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Plastic Free July is a movement designed to raise awareness of the problems with single-use disposable plastic and challenges people to do something about it. Over a million people around the world participate in Plastic Free July, a challenge to refuse single-use plastics for one month.

Join me and take the challenge! It’s easy… just choose to refuse single-use plastic during the month of July.

 

Visit Plastic Free July here to learn more.

 

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Editor’s Note: Each Wednesday My Green Side brings Simple Tips for Green Living to The Christopher Gabriel Program. We also highlight a favorite green site each week. You can stream the segment at approximately 1220pm (central) every Wednesday at WDAY.com or, if you’re in North Dakota or western Minnesota, listen on your radio at AM970 WDAY.

GREEN TIP: Plastic is generally toxic to produce, toxic to use, and toxic to dispose of. Learn how you can make safer choices.

Plastic products are everywhere. More and more we are discovering there are health risks that make these convenient products not so desirable. Plastics are releasing harmful chemicals into our air, foods, and drinks.

While studies are showing the health risks of plastics, they are also overtaking our landfills.

Every bit of plastic that has ever been created still exists (except for the little bit that has been incinerated, which releases toxic chemicals). In the ocean, plastic waste is accumulating in giant gyres of debris where, among other thing, fish are ingesting toxic plastic bits at a rate which will soon make them unsafe to eat. Source: Healthy Child Healthy World

According to Healthy Child Healthy World, the best thing to do is to reduce your use of plastic. Look for natural alternatives like textiles, solid wood, bamboo, glass, stainless steel, etc. Also, look for items with less (or no) plastic packaging. If you do buy plastic, opt for products you can recycle or re-purpose (e.g. a yogurt tub can be re-used to store crayons). And, get to know your plastics – starting with this guide:

The most common plastics have a resin code in a chasing arrow symbol (often found on the bottom of the product).

PET (Polyethylene Terephthalate): AVOID
Common Uses: Soda Bottles, Water Bottles, Cooking Oil Bottles
Concerns: Can leach antimony and phthalates.

HDPE (High Density Polyethylene): SAFER
Common Uses: Milk Jugs, Plastic Bags, Yogurt Cups

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride, aka Vinyl): AVOID
Common Uses: Condiment Bottles, Cling Wrap, Teething Rings, Toys, Shower Curtains
Concerns: Can leach lead and phthalates among other things. Can also off-gas toxic chemicals.

LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene): SAFER
Common Uses: Produce Bags, Food Storage Containers

PP (Polypropylene): SAFER
Common Uses: Bottle Caps, Storage Containers, Dishware, Yogurt Containers

(TIP: You can recycle some of your #5 plastics including your used Brita pitcher filters through Preserve’s Gimme 5 recycling program.) 

PS (Polystyrene, aka Styrofoam): AVOID
Common Uses: Meat Trays, Foam Food Containers & Cups
Concerns: Can leach carcinogenic styrene and estrogenic alkylphenols

Other this is a catch-all category which includes:
PC (Polycarbonate): AVOID– can leach Bisphenol-A (BPA). It also includes ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene), SAN (Styrene Acrylonitrile), Acrylic, and Polyamide. These plastics can be a safer option because they are typically very durable and resistant to high heat resulting in less leaching. Their drawbacks are that they are not typically recyclable and some need additional safety research. New plant-based, biodegradable plastics like PLA (Polylactic Acid) also fall into the #7 category.

Source: Healthy Child Healthy World

My Green Side’s web pick of the week:

My Plastic Free Life
Beth Terry is the founder of My Plastic Free Life and, upon learning how plastics were adversely impacting wildlife, she decided to try to completely reduce the amount of new plastic that came into her home. This site has tips on how to reduce plastic consumption. Her Top 2 Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste: Bring your own shopping bag and give up bottled water.

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by Wendy Gabriel

GREEN TIP: When you go shopping make it a priority to bring your own bag!Bring Your Own Bag

Anytime you plan to make a purchase, bring your own bag.

  • Grocery store
  • To the mall
  • To the farmers market

There’s a lot of pressure when you’re at the checkout counter and they ask “paper or plastic.”

PLASTIC BAGS: plastic bags don’t biodegrade – that’s the process of breaking down completely into organic material which is then assimilated back into the soil. Most plastic will photo-degrade. This means, over time and when exposed to ultraviolet rays from sunlight, the plastic material’s chemical “chain” starts to break down resulting in microscopic particles that mix in with the soil. How long that process takes is not clear.

