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10 ways to save the planet… one little choice at a time

Health and wellness author Cheryl Gordon shares ways we can clean up our little corner of the world
Floating plastic
Unfortunately, plastic in our waterways is not an uncommon sight. (via Thinkstock)
My family watched a Marketplace show a few weeks ago about the plastics we thought we had religiously recycled ending up in Malaysia. There has been considerable information emerging that our habit of convenient packaging is not only polluting Malaysia but our oceans, forests and prairies. It’s come to light that even washing our clothes can leave micro-plastic particles in the water that makes its way to our lakes and drinking water!

It was time for our familial habits to come under a harsh microscope. How were our everyday choices contributing to this environmental disaster? Here are some practical ways that we have changed habits. Maybe you can find even more ways to reduce our reliance on single use plastics.

  1. Use compostable bags to hold garbage as well as organics. That was the main reason we took the plastic bag at the store (for garbage). Now we can use our reusable grocery bags for all purchases.

  2. Stop buying stuff that comes in plastic clamshells. Produce, meats, nuts, etc. can all be bought in alternative packaging. If your favourite product is not available without plastic packaging, let the producer know. They want you to buy so if enough customers indicate a preference away from plastic, they’ll figure it out.

  3. Shop farmers' markets and bring your own bags and baskets. You win double or even triple points here for supporting local entrepreneurs and reducing the carbon footprint of shipping.

  4. Speaking of farmers’ markets, they are a great source of innovative new ways to store goods without plastic. Have you seen the beeswax coated fabric that can be molded to cover containers instead of Saran Wrap? There are also lovely reusable produce bags for transport and storage.

  5. Reevaluate your personal cosmetic use. We have tried the shampoo bars and love them. They are great for travel as they don’t count as liquids and can’t spill. Many retailers are starting to allow you to bring in clean, reused containers for filling (like the Body Shop, for instance).

  6. At the Bulk Barn last week, I witnessed a customer bringing in mason jars for his shopping. Bulk Barn employees report that the practice is becoming very popular. Customers have the empty, clean, lidded jars weighed prior to shopping and then pay the weight difference on check-out. Check with your favourite retailer to see if this option might be available.

  7. Ditch bottled water. PLEASE! The convenience is not worth the environmental toll – not just for the plastic packaging – but because these large multi-national companies are exploiting our natural water resources blatantly. We frequently camp where there isn’t potable water available. To break our reliance on bottled water, we invested in a few more reusable containers and carved out a little more storage room. Now we refill water bottles for activities instead of grabbing a fresh disposable one. It was a small change, once we gave it some thought. Ask if your workplace or school or gathering place could install a water bottle refilling station.

  8. Get creative finding reuse for what you do receive in plastic packaging. I re-use old clamshells when harvesting my own garden stuff. They also hold dry pasta, bulk nuts or craft items.

  9. Ziploc bags are still one of life’s best inventions. I haven’t kicked my reliance on them yet. To assuage my guilt, I wash them out and reuse them. My husband is very frustrated that there are always all these bags propped upside down all over the kitchen counter but rarely do they land in the garbage now.

  10. And when you do use plastic, recycle it. Not only can hard plastic go in the blue box but stretchy wrap and film can be bundled and go in your grey box. Hopefully, the powers that be have been sufficiently embarrassed by the revelations lately and will clean up the recycling channels.

    As always, please feel free to contact me if you have questions about the new therapies or the old ones.