The Journey to Plastic-Free!

I​’m sure my family is so thrilled.

Y​ay! Mommy’s blogging about cleaning up the ocean and the horrors of plastic! So what does that have to do with us? Why do we have to change our daily habits and lives?!

Y​ou see, I have always had a special affinity for the ocean and ocean life. I wanted to be a marine biologist for the longest time as a kid… (Come to think of it, that might have been a better career choice from day one…) but life is what happens when you’re making plans, and the next thing I knew, I was a single mom and doing hair for a living. Not that there’s anything wrong with that career choice. It was just a long way off from where I started. C’ est la vie.

T​hat love never died, only got slightly buried and was revived a few years ago. I have to give a great deal of credit to a company called 4Ocean for getting my attention as to how bad the plastic pollution is in our ocean. (You’ll hear more about them.) I will never forget the first time I saw this video of some volunteers pulling a plastic straw that had embedded in a sea turtles nose. It absolutely broke my heart. And there are countless other stories like this one that haven’t gotten all the media buzz.

Our disposable culture is killing our planet. For convenience sake, we are poisoning our rivers and oceans. The amount of trash being dumped each year is staggering: 8 million metric tons, according to plasticpollution.org. The worst part about this problem is that we can fix this quite simply. We can change what we buy and how we live. I did not say easy… don’t confuse simple with easy! It takes a change in mindset and some planning to pull it off. And it is necessary.

N​ow I go about the tedious task of picking apart our daily habits to see where we are being wasteful and can make changes:

*No more plastic cutlery, cups, or straws. Not in the house; not when we’re out. We say “no thank you” to straws when we are at restaurants. I have reusable straws for the occasions when they are needed (we often don’t really need a straw, it’s more that we want one!) and I am investing in some reusable cutlery sets that I can also have in my purse for those meals on-the-go.

*No more plastic grocery bags. I have invested in a couple of fold able crates and reusable shopping bags. I made sure to get the kind that can roll up into a tiny ball and fit in my purse for impromptu shopping trips. I refuse to use a plastic bag because I forgot my reusable one again!

*No more plastic sandwich or freezer bags. For the adults in the house, I want to try that beeswax wrap. I say for the adults because I know if I were to send that stuff to school with my fourth grader, I would never see it again! Scientists have been researching a couple of different compounds that could be used in food packaging and storage: one using a protein called chitosan from crustaceans (Wang, 2017), and another based from sweet potato starch (Tahergorabi, 2018). These materials behave similarly to plastic wrap but actually protect the food from microorganisms and environmental elements more efficiently, and are not made of petroleum-based non-biodegradable material (plastic). They sound interesting but definitely won’t be readily available for a while. They probably won’t be cheap when they are available either. I’ll have to keep looking for food wrap alternatives.

*No more plastic water bottles. We have reusable bottles… (even the children!) and travel mugs, etc for all our beverage carrying needs. I wish that I could just carry a 20 oz. tumbler and restaurants would fill that and not give me a disposable cup, but so far they haven’t taken to that idea.

*No more K-cups. This is kind of a given, I suppose, since we have been up in arms about pictures of landfills full of little white plastic cups form the popular coffee maker for quite some time now. I, unfortunately, have still been using them. (Hanging head.) They are easy when its early in the morning and I have to get myself awake for work. I have a little french press single cup coffeemaker that is easy and simple and only uses a K-cup and hot water. I love this thing! It comes with a plastic reusable filter to use with your own grounds, but the coffee doesn’t come out as strong that way and I have to double press it. K-cups work best with it. Now they have compostable single-cup coffee pods that work in place of K-cups. San Francisco Bay has a few good ones, Glorybrew, Hill Bros, Cameron’s, and Faro also have compostable pods. They tend to be a bit pricier than the plastic, but it is worth it and the difference is less than you think. (Give up one cup of Starbucks a week and that will more than cover it.)

Titanium reusable straws

T​hese are the easiest changes to make. I will be turning our household upside down over the next several weeks and months to seek out more changes we can make. The idea is that this change will be more cost-efficient rather than costing us more money, so I will not be in a hurry to buy a bunch of new things. The point of recycling is to reuse what you have, not spend money on more! But we will need to purchase a few things that can be reused…straws, shopping bags, beeswax wrap, etc. I’ll let you know the goodies we find. We should spend less money in the long run, however, since we only purchase these things once.

We will also look more at what we can do to recycle and dispose of the excess things and trash we have kicking around. I wouldn’t say we’re going minimalist, but we can at least declutter! We will be looking into the types of materials we can recycle and how to safely dispose of whatever cannot be. I am steeling myself for all the moaning and groaning my family will do in response to this upheaval in their lives. I’ll be the bad guy. That’s okay. My ocean is worth it.

References

Tahergorabi, R. (2018). “Healthy fresh produce in a sweet wrap.”  Food Safety Magazine. October/November 2018. Retrieved from: https://www.foodsafetymagazine.com/magazine-archive1/octobernovember-2018/healthy-fresh-produce-in-a-sweet-wrap/  

Wang, Hongxia & Qian, Jun & Ding, Fuyuan. (2017). Emerging Chitosan-Based Films for Food Packaging Applications. Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry. 66. 10.1021/acs.jafc.7b04528.

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