Spend one day looking at your plastic consumption for a whole day. Instead of simply discarding any packaging or containers, look at how much you are actually using in one day (including the garbage bag you may be putting it in). Take note of how often you touch and use plastic throughout the day. How many items in your home are made of plastic?
Today is all about awareness. Write down your observations about how much plastic you do or do not use. Does it seem like a lot to you? What was your reaction to your findings? Were you surprised? Spend a few moments at the end of the day writing about it.
There is no doubt in my mind that the creation of plastic has indeed saved many lives (I’m mostly thinking of the medical field here). It has its place and purpose. That place and purpose has expanded way beyond life saving and become an overwhelming part of our everyday lives at a shocking rate in the name of convenience and cheap-ness.
What do you know about plastic? Do you understand the various types (i.e. 1-7)? Where does your plastic waste go once it is thrown in the trashcan?
Today is all about education. It can be quick or a rabbit hole…your choice, I simply recommend stopping before the overwhelm hits. Our goal with the Guided Journals is always awareness so that we can take action to eliminate overwhelm in our everyday lives.
Do your research today. Do a quick online search to find out more about plastic. The goal is to learn something about plastic that you didn’t know before. Your search can look like “facts about plastic” or “how is plastic recycled” or “does plastic break down?” You could find out if/how/when/where your city recycles. Write down what you learn as well as your reaction to the new information.
Here on the island of Maui, single use plastic bags are outlawed in stores, which means that we have been bringing our own re-usable bags for years. There was a little bit of outrage at first, but mostly support for this ban. Living on a small island, it wasn’t hard to see the negative impact single use plastic shopping bags were having on our lives. They would blow out of the landfill and into the trees and fields around it then move on into the ocean.
The law seemed “radical” to many people who were used to receiving plastic shopping bags at the checkout. Every once in a while I still see a tourist who isn’t familiar with the law question or even get huffy with a cashier about it, but honestly, the law needed to be put into place. Why would someone get angry about not being given plastic bags? It seems like a silly reaction and an even sillier question, but on some level, I can understand why…1. They don’t live here, so there is little chance they have seen first hand the negative consequences plastic has on our island and ocean and 2. They have bought into the idea that living should be “convenient.” If you buy into that lie, you will inevitably be disappointed (and open yourself up for grown-up tantrums in public…haha).
But you know what? The switch to no plastic bags wasn’t really that hard. We were forced to get used to it, but in hindsight it wasn’t challenging. I actually don’t purchase bags at the checkout if I’ve forgotten mine. It really is NOT a big deal. I could make it a big deal in my head, but truly, it isn’t. It’s better than all of the plastic bags getting buried on our island forever at the landfill or flying into our clear waters and causing damage. We live very close to the consequences of our choices on an island. You do, too, no matter where you are in the world, it might just not be as in your face as it is on a small island chain.
I challenge you to stop using plastic bags and start bringing your own. It’s not a practice reserved for those of us who live on islands or just “crunchy” mamas, but one that ALL of us can benefit from. Repeat after me: it is not hard to bring my own bag to the store.
Choose an idea from the list below on how you can start ‘banning’ plastic bags in your own life. Write about which ideas speak to you and why, what roadblocks are keeping you from already doing this, and how you can get over the convenience factor and look deeper into the impact of your daily choices.
- Start bringing your own bags (I love the ones from Shark Pit Designs & Oneloa)
- Purchase your new favorite bag from a local artist or friend
- Move your bags from the closet to the car
- Offer yourself grace as you forget them a lot at first…and then keep trying. Practice will turn it into a habit
- Create a storage spot for your bags that is convenient and obvious (when things have “homes” it is easier to keep track of and find them)
- Give gifts in re-usable bags
- Refuse plastic bags at the checkout or ask for paper if you need a bag
- Stop and think each time someone asks you “Would you like a bag?” Really pause and consider if you truly need one
- Pretend that the ban already exists where you live and simply refuse plastic bags every time
- Make your own re-usable bags…use this challenge as a call to creativity
- Or come up with your own ideas!
There is no question that single use water bottles have become problematic. They are part of the “convenience” lie we are sold as mothers where we are constantly encouraged to search for and purchase items that make our lives “more convenient.” I stand by my notion that motherhood is not about convenience. In fact, there is nothing “convenient” about motherhood…and that’s okay. We don’t become moms because of convenience.
And truthfully, we are changing the world by simply being a mom. Our example sets to the tone for our children and ultimately an entire generation. Children pick up on our attitude about things through our actions. We normalize not using plastic single use bottles by simply not using them. They see our actions and often copy them. When we shift our mindset and intention, it has a powerful impact.
