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This week, we're working on cutting plastics out of our lives. This is a huge one for me, as I know all the negative drawbacks to plastics, but I still feel compelled to use them at times (they can be so convenient and handy!) Regardless of their convenience issue, the negatives far outweigh the positives, and thus I am going to be making a conscious effort to really eradicate plastics from my life.
Plastics are far too abundance in the every day life of most Americans. From baby bottles to electronics, they permeate our lives, and cause some unseen damage that is just now coming to the forefront of the news. Time Magazine recently had an article about the Perils of Plastics that mentioned that "the dose makes the poison" an old saying that has defined the ways that chemicals are handled. The idea is that even if the chemicals that are present in our lives are bad for us, the dose in them will be so minimal that it really won't cause any harm. That's all fine and dandy, except that these chemicals are everywhere nowadays. So though you may never get a huge dose of one chemical from plastics, the buildup from other sources combine to have a large dose than would be considered safe.
Some of the chemicals that we especially need to worry about in plastics are Bisphenol A (BPA) and phthalates, which have both been found to disrupt the endocrine system and cause issues ranging from hyperactivity to fertility problems including reduced sperm count and corruption of eggs. Children are especially sensitive to chemicals found in plastics, as their bodies are still developing and their hormonal systems are in formation. These are found in modern day plastics, and BPA has been especially found to breakdown and leach into the food in circumstances where the plastics are washed are heated. In fact, the Center for Disease Control has found BPA in the urine of 93% of people sampled in the US over the age of 6 - an alarmingly high figure.
The good news is plastic, unlike some other things like artificial sweeteners, are easy to point out. They are everywhere in our houses - plastic baggies, storage containers, shower curtains, and even wrapping up our vegetables in the refrigerator. Although I don't know that it would possible to completely and totally eliminate plastic, you can eliminate it in the ways that have the most impact - in cooking and in the foods that you eat. Here are a few tips to get your started on reducing your BPA and phthalate exposure.
- Never microwave anything in plastic containers. Even the vegetables that are "steamer" veggies that are supposed to be nuked in their bag, take them out and place them in a glass dish. They will still steam (I've tried it) and you will remove the situation where you are cooking them in plastics.
- Buy items in glass jars instead of cans - sometimes things like tomato sauces come in both glass and can, and you should always opt for glass. Cans are lined with substances that can leach BPA into your food, and more acidic items like tomato sauces are more likely to leach. If you must buy canned items, pick them ones with the farthest expiration date, as those are likely to have packaged more recently, and BPA leaches over time (which the more recently packaged items would have had less of).
- Look for the #7 recycling products. These include the ones that are made of polycarbonate, which is the plastic that you should avoid the most if you are not avoiding it everywhere. #7 plastics are often hard, transparent plastics used in things like children's sippy cups, water bottles, food storage, and baby bottles (ie all the things that really don't need to be exposed to BPA leaching).
- Look for children's toys that are BPA free. Often times you can find ones that are marked as such, but you can also explore alternative toys such as wooden toys that are not using plastics at all (this would be my preference, personally).
- Use glass storage containers. They are more and more affordable, and pyrex makes some that work great. Good rule of thumb - don't store food in plastics.
- Bring your own bags to the grocery store - stores are more and more rewarding consumers who do this by giving them a .05 credit for each bag they bring. This will more than pay for the bags themselves over time, and I find that my reusable bags are so much more durable and easier to handle than plastic bags. I actually love using reusable bags, so although it takes some effort to remember to bring them to the store, it certainly isn't a sacrifice for me to use them!
- Drink tap water. Bottled water is a waste of money, and costs dearly in environmental waste. Not only that, but most bottled waters are in plastic bottles! You can save the environment, your pocket book, and your health by not drinking bottled water!
I hope this gives you some helpful tips on getting started removing the plastics from your life. Although plastics are easy to spot, they are so abundant in our everyday use that ridding our lives of them completely is quite a step. Don't get discouraged - Work On It Wednesday is all about baby steps. If you can't (or don't want to) replace items at this time, then just work on replacing them with non-plastics when they wear out. Don't be overwhelmed by the process. Every step that you take is a step in the right direction, and here at Just Add Lauren we're all about the process and doing what you can.
What steps do you plan on making this week? Where are you planning on starting in getting rid of your plastics? Have you already gotten rid of plastics, and if so, what tips do you have for other readers? Thanks for sharing your thoughts and experiences!