Plastics: A blog not about knitting

Plastic littering the shores in Bermuda. (The blue things are jellyfish!)

Plastic littering the shores in Bermuda. (The blue things are jellyfish!)

This is a post that isn't about knitting so much, but it's an important topic to me that I wanted to share with readers. 

Since visiting Bermuda and Kenya this year, I'm focused on finding ways to reduce plastic consumption at home. It's becoming a topic that more and more people are sharing online. Single use plastics are pervasive in our culture. And even plastics that can be recycled, don’t always make it.

In Bermuda we saw pieces of plastic littering the beach and learned about its impact on the ocean at the Bermuda Underwater Exploration Institute. Plastic never goes away. It breaks down into tiny micro beads. It has reached the ocean floor and it's in the food we eat. 

In Kenya, plastic bags are outlawed. When we shopped we received paper or fabric bags. In the lodges where we stayed, they've made a simple effort of moving from tiny plastic hotel shampoo bottles that are replaced for each guest to using refillable metal containers. Think of how much trash that small effort has saved. 

So, I've started looking at how much plastic we use in our daily lives. When you look around, it is so hard to get away! Here are a few things I have tried to reduce our household plastic. Some are easy, some take effort and pre-planning, many are expensive. 

Grocery: So. Much. Plastic. 

  • Bring our own bags. Our city outlawed plastic bags which is a huge step. Although some dude decided it was against his freedom (come on, dude) and took it to the Texas Supreme Court. We're not sure what this will mean, but Austinites are trained to bring our own bags. Now when I am in a place that hasn't outlawed bags, it feels strange.

  • Bring your own containers. I can't even buy cheese without it being wrapped in plastic. I thought moving to the deli counter would help, but at my store they measure out your meat/cheese and put it in a zipper plastic bag. My solution: take my own container to the deli counter. This is tricky to remember to do. I bought these silicon, reusable zipper bags, but if they weigh it before they put it in plastic, they can also put it in a glass container. The guys behind the counter were confused at first, but one younger guy told me several times it was really cool. Cool points for me!

  • Shop in the bulk bins. Look in your pantry - rice, nuts, cereals, snacks are all in plastic or in a box with plastic inside. (Good on you if you can find pasta and things in cardboard only!) You have to clear the scale if you bring your own container, but the silicon bags don't weigh much more so I go with those. I made it even easier by bringing my own paper lunch sacks. I fill it up with rice or whatever and use the sticker to keep it closed.

  • Cook more homemade stuff. I had an abundance of potatoes so I made some baked potato chips and homemade hummus. By doing this I saved a bag and a hummus container. It takes effort. Many nights I fail.

  • Stop using plastic wrap and plastic baggies at home. I try to store all leftovers in glass containers. If I don’t have a container or it’s something small, I’ll use reusable Bees Wraps. For the kids’ lunches, we try to use reusable containers first, but those get lost or can be too big. I’ve found these compostable paper baggies to use instead. Yes, these are pricey, but the Bees Wrap gets used over and over and we try to only use the baggie if a container won’t work.

Household: Look around. Every single cleaner is in a plastic bottle! I'm working through our current supplies. Buying larger refill bottles can help, but what else can we do? I need to look more into this including more natural cleansers. 

  • Dropps mail-order laundry detergent and dishwasher detergent is mailed in a cardboard box. I use the scent-free for sensitive skin anyway, so bonus. You can save 20% if you use this link. I don't use fabric softener, but already use wool balls for reducing drying time and taking out the static. You can make your own or buy them from a yarn mill like Bartlett Yarns.

  • Kitty Poo Club. This isn't the plastic free solution I want it to be, but it is a great solution to keep from using plastic bags. I lined our litter box with plastic liners and sometimes will need to double bag it because of their scratching. The Kitty Poo club sends litter in a cardboard box. The box is lined with plastic, but when I reached out they said it is recycled plastic that can be recycled again. The litter is wrapped in plastic, but I can recycle that at my grocery store. So, after it’s done, I dump the used litter in a compostable bag, rinse out the plastic and tear it from the cardboard box. The box can be recycled, too. [Honestly, this litter is amazing. The crystals soak up the urine and we scoop the poop into compostable bags. Our cats would leave dust all over the furniture and there is no dust with this litter. The down size is the crystals are rough if you step on them, but I’m working to find a better mat to catch it all.]

  • Bathroom. I’ve got a list of ways to start trying this in the bathroom, but I promised myself I will work through ALL THE BOTTLES in my bathroom before I buy new products. Use what you have is the first rule. Reuse the bottles if you can (I just rinsed out a bottle of used up product and now use it as a water spray bottle.)

I am a work in progress! Some days I really fail, but I feel like these steps are in the right direction.

Any other ideas? What small thing can you do today to stop the plastic monster?