Choose an action from the list below to start immediately reducing your plastic water bottle use:
- Commit to bringing your own water with you wherever you go…practice turns into habit and soon you won’t even think about it, it will just be something you do
- Commit to not purchasing single use water bottles
- Research single use plastic water bottles and how chemicals can leach into the water inside the bottle and affect your body/disrupt hormones—this was a huge eye opener for me personally
- Research the actual sources of specific water bottle brands—some are only tap water, others contain additives like fluoride. Once you understand the source (instead of just looking at the misleading packaging that tries to make us think it came from a natural spring), you might find that you are less likely to choose bottled water
- Or come up with your own!
We are coming back to plastic toys today. How many plastic toys do your children have vs. non-plastic toys? How many of those plastic toys are meant to entertain rather than inspire creative use? Take stock of your toys today and note what percentage are plastic, what percentage make noise, and what percentage are open ended and require the child to use their imagination to use it (percentages are all average, not exact).
Many plastic toys are both plastic pollution and noise pollution—obviously not noise pollution on a city level, but simply in our homes. Pay attention to whether all of those noisy toys are more irritating than inspiring. Our patience is constantly tested as moms and I know that too much background noise makes my patience run out much faster.
My goal for my kids is to not be entertained or distracted with their toys, but to be engaged in self directed, imaginative play. Wooden blocks require the child to take action and build. A lot of noise making toys don’t encourage open ended participation, in fact some of the “teaching” toys are more like constant quizzing. Are they like games for some children? Sure. Can they teach colors, numbers, and sounds. Absolutely. I just prefer to have a more balanced toy room that includes mostly open ended toys so that my kids don’t.
- Open-ended toys: pay attention to which toys ask your child to create the fun and be an active participant and which ones ask your child to only complete tasks, answer question, or use it in one way. You might find that many open ended toys often don’t use a lot of plastic
- Non-noisy toys: detox the noise level in your child’s day by turning off and limiting noise making toys. Reducing overstimulation can go a long way in helping everyone’s stress levels, which is a form of detoxing
- Ask yourself if your toys are serving your family or adding stress. Brainstorm about what you can do to make a shift if you feel toys have become overwhelming or more stressful than fun
- Research sustainable toymakers – there are many companies out there who focus on recycling, eco-friendliness, & make material choice a priority
- Commit to buying handmade toys from toy makers, artists, and crafters. Some of our most cherished toys are heirloom quality because they are skillfully crafted out of wood
- Reduce your spending and your impact on the planet (while saving money!) by going to children’s clothing exchanges in your community for toys and clothing
- Commit to finding a balance when it comes to the number of toys you keep and what types of toys you choose for your children
- Or come up with your own!
I heard a joke once that basically said, “these days you need scissors to get through the packaging of new scissors.” It’s funny because it’s true. Packaging has gotten extreme. And it’s often made of plastic that people discard instead of recycling which simply adds plastic into our landfills. Packaging is often overlooked as part of the plastic problem, but it absolutely is.
How much do you look at packaging? Does the amount of plastic used to wrap or package a certain product ever frustrate you? This day might not resonate as one you feel you really want to focus on—it’s not nearly as exciting as getting and using new natural cleaners that smell divine—but it’s one worth some thought. Spend some time today writing down your thoughts on packaging (even if it’s just “I haven’t really given it much thought before”). Use the list below to
- Start to become aware of packaging on products while shopping
- Find ways to buy locally without the need for excess plastic used for shipping
- Bring your own bags for produce at the grocery store
- Shop in the bulk food section when possible
- If you need to buy a new or replacement product, try fixing or repairing the one that has failed. New products = more packaging. Spend more time finding out if you need a replacement or if repair is an option
- Give companies feedback about their packaging and ask for more sustainable options
- Opt for recycled, recyclable, or biodegradable packaging when possible
- Buy less as a way to reduce your plastic impact
- Find out if your local recycling services can recycle plastic packaging and if so how you can sort it properly
- Recycle packaging when you can
- Give gifts in reusable bags or other sustainable wrappings
- Or come up with your own!
There are many more options out there than the ones presented to us in big chain stores. Many sustainable choices are available from small companies and can easily be ordered directly from them.
Today we’ll be looking into those options. Research alternatives to popular plastic products that you currently use. Slow down and consider your impact. You vote with your wallet. A lot of us end up “voting” with our money out of impulse buys or convenience. There are very few products that we absolutely “need right now.” Pre-planning can not only find us better prices and more options, but keep us on top of our grocery lists. For example, if you don’t need a new toothbrush for your family right away, research bamboo toothbrushes or recyclable toothbrushes that you can order to have on hand for the next time you need one so you don’t have to be limited to the plastic ones at the store when the time comes for a new one.
Spend some time today researching ways your family can reduce your plastic impact and pre-plan purchases. Even one product swap can make an impact. Write down your findings. Brainstorm what you can shift next.
Some examples of products to research alternatives: