How to Create a Plastic Free Home
By Amy Crawford
I am always one to avoid plastic containers, bottles and cans where possible, influenced by studies claiming that their bisphonel-a (BPA) content, a man made chemical, was thought to disrupt the body's natural hormone balance. Recently however I have discovered reports that the presence of BPA's don't actually produce the adverse effects once thought. You can read about this further in this article by Chris Kresser and make up your own mind on the subject, the jury is still out.
As Kris goes on to say however, "I don't think I'll ever look back and say 'Gee, I sure wish I would have used more plastic containers,' but I can certainly see myself regretting NOT eliminating them if it turns out that BPA and other plastics do have harmful effects". And let's not neglect to mention plastics effect on the environment.
So, with that in mind, here are some tips I have found particularly helpful on my journey to becoming plastic free.
A Plastic Free Kitchen
Is it even possible? Here, for me the first issue when I started out was the collection of Tupperware. The stuff's expensive! I am still in the process of converting 100% to plastic free but there is definite rule of no hot food going into plastic. I am however ditching, slowly but surely (recycling, don't just throw it out.. it'll end up in landfill for a thousand years) and replacing with a myriad of pretty mason jars (oh how we health nutters love thee), and recycled almond butter jars (there's a plethora of those I can assure you). I was on to the following:
Utensils, mixing bowls and measuring jugs.
Even the large department stores offer wood or metal options, let's not go getting all "Country Road Home" all at once. A favourite is bamboo, the products look and feel gorgeous. Or you could choose the stainless steel route, creating a modern industrial feel within your home.
Non stick pans.
I discovered that the non-stick part of the non-stick pan is actually a plastic. Instead choose cast iron or stainless steel for stick free, plastic free cooking. Plastic free pan handles also ensure they are oven safe, great for browning those frittatas! As some of you may know I am on the hunt for a new cookware range..am close to making the 'big decision' and will report back shortly.
Buying from the butcher is a great alternative to purchasing pre-packaged items from the supermarket fridge. And, frequenting your local markets makes finding loose or kindly packaged items much easier (plus it's nice to support your local economy). Really, plastic free packaged food just means forgoing those processed bikkies and making them yourself... better for the environment and better for you!
Taking an eco friendly tote shopping is a great start to a plastic free home. Once at the store, use the paper bags provided to package veggies (most markets offer paper, Coles isn't quite there yet), then you can re-use again later for packed lunches or gifting baked goods during the week. Or simply purchase reusable produce bags as found here. There are some really stylish hemp string shopping bags out there, super affordable, just be sure to wash them regularly.
Convert the plastic kettle to the stove top variety, preferably one without an annoying whistle. Or the glass Breville kettle. Look for stainless steel coffee machines. Ditch the toaster if you have one, and use your grill. Microwave, be gone! You can steam your veggies. Juicers? Blenders? Well, all signs point to the Thermomix (just kidding, not really).
I am still yet to find a suitable alternative for plastic bin liners, albeit I am currently using the BioPack compostable variety. Any suggestions appreciated!
Plastic Free Bathroom
So you think de-plastifying (it's totally a word) your kitchen was a challenge. Oh just you wait, the bathroom is a beast! My bathroom is on the way to becoming an eco serenity, a beautiful sight, and it will be well worth the effort.
Shampoo & Conditioner. What's a girl to do? Toddle off with her glass jars to the market every Sunday to top up on hair products? Initially I thought this idea absurd, but in actual fact it's a great option. For those who frequent the Melbourne Prahran Market, Shop Neutral has a dispensary of eco friendly haircare and personal hygiene products, I am told CERES Environmental Park in East Brunswick has similar options. Look for one at your local market too!
Toothbrush & Toothpaste. If you're willing to part with your electric toothbrush, there are some toothbrushes out there made from the most weird and wonderful materials. I discovered a brush with the handle made from recycled yoghurt cups (but wait, isn't that plastic? I guess it's recycled. Not sure about that one!). Check out the environmental toothbrush if you'd like to purchase a 100% biodegradable Australian made brush.
Also, have you ever wondered why your tube of Colgate instructs you not to swallow? Again it is filled with chemicals, that are also harmful to the environment after you have spat them out. Pure and Green Organics offer a certified organic toothpaste made from only the most delicious natural ingredients (aloe vera juice, coconut oil, olive oil etc.. a dental "mousse" that takes a little getting used to after years of peppermint cream conditioning), with packaging consisting of 100% post-consumer recycled cardboard for toothpaste caps, and renewable plant sugar BIOpacks for toothpaste tubes.
Toilet paper. It's paper right? We cool. But be sure that your bulk purchases are wrapped in paper, not plastic. Or purchase individually wrapped. Check out this fantastic brand, Who Gives a Crap and help flush poverty down the loo.
This is a great start, so let's leave what is inside the cosmetics cupboard for another day. I think you'll find as you start becoming more environmentally conscious around the home however this will extend to your skincare and personal hygiene products too. Most authentic natural cosmetics commit to the eco-friendly mentality and package in glass jars and the like, it's a win win.
Certain items still mystify me and I am still far from perfect. I think the point is that we give it a go, for the sake of our health and the environment. So why not see if you can refrain from buying plastic this week.