My Thoughts on Giving Up Plastic

I’ve been dreading writing this to all of you, but Oliver’s right. I should just share how I’m feeling. This space is meant to be a place where I can be real and authentic with my readers. So instead of trying to be perfect at this, I’m going to get real. I hope you don’t mind.

As most of you know, I decided to go plastic-free back in March. At first, I was super excited for this new adventure. I have a huge passion for the ocean since I grew up on the salty shoreline. I felt personally attacked when I finally understood the world’s plastic reality and felt the need to make a huge difference. But as I started to make those changes and live out my life plastic-free, I was slapped in the face by the monstrous reality of the situation: I use way more plastic than I ever realized.

Oliver has told me that plastic is just a part of the world, and the world just isn’t ready for a fast change yet. Although I want to sit here and believe that isn’t true, I’m starting to feel like what he said is kind of right. The world is full of plastic. So much of what we buy comes in it, or is even made up of it. Even our clothes are made up of polyester (plastic), which release microfibers into the water every time they go through the washer.

As I took these six months to experiment on how to be plastic-free, I’ve made some conclusions on how I want to approach this moving forward. Although living without waste is possible (check out Trash Is For Tossers, Zero Waste Chef, and Zero Waste Home for proof), it’s just not where I’m at. Here are some of my thoughts.

I’m not giving up, just making some switches.

I wanted to clarify this before getting started: I don’t want to give up. I just need to take some time to evaluate this moving forward. This was a challenge for myself, and after trying to live without plastic for six months, I’ve found out what is and isn’t practical to implement within my every day life. So I’ve made a list (which is below) of the things I have and will continue to change when giving up plastic. But there are a few things that I miss…and will bring back into my life.

I care deeply about the ocean. And about food.

As I continue to read up about the world’s addiction to waste, I’ve been personally shocked by the amount of food that’s wasted every year. According to Johnathan Bloom in his book American Wasteland, 160 billion pounds of food is wasted every single year in the United States alone. He says that’s enough to fill up the entire ROSE BOWL. Wow.

During these six months, I noticed that most of my waste has been coming from the kitchen. Plastic waste is huge in the kitchen environment, and out of all the times I reached for that trash can, I would estimate a good 90 percent of it was coming from my kitchen. Between plastic and food waste, I throw out a lot. So when I started to eliminate that waste in my life, I noticed significant changes.

I miss some of the products I love.

I’m not going to lie, saying no to plastic means saying no to a lot of unhealthy foods. Although this is a great problem to have, I particularly miss sweets. Yes they are unhealthy, but I could seriously kill for a Fast Break at the moment. I definitely feel there are a lot of products that I can say no to, like fancy soaps or creamy peanut butter (I absolutely fell in love with the freshly ground stuff). But in those desperate moments when I could go for a candy bar on a road trip, or even a bag full of McDonald’s fries? I need to cave. Sorry, I’m only human.

It’s hard to report on food when you’re refusing plastic.

I absolutely love what I get to do. Throughout my grad school years I found a passion for food writing, and the fact that I actually get to do that on a day-to-day basis still blows my mind. However, it’s hard to cover food when you have to say no to a lot of the products you want to cover…all be cause they come in plastic or wasteful packaging.

I want the opportunity to test products and write about the amazing food inventions out there in the world. Recently I had the chance to interview a food scientist from MARS at an M&M event I covered, and it was insightful. I know a lot goes into creating these products, but actually getting to hear from a food scientist who spent countless hours creating these delicious products was incredible. I want to write these stories, and I don’t want plastic to get in the way of that.

I still despise single-use plastics, and choose to refuse.

Even though I want to say “yes” to a few delicious treats, I still think there are a lot of steps I can take in giving up plastic for good. Refusing single-use plastics can be one of them. There’s no need for me to use plastic bags, coffee cups, plastic wrap, straws, bottles, cutlery, or other plastic items. I can swap out those items easily, so there’s no reason to turn back. I just personally want the opportunity to experience the world, and sometimes that means using plastic.

My *practical* list of plastic-free living, moving forward

As I said, I don’t want to fully give up on this plastic-free journey. To prove it, I’ve made a list below of the things that I continue to use plastic-free. I think any effort can help make a different on this war on waste. So after six challenging months, here’s a core list I’ve started. \In reality this list is much larger, but here’s just a sample.

  • Coffee cups > Keep cups
  • Plastic bags > Cotton tote bags (or paper)
  • Straws > No straws
  • Bottled soda > Canned soda
  • Plastic cutlery > Folding spork
  • Bottled water > Reusable tumbler
Bathroom & Beauty
  • Bottled soap > Bar soap
  • Plastic razor > Butterfly razor
  • Plastic makeup applicators > Aluminum makeup applicators
  • Plastic toothbrush > Bamboo toothbrush
  • Cheap clothes (Polyesters) > Quality clothes (Cotton, leather, denim)
  • Deodorant in plastic > Deodorant in glass
  • Plastic floss applicators > Compostable floss
  • Makeup removers/pads > Cotton reusable pads
  • Single-use feminine products > Reusable feminine products
  • Plastic cups > Glass cups
  • Plastic wrap > Bees Wrap
  • Plastic food bags > Reusable glass containers

I’ll also continue striving to buy bulk and loose food as much as possible. I still plan on composting applicable food scraps in accordance to the NYC Composting project.

Cleaning products
  • Liquid detergent > Powder detergent
  • Numerous plastic cleaning bottles > one all-purpose cleaning mixture

Again, I’m not perfect. This challenge has certainly taught me that. But I want to continue challenging myself to use better quality products, consume less, and choose to refuse the products I don’t need. I just need a little space to breathe and to live…and I hope that inspire others to try the best they possibly can.

Just because you aren’t perfect at it doesn’t mean you should stop fighting for what you believe.

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