated water bottles – I am loving my insulated stainless steel Cheeki water bottle at the moment. Because it’s insulated it keeps water cold (or hot) for up to eight hours, which is perfect if like me you hate going to the beach and taking your water bottle with you, only to end up drinking warm water a few hours later! This doesn’t happen with the insulated ones, you can spend hours at the beach with it in the sun and the water stays cool. Stainless steel also means no endocrine disrupting BPA or BPS, which means happier hormones for all.
- Re-usable shopping bags – now that the big supermarket chains have finally banned shopping bags in Australia it really is essential to have at least one re-usable shopping bag stashed in all areas of your life; the back of the car, bottom of the handbag, in your desk draw at work… you get my drift. You can buy organic cotton ones online here.
- Bulk food bags – buying produce in bulk is a great way to ensure your pantry is stocked with healthy, wholesome dry goods. It’s also usually cheaper than buying the equivalents in pre-packed forms and is convenient because you can buy as little or as much as you want. Buying small amounts often also means it’s fresher. Carrying around jars and tupperware to fill up with bulk produce can be slightly inconvenient, and even though I will reuse a paper bags several times before I throw it out, ultimately it is still a resource and one that eventually ends up being thrown away. Enter reusable bulk food bags! These guys are BPA free and are made from recycled plastic drinking bottles. What more could you ask for?
- Stainless steel/bamboo straws – I needn’t say much more, other than single-use plastic straws are the WORST.
- Beeswax wraps – actually, plastic straws are the second worst. Plastic cling wrap takes the cake for being The Actual Worst Invention of All Time. Beeswax wraps are an awesome alternative, do not contain BPA or BPS, and will therefore not interfere with your hormones or your metabolism, because if you haven’t heard yet plastic has been identified as a contributor to obesity. You can buy beeswax wraps pre-made (I like BeeKeepa) or they are really easy to DIY. A great school holiday activity! NB: for my vegans, there are also wraps available which are made from plant waxes.
- Re-usable produce bags – while it’s all well and good that we don’t use plastic carry bags anymore, produce bags are still a massive issue. Have you ever seen anyone put one single bulb of garlic in one plastic produce bag, a zucchini in another, two onions in another? Nothing grinds my gears more. So while plastic produce bags may take a while longer to (hopefully) become banned, we can send the message now by opting to use super cute reusable ones instead.
- Bread bags – for those of us who are fortunate enough to buy loaves of fresh artisan bread, they usually come in a brown paper bag (or sometimes plastic). The legends at Onya have come up with a solution to this: reusable bread bags!
- Sandwich bags – I recently heard something that made it really happy. It was that there are primary schools in Melbourne which are literally banning rubbish. By this I mean that they are getting rid of their bins (seriously!) and children are not allowed to come to school with a lunchbox that will produce any waste. Which means no pre-packaged foods. This is an incredible initiative not only on a environmental level but also on a public health level as it reduces the chances of children bringing highly processed foods and drinks such as packaged chips etc to school. Reusable sandwich bags to the rescue!
- Menstrual cups – this one is for the ladies; I’ve recently started using a Juju cup, because although I’ve only used TOMs organic tampons for the past few years, which are made from only 100% certified organic cotton (most conventional tampons and pads contain an array of plastics, pesticides and other harmful substances that really should not come into contact with such a delicate area), cotton still uses a LOT of water to be produced, and they still end up in landfill, and I loathe the fact that in Australia women’s sanitary products, regardless of whether or not they are certified organic, still attract GST because they are considered a ‘luxury item’. Lol, no. Menstrual cups for the win!
- And for the women amongst us who use pads; there are also the Hannahpad which is a washable and reusable organic cloth pad.
It is important to remember that every little change counts and small steps accumulate to big changes. You do not need to overhaul your entire life overnight – this is financially unrealistic for many (although plastic cling film can probably go in the bin immediately). Start with things you use the most of e.g. lunch and dinner storage containers, and begin to replace things gradually. This makes the process much less overwhelming, and much more achievable – particularly for households with multiple members.