Plastic is pretty much as artificial as it gets. Most varieties are made almost entirely from synthetic chemicals that don’t occur in nature.
These compounds enable plastics to do some impressive things, but many of them are hazardous. They contaminate air, water, soil and the food chain when released during manufacture or incineration. Depending on the specific chemicals being used, they can also migrate out of the plastics. If that plastic comes in contact with food or other consumer products, the chemicals ultimately wind up in our bodies.
Evidence suggests that common chemicals found in plastics including phthalates, bisphenol-A, flame retardants, formaldehyde, and perfluorochemicals play a role in cancer, immune dysfunction, endocrine disruption, and neurological damage. They have even been linked to obesity and diabetes.
Thankfully, we can lower the amount of plastic-related chemicals in our bodies, our homes, and the environment—and the risks they present—by simply using less plastic in our daily lives.
Here are some easy steps to reduce your use of plastic:
- Skip processed and other packaged foods. Opt instead for whole foods you prepare yourself as well as food sold in bulk (brought home in reusable containers). This will cut down on the plastic food packaging that puts our diets in close contact with many chemicals.
- Purchase a BPA-free stainless steel water bottle and carry your own drinks instead of buying them in disposable plastic.
- Store food in glass. The easiest and cheapest way to make the transition is by re-using spaghetti sauce and salsa jars.
- Take your own reusable cloth shopping bags with you to the store. Don’t forget to wash them when needed.
- Pack plastic-free lunches in unbleached wax paper and reusable containers made of stainless steel, ceramic, or glass.
- Choose natural fibers. Plastics hide in everything from clothing and carpeting to furniture and foam pillows. Always ask yourself what’s inside whatever you’re buying. Look for products made from wool, cotton, hemp, and other plastic-free biodegradable fibers.
- Make your own cleaning products to further avoid plastic packaging. You can clean almost anything with some mixture of baking soda, vinegar, and essential oils.
- If you really want extra credit, get your media online. MP3s and streamed movies mean no plastic discs or packaging.