Where to start…
Have you ever taken a minute to really think about all the plastic that fills your kitchen? Countless bottles of cleaning supplies, dried goods and condiments, produce, and pretty much everything else. Food is packaged in plastic, then brought home in a plastic bag, and after a meal leftovers are stored in plastic containers. It’s a bit much, am I right?
We all hear plastic is bad, but do you know why? Plastic effects our health, the environment, and your wallet. Most plastics are made from crude oil which is refined into specific elements and then mixed with hydrocarbons of varying structures to meet the needs of manufacturers. As plastics are being made, a host of carcinogenic, neurotoxic, and hormone-disruptive chemicals are released into the air, land, and water. Though at lower levels, plastics continue to leech many of these harmful chemicals into the food and drinks stored in them.
It takes one thousand years for plastic to decompose and much of it finds its way to the ocean choking out our marine life (we will tackle the waste management system in a future post). Making plastic from fossil fuels requires massive amounts of energy and releases carbon into the atmosphere. It has been found that making one ton of plastic results in 1.89 tons of greenhouse gas pollution. Plastic free and reusable options will also save you money!
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s get to the fun stuff. I think the easiest place to start is that pesky cabinet under your sink. We have lived all these years thinking every surface needs a very specific cleaner. I have paired my cupboard down to the essentials. In one year I have avoided using over 50 plastic bottles, think about the multiplied affect of that! Now walk over to your cleaning supplies and look for the following:
- Dish soap
- Hand soap
- Countertop cleaner
- Floor cleaner
- Dishwasher detergent
- Room freshener
- Glass cleaner
- Bathroom cleaner
There are many options out there, depending where you shop your solutions may look different, but here is what works for my family. I use glass bottles by my kitchen and bathroom sinks that I bought from Grove (use this link for a free starter kit!). I fill them with bags of dish soap and hand soap from Mrs. Meyers or Grove. If you do not want to invest in refillable bottles yet, just use the ones you currently have by your sink and fill them. The bags use 60% less plastic than bottles the same size and have a pour spout for easy filling. I have a glass spray bottle that I use Mrs. Meyers concentrate in for pretty much any cleaning job, the counters, stainless steal, hardwood floors, and (my least favorite) bathroom cleaning day. Yes, the concentrate comes in a plastic bottle, but I’ve had the same bottle for almost 6 months. I consider that a win! One step further, CleanCult has soap and cleaner refill options that are plastic free. Like geniuses, they use milk cartons instead of plastic bags.
Room freshener spray is super easy too. I use this glass spray bottle and make different scents with essential oils I have at home. Fill your spray bottle ¾ with water and the rest mostly with witch hazel, then go to town with your favorite essential oils. Get creative! This can be used to freshen up the air and soft surfaces.
For dishwasher detergent, I use seventh generation powder. There are a lot of options out there, I look for something in a cardboard container that uses safe ingredients and doesn’t have a crazy price tag. Lastly, glass cleaner, no glass bottle here yet, I am actually using an old windex bottle to fill with water and Grove glass cleaning concentrate. All of these things take up less room in my cupboard, are less expensive than traditional products, and reduce plastic waste!
Now let’s take a look at your storage containers, if you are like me you might shield your face when you open that cupboard door. The top three products I recommend are glass storage containers, reusable zip-top bags, and beeswax wraps. Now this can get pricey if you buy them all at once, I slowly replaced everything over a few months. I was so happy to see the ugly food-stained plastic containers go. I have a variety of round and square Anchor and Pyrex storage containers. They last so much longer than plastic ones, so in the long run they will save you money! As for reusable storage bags, I have tested many brands and can tell you Stasher is the way to go. These babies are nearly indestructible (tested by my family) we use them for leftover pizza, produce, cheese, chicken stock, and frozen veggies. You name it and we have probably put it in a Stasher bag. They are easy to clean in the dishwasher or sink. Think of all the zip-top baggies you go through in a year, now replace those with a handful of reusable bags and you are a rockstar! Last is beeswax wraps. If you have not seen them, they are pieces of material covered in beeswax and can replace your plastic wrap and smaller plastic bags. You can get them in all sizes and prints and it just molds around whatever you need sealed. To clean them just rinse in soapy water, let dry and fold up for its next use. Easy peasy!
The greatest impact to reduce single use plastic from the grocery store is so easy yet so hard. Get in the habit of bringing reusable bags. Most people own them, but you have to remember to take them in to be a rockstar. I don’t know about you, but I don’t always know what store I may or may not go to when I leave the house. So we got in the habit of leaving the bags our vehicles. Today, go round up your reusable bags and put them in your car. I even have one that folds into itself in my work bag. The trick is having them available when you need them. Grocery stores are even starting to reward you for remembering them including Target, Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, and Kroger. Focus on having a bag in your hand every time you go into a store for 2 weeks and it will just become second nature. Not getting much and forget your bag? Ask for no bag or paper! Sales associates are trained to put every little thing in a bag, that’s just not necessary. You will also find that unloading groceries from your car is so much faster when you have more packed away in your sturdy bag.
One step further, get mesh or canvas produce bags instead of the film bags posted around the store. Opt for a loose romaine heart or apples that you can put in your reusable produce bag instead of the prepackaged ones. Or select liquids such as milk, juice, and creamer in paper cartons rather than plastic jugs. Get the cream cheese and butter which is packaged in paper board instead of a plastic tub. Go for the can or jar packaged items over plastic. Simply being aware of packaging will reduce your single use plastic. And please, no water bottles. Get a water filter and a bottle, you will save money and the planet!