Here are tips on how to reduce plastic in your lives and information on the state of plastics in the Garden State.
Plastic Free Decorations
Planning a Super Bowl party, July 4th backyard celebration, observing a special birthday or anniversary? No matter the time of year you can reduce plastic waste with creative decorating ideas. Say no to plastic balloons! They may eventually make their way to our waterways, and stay forever. Instead, make and string paper lanterns, chains, tissue pom-poms or flowers. There are many simple how-to Youtube tutorials with instruction for creating beautiful items you can fashion from colored paper or even your newspaper before recycling. And they make a great family art project. For example, learn to make a swirl party decoration at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SWrgeYVms4U. Make your own glitter or confetti from leaves growing in your yard. Make sure leaves are not wet, select a variety of greens or other colors, and create your glam with a hole puncher. Who knew that hole punchers come in so many shapes: round, stars, hearts, daisies, oak leaf, butterfly? These can be found at major chain craft stores in our area. Check out additional ideas for creative ways to celebrate in style while being kind to the environment at https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/get-involved/what-you-can-do/balloons-decorations/
When Buying Produce…
Buying plastic-wrapped or packaged fruits and vegetables creates plastic waste. Look for loose fruits and vegetables in your local grocery store, or head to a farmers market. Choose lightweight, reusable produce bags instead of the plastic bags that are usually provided. You can find a list of local farmers markets and community sponsored agricultural opportunities on our Food webpage.
Reusable Water Bottles
Don’t forget your reusable water bottle when you’re out and about! Just wash it & reuse it, so you can skip disposable bottles. No need to panic when you forget to bring your bottle. Find a fountain, ask a cafè for a glass of water, or purchase a glass bottle of water and reuse it.
Overwhelmed with plastic? Yes, you can use a clean reusable bag now! Here’s how. First, learn and respect each store’s rules. Some stores will allow you to bring in a reusable bag if you keep it in your cart and bag your groceries yourself. Other stores prefer that you not bring in bags at all. In that case, keep your bags in your vehicle and use the cart to transfer your groceries, so you can bag them before carrying them into your house. Just be sure to clean your bags using these tips at Germ Free Reusable Bags.
Perform a Home Waste Audit
With a waste audit, you can identify the types of plastic that you generally use every week and then recycle or throw away. Where is all the plastic in your life coming from? What can you do to reduce it? You’ll find some simple steps for the audit at this site: https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/get-involved/what-you-can-do/bin-audit/
Become an Advocate for a Plastic Bag Ban in Your Community
Worried about those single-use plastic bags that seem to be everywhere? Become an advocate in your town or county for a ban on them. As of this writing, 55 towns in New Jersey have acted to reduce plastic pollution by passing ordinances banning single use plastic bags. In Mercer County 2 municipalities, Hopewell Borough and Pennington Borough, have led the way. If reducing single use plastic is important to you, let your Environmental Commission and municipal officials know that you support a single use plastic bag in your town. Visit the Association of New Jersey Environmental Commissions (ANJEC) to see a model ordinance.
Choose Plastic Free Dental Products
It might be hard to go plastic-free, but there are many new opportunities to reduce the plastic in your toothbrush, floss & other dental care products. You can find a few general tips at the Plastic Free July website: https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/get-involved/what-you-can-do/dental-care/.
Harmful Effects of Ingesting Plastics
According to a recent study produced by the World Wildlife Federation, over the course of 7 days the average person consumes 2,000 tiny particles and fibers that add up to about 5 grams of plastic, equal to the weight of a credit card. We don’t know much about the long-term effects of ingesting plastic, but studies are underway. What’s clear is that we need to say no to single use plastic for our own health and the health of our environment.
Next time you support our local restaurants, cut out plastic cutlery! When you place a take-out order, let the establishments know you don’t need plastic utensils. Supporting our local restaurants is an important way to help our main street recover from the economic pressures of COVID-19 which is great!, But single-use cutlery is used for a few minutes yet lasts in our environment forever. Even compostable cutlery has its limitations. If you are eating your takeout picnic-style or at one of the lovely new outdoor eating areas around town, you can eliminate the need for this landfill-fodder by bringing your own utensils from home. Local kitchen and hardware stores have lightweight, reusable sets available for purchase or you can make your own with extra metal silverware from your kitchen or even plasticware you’ve already received and rewash after use.
Avoid the Virus/Protect the Planet
We’ve all seen it–discarded single-use masks in parking lots and sidewalks. We all want to protect ourselves from the virus, but can we do this while also protecting the planet? Reusable cloth masks (which can be paired with HEPA type filters) are the best bet to protect people and the planet because they are washable, reusable, and, in certain collections, recyclable. How can you make the safest mask choice for both yourself and the planet?
- Choose masks made of natural and non-toxic fabrics like organically grown cotton, hemp, or silk that is also locally sourced so that the carbon footprint in producing and supplying them is lower. Some companies source only recycled or fair-trade materials.
- Choose masks that are undyed or colored with plant-based and/or non-toxic dyes.
- Choose masks that are made from deadstock or remnant fabric to reduce waste.
- Choose masks from a trusted, ethical source and support seamstresses and garment workers during one of the worst seasons our job market and economy has ever seen.
It’s surprising how many tea bag brands (unfortunately) use plastic. Before you sit down for a relaxing cuppa, ensure that you’re not contributing to plastic pollution. Here’s how at Plastic Free July.
- Choose loose leaf tea, or select the brands that produce plastic free tea bags.
- Bring your own container to a local bulk food store, or make sure you buy loose leaf tea without the extra plastic-packaging.
