Have you ever heard of Plastic Free July? It’s an initiative started in 2011 by the Plastic Free Foundation that works toward a vision of a world free of plastic waste. The initiative is a great opportunity to become more conscious of your lifestyle choices and reduce your plastic footprint. Teaching children the concept of plastic-free living early is one of the best things you can do for the future of the Earth. Kids that learn about eco-friendly habits early are much more likely to stick with them over the long-term.
No doubt, changing one’s habits is easier said than done. We all have busy lives, and, unfortunately, plastic is used everywhere. It’s particularly common in products for babies and children, because it’s cheap and non-breakable. However, by starting small and adding more plastic-free habits over time, you can start to make them part of your routine. To help inspire you, we created a list of plastic-free activities.
But before we dive into solutions, it’s good to be reminded of why plastic is so bad:
- Non-biodegradable. Single-use plastics are a major source of pollution. For example, Americans used about 50 billion plastic water bottles last year. And the really sad part is that most plastics will never fully go away. Bottle caps, straws and plastic bags often end up in the ocean and endanger sea animals, which eat them. Even those plastics that do degrade over time tend to break down into tiny particles that pollute the environment ending up in our soil, lakes, and the ocean. Sea animals swallow the particles, and they end up in our food chain as toxins. The more plastic we produce, the bigger the plastic waste problem will become.
- Toxic Additives and Byproducts: When plastic is produced, additives are often added, and some of these chemicals are toxic. Examples include polyvinyl chloride plastics which contain a range of toxic chemicals, such as phthalates, and which can release a number of additional toxins when they are heated or exposed to weathering. Similarly, polycarbonate plastics are often produced with bisphenol-A (BPA) which can disrupt human hormones and has been linked to several cancers and genetic damage in infants.
- Continued Use of Petroleum: Most plastics are produced by processing crude oil. In the United States, approximately 5% of petroleum is used to produce plastics. While this represents a small fraction of overall petroleum use, it supports the continued extraction of oil, which in turn exacerbates the global climate change challenge.
Fortunately, there are plenty of things we can do to reduce our use of plastics:
- Reusable water bottles. These are a no-brainer and should be a must for everyone by now. Besides, who wants to pay for water anyway.
- Reusable coffee mugs. We parents need our caffeine. Keep a stainless-steel mug in your car, so you are always ready to load up on coffee but won’t need to use yet another cup or plastic lid.
- Reusable straws. Keep them in your purse, so you always have one handy.
- No plastic dishes. Using ceramic or glass dishes can be nerve racking with little kids. However, there are now alternatives available such as bamboo and silicone which are greener than plastic.
- Reusable containers and pouches. It’s pretty easy to make your kids snacks and lunches eco-friendly. For starters, use fabric snack pouches instead of zip lock bags. And you can use good old paper lunch bags or stainless-steel lunchboxes instead of plastic containers.
- Reusable shopping and produce bags. Keep them in your car and remember to bring them into the store with you. Also don’t forget that you can use them for other stores as well.
- Package-free/bulk products. Buy as much as you can from your local store where you can buy dry products (such as flour, nuts) loose and in bulk and use your own bags, containers, or glass jars. Little kids usually think buying loose products is a lot more fun.
- Shop your local farmers’ market. Farmers markets are a great way to buy fresh, local produce and bread without any of the plastic packaging you usually get in regular grocery stores.
- Cloth diapers. This might not be an obvious choice for some. But cloth diapers have become very popular in the last decade. There are a lot of great choices out there. You can try using them at home first and see how you go.
- Green Toys. Buy eco-friendly and ethical toys where possible. There are so many wood, natural rubber, and natural fabric options to choose from. You’ll feel good knowing that these are safe for your child, especially since little ones tend to put things in their mouth. Be sure to tell friends and family that you prefer plastic-free toys for baby showers and kids’ birthdays so they can purchase accordingly – a great way to raise awareness!
- Organic Clothing. Some people might be surprised but polyester, nylon, and acrylics are all fabrics made from plastic. These fibers contribute to ocean plastic pollution by releasing tiny fibers during the washing cycle. Switching to organic cotton is a much better, more natural option. From its creation to its disposal organic cotton is more sustainable. As a bonus, it’s hypoallergenic and better for babies’ skin. At Little Fishkopp, we are proud that all of our products are made from 100% GOTS certified organic cotton.
These are just some ideas to get you started. Living plastic free is an ongoing goal and you’ll find other ways to integrate more things into your daily routine over time. The more we reduce, the better.