  • Every single piece of plastic ever manufactured is still on the planet.
  • It is in use, intact in landfills, as windblown litter, and also contaminating global river systems and oceans.
  • There is an estimated 46,000 pieces of plastic in each square mile of ocean. Plastic bags cause over 100,000 sea turtle and other marine animal deaths every year when animals mistake them for food.
  • Each reusable bag used has the potential to eliminate an average of 1,000 plastic bags over its lifetime.

Introduced just over 30 years ago in 1977, the ugly truth about our plastic bag addiction is that society’s consumption rate is now estimated at well over 500,000,000,000 (that’s 500 billion) plastic bags annually, or almost 1 million per minute.

  • The U.S. goes through 100 billion plastic shopping bags annually.
  • An estimated 12 million barrels of oil is required to make that many plastic bags. That’s more than 1,200 bags per US resident, per year.
  • Four out of five grocery bags in the US are now plastic.
  • The average family accumulates 60 plastic bags in only four trips to the grocery store.
  • There are over 3,300 deaths of children each year in the US alone who die from asphyxiation from plastic bags.
  • The simple act of saying NO to plastic bags is something everyone can do.

PAPER BAGS: The production of a paper bag consumes 1 gallon of water (PER BAG) – which equals 50 times that of plastic bags.

A lot of resources are used to make the paper:

  • Trees
  • Chemicals
  • Electricity
  • Fossil fuels

Add to that the chemicals, electricity, and fossil fuels used in the shipment of this raw material and in the production and shipment of a finished paper bag.

Wendy’s web pick of the week:

Fake Plastic Fish

Fake Plastic Fish has wonderful tips for living with less plastic.

I had the honor of interviewing the founder, Beth Terry, and she is an amazing woman who is on a mission to educate the world about the evils of plastic.

Editor’s Note: Each Wednesday My Green Side brings Simple Tips for Green Living to The Christopher Gabriel Program. We also highlight a favorite green site each week. You can stream the segment at approximately 1020am (CDT) every Wednesday at WDAY.com.

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by Wendy Gabriel

Since waking up to her own plastic consumption and impact on the planet two years ago, Beth TerryBeth Terry has been working to inspire others to live mindfully with less plastic via her blog, Fake Plastic Fish on which she tallies her own weekly plastic waste and details the steps she’s taken to find healthy reusable alternatives to plastic, inviting any and all to come along for the journey.

What put you on your current path toward a plastic-free existence?

One photo: the carcass of a dead albatross chick out in the middle of the Pacific Ocean that was filled with tiny plastic pieces, like bottle caps, lighters, even a toothbrush… the remnants of our daily lives. I realized that my own lifestyle could be contributing to the pain of creatures thousands of miles away, creatures I’d never even heard of before seeing that photo.

What has been your biggest obstacle in your quest to become free of plastic?

My kitties! I’ve switched to preparing homemade food for them. I purchase the chicken in my own stainless steel container that I bring to the butcher shop and add baked yams, butter, and a supplement powder just for cats. The supplement comes in a plastic bottle, but it lasts several months. The biggest issue has been cat litter. The one biodegradable litter that comes in a paper bag is not attractive to them. They’d rather use the floor. So we continue to buy corn-based litter that comes in a plastic bag.

I love your list of ‘Plastic free changes to date’ on your website! What are one or two changes that people could start with on their journey to being completely plastic free?

I always hesitate to recommend anything as a simple step because what is easy for me might not be so for someone else. So, here are my Top 3 Steps for beginning a less plastic lifestyle:

1. Read the article Plastic Ocean to see for yourself why plastic is a problem. This is the article that has changed me and many others forever.
2.  Collect your own plastic waste for one week, without judgment or guilt. At the end of the week, examine it as a scientist would. What does it say about your lifestyle? What kinds of things would be easiest to give up or replace? Plastic bags? Plastic bottles?
3.  Learn a new mantra: Bring Your Own. Start with the easiest thing to remember. Is it a reusable water bottle? Reusable travel mug? Reusable grocery bags? Pick one thing that you will bring with you each time you go out and practice bringing it every time. Once that becomes a habit, add another reusable item. Soon, you’ll be like me with reusable bottle, bags, container, utensils, and even glass drinking straw. But don’t try to do it all at once… unless going whole hog is your thing!

I highly recommend your website for information and inspiration on becoming plastic free. Can you name other sources of information?

Absolutely! First, of course, is the article I mentioned above, Plastic Ocean.

A new feature-length movie I highly recommend is Addicted to Plastic, which is now available for purchase on DVD.

A shorter film with great information on plastic in the oceans is Synthetic Sea from the Algalita Marine Research Foundation. The whole AMRF site is a great source of information on this issue.

For a list of other bloggers attempting to live with less plastic as well as articles and other resources, please check out the right sidebar of Fake Plastic Fish, which is constantly updated with relevant links.

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