- Research plastic free tea bags on the Internet. Be sure to refresh that search periodically, as companies are continually changing their policies.
- Don’t forget to add your loose tea or plastic free tea bags to your compost bin.
- Finally, don’t forget to let manufacturers know you care about hidden plastics. Manufacturers care what their customers think.
The Story of Plastic
Even though we’ve seen the photos of a plastic island twice the size of the State of Texas swirling in the ocean, most of us are unprepared to grasp the true dimensions of the plastic crisis. This month would be a good time to learn more about the big picture. Let us recommend to you “The Story of Plastic.” This film takes a sweeping look at the man-made crisis of plastic pollution and the worldwide effect it has on the health of our planet and the people who inhabit it. Spanning three continents, the film illustrates the ongoing catastrophe: fields full of garbage, veritable mountains of trash, rivers and seas clogged with waste, and skies choked with the poisonous emissions from plastic production and processing. The Story of Plastic is available to watch on the subscription DiscoveryGo streaming service, for rent on Amazon, on Apple TV, and on Xfinity video-on-demand. View the trailer here.
Avoiding plastic when it comes to picking up dog pooh might seem like a challenge that’s too difficult, but there are alternatives. The same goes for plastic free pet food products. Visit: https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/get-involved/what-you-can-do/pet-care/ for a list of tips.
- Pick up the dog poo with a shovel or pooper scooper and put it straight in the bin, rather than turning to a single-use plastic bag. Use a compostable bag or even scrap pieces of paper, newspaper, or paper bags when out on a walk.
- Be sure to source pet food that comes in paper bags or tins which can be recycled, not plastic. Many butchers and fishmongers are happy to fill your reusable containers with bones, fish and other meaty treats, rather than using a plastic bag. To store bones and meat in bulk, separate and freeze them on a tray first. Then, put them into a container and freeze until they’re needed.
- Bird owners can find it difficult to avoid plastic packaging, but you can reduce wastage by buying grains and seeds in bulk.
Make Your Own Yogurt
What did you find when you did your bin audit last week? If there were a lot of yogurt cups, you might consider learning how to make your own yogurt. It’s a lot easier than you think. Just follow the basic instructions HERE or at your go-to spot for recipes. There are also incubators you can buy to make the final step easier. Either way, you’ll be replacing more than a dozen yogurt cups with a milk jug and one starter yogurt cup. (Want to do more? Find a place that sells milk in returnable glass bottles!)
Choose to refuse single use bathroom products
There are many simple solutions for the bathroom which not only will reduce plastic waste and have a positive impact for the environment but can also have a positive impact on your budget, too! For example, bamboo toothbrushes & safety razors with replaceable blades. Plastic bottles and containers hide in many corners of the bathroom or in the drawers under your sink, and they are also some of the easiest to eliminate.
- Make your own beauty and personal care products – it is simpler than you might think. There are numerous online recipes and tutorials for soap, shampoo, shower gel, toothpaste, scrubs and lotions. Using simple, inexpensive ingredients, these products are better for the planet and reduce your use of plastic too.
- There are a number of brands that supply soap, shampoo, conditioner, shaving cream and more in bar form, without any packaging or just a simple cardboard box.
- A third option is to take an empty plastic bottle and refill it at a bulk goods store.
- Other items in your bathroom such as razor blades, nappies, bin liners and sanitary items can also be replaced with longer-lasting, reusable items that are plastic-free.
Plastic Water Bottles – NOT!
Many people buy plastic water bottles when they’re out and about, only to discard them after one use. Buy a reusable water bottle, avoid single-use plastic, and become a reusable water bottle fanatic.
Be sure to choose a socially-responsible and environmentally-friendly alternative, such as a reusable bottle made from stainless steel, glass, or safe aluminum.
If you do forget to bring your water bottle along with you, don’t panic. You can find a fountain, ask a café for a glass of water, or purchase a glass bottle of water and reuse it.
What about your friends? Make a pledge to convince one friend to do something drastic, and cut the plastic. Visit this page for tips that will help your friends: https://www.plasticfreejuly.org/get-involved/what-you-can-do/plastic-water-bottles/
Avoid Single use Containers
Looking back at your bin audit, you will probably find lots of single use plastic containers for some of your favorite foods. You can learn tricks for avoiding plastic containers from this Native New Zealander below:
Businesses Can Make a Difference
Businesses can choose to get involved in the Plastic Free movement to help staff and customers to choose the alternatives to single-use plastics in the business and to support a wider movement to reduce plastic waste across the community.
Signage to encourage staff and customers bring in reusable alternatives or to opt out of a wasteful practice (think straws) can be an incredibly effective way of sharing the plastic free message and empowering them to do the right thing. These can focus on reusable alternatives such as reusable water bottles and coffee cups.
When you’ve chosen the goals and messages that suit your type of business, there are some great resources that you can download. However you choose to get your message across, be sure to keep it positive and action-orientated. Focusing on the solution rather than the problem is often more effective in engaging people to get on board.
Here’s a special SHOUT OUT to the heroes/sheroes of our local retail world. Thank you for believing in the power of change, and letting us bring our own bags. You are making a big difference for the environment!
- Terhune Orchards — BYO and get a free donut or apple!
- Trenton Farmers Market
- Brick Farm Market
- Whole Earth Center
- Costco — No bags offered, so BYO.
- Aldi’s — No bags offered, so BYO.
Planet or Plastic?
Perhaps you need a little pep talk to keep you motivated as you find more and more ways to remove plastic from your life. If so, check out this video featuring Annie Leonard, Executive Director of Greenpeace.