I don’t think there’s any question that plastic is losing its appeal with consumers. Like a lot of other things, plastic’s true cost on the environment and our bodies is making it look a lot more expensive when compared to natural materials. Bisphenol-A leaching from baby bottles and soft drink cans has recently been identified as a health threat and so have phthalates, which are used to soften plastic. Baby bibs made of polyvinylchloride were recalled because they contained lead.
Many of us are trying to eliminate or at least reduce the plastic items in our lives, but it’s not easy. When you look around your kitchen and bathroom, it may seem as though almost everything comes in plastic containers these days. Detergent, lotions, potions and food. For instance, where in the world can you find a bottle of ketchup that isn’t made from plastic? Or a bottle of shampoo?
If you’re under 45, you may not remember a world without plastic, but those of us who grew up in the 50’s and 60’s remember when plastic was the alternative rather than the first choice for many things that are made from plastic now. The most common materials in those days were glass and stainless steel. Maybe it’s time to reconsider those two materials, along with other natural substances, as you try to remove plastic and its chemicals from your environment.
Impossible, you say, to find substitutes for plastic? Difficult, maybe, but it can be done. Let’s start with kitchen plastics. Many people started to use plastic when the microwave oven became the most common way to cook. Not a good idea. Heating plastic releases bisphenol-A and other toxins. Much better to use glass or corning ware. If you’re addicted to frozen dinners, at least remove them from their plastic trays and cook them on a dinner plate. I use an old glass crockpot cover over the plate also, instead of a plastic microwave cover.
For storing food, why not use glass jars? I use large pickle jars to store flour, grains and coffee. They make good cookie jars also. You can often find them or something similar at yard sales, where I find a lot of natural material containers. For drinking bottles, we use stainless steel bottles from Kleen Kanteen. Ditto for travel mugs for coffee. And for making the coffee, we use a stainless steel percolator that makes much better coffee – and keeps it hotter – than those drip coffeemakers with the plastic baskets and water reservoirs.
For dish soap, I use liquid glycerine soap. I bring it home from the local natural products store, where I fill my own glass container from a bulk barrel. At home, I use a funnel to pour it into stainless steel bottles with small tops. It’s easy to pour out a little at a time that way. One goes to each bathroom sink and tub to be used like any liquid soap, while one stays at the kitchen sink for dishwashing. I do the same for natural laundry soap, which I also buy in bulk.
Toiletries are a real problem when you’re trying to cut down on plastic, because almost everything comes in a plastic bottle, and glass isn’t practical in bathrooms, where it could be a safety hazard. One approach is to buy plastic bottles, but then pour everything into stainless steel bottles. Another approach is to cut down on unnecessary products by using dual purpose things.
Do you know that you can use one bar as a shampoo and a bath soap? Burt’s Bees Rosemary Mint Shampoo Bar With Oat Protein and Pro Vitamin B5 smells divine, lathers amazingly and cleans hair and skin without drying or irritation. There are other brands out there also. Shampoo bars don’t need preservatives because they don’t have water in them and they don’t need plastic packaging. They’re great for traveling and last just as long as a bottle of shampoo, if not longer.
But what about all those lotions and potions that we slather on our skin everyday? They’re all in plastic bottles and we need them, don’t we? Well, maybe not, but we sure do like them. So instead of giving up skin softeners, why not go natural and soften your skin at the same time? Olive oil, coconut oil (which is solid at room temperature and smells really nice), jojoba oil, almond oil, cocoa butter and shea butter are all wonderful for softening and conditioning skin and many of them come in non-plastic containers.
Buy them in large containers and put them into smaller containers that you can stash where you need them. I keep a container of jojoba oil in my shower, so that I can pour a couple of drops into my wet hands and apply it to my face. I have Rosacea and jojoba oil is very soothing. It moisturizes without making my skin oily. I have coconut oil in a little tin next to the sink, so that we can apply it after we wash dishes. My daughter, who gets chapped skin in the winter, has a small glass bottle of olive oil next to her bed, so that she can put it on her lips and cheeks at night.
These are just some of the ways you can reduce the plastic stuff in your life. As you add more naturally derived materials to your world, you’ll find that it’s easier to think of ways to do without plastic. The human race has only had plastic for about a hundred years, and it’s only in the last forty or so years that it’s become so much a part of our lives. Almost everything that’s made of plastic has a better, more natural counterpart. We just have to use our ingenuity and find it.