by Dustin Rhodes
I have a confession to make. The climate crisis threatening our planet often makes me feel inconsolable, despondent and full of rage. But being an activist, I’ve learned to use those emotions to motivate me to effect change. You can too, because the earth needs us right now.
The good news is we can all help the earth and the animals who live here by doing one simple thing: Eliminate plastic as much as possible from our lives.
Plastics originate from fossil fuels and emit greenhouse gasses from cradle to grave, according to a May 2019 report called “Plastic & Climate:The Hidden Costs of a Plastic Planet,” released by the Center for International Environmental Law. Not to mention the marine impact of plastics.
By now you probably know there isa “garbage patch” in the ocean that is the size of two Texas’s or 1.6 million kilometers. There are 1.8 trillion (yes,trillion!) pieces of plastic in this floating slop of trash. It is located between Hawaii and California and can be easily seen from space. Imagine being a whale or a dolphin whose home is the ocean. Sadly, many marine animals eat pieces of plastic because it looks like food.
Annual global plastic production is around 380 million tonnes (and increasing) with more than 90% of this becoming waste, according to the non-profit Plastic Free Foundation.
The industry tells you that plastic is safe and wonderful and that once you finish whatever plastic product you bought—even that single-use, super-sized cup you bought your vegan iced soy latte in—you can just throw it in the recycling bin guilt-free. I want you to believe that for all eternity there is a closed-loop system that allows us to keep using the same plastic over and over again and that we’ll live happily ever after. The problem is only 9% of all plastic is recycled and nearly 80% right now sits in landfills and the natural environment, which includes that garbage gyre in the Pacific Ocean.
Alternatives to plastic already exist—glass, aluminum, steel, cloth and paper. I can envision a world where plastic is no longer made and used. Can you?
What’s empowering is that PlasticFree July, which was started by theFoundation in 2011, has become a global movement that helps millions of people be part of the solution to plastic pollution. And you can be part of the solution, too.
I am not asking you to be perfector do everything right; you can start out small, or really challenge yourself. Plastic Free July (plasticfreejuly.org) offers tips to use at home, at work, at school and in your community.
To get you started, I’ve rounded up some easy-ish alternatives to some personal care products that you probably didn’t even realize posed a threat to the environment. Many of the solutions I suggest can be purchased in a brick-and-mortar store, especially if you live in an earth-loving, hippie towns like Asheville, N.C. like I do, but all are a click away on the Internet.
KEEPING YOUR BODY,AND THE PLANET, CLEAN
Oral care is a shockingly wasteful industry—one billion plastic toothpaste tubes are thrown into landfills each year. Even worse, some toothpastes (like Colgate Total) use actual pesticides in their toothpaste (triclosan), which can kill the bacteria in your mouth and devastate waterways, animals and plants when it’s leeched into the environment. The amount of plastic toothbrushes thrown away each year adds 50 million pounds of plastic waste to landfills annually.
There already exists a completely “zero waste” oral care system—toothpaste tablets are basically toothpaste dry tablet form, which are formulated without water, which you chew a little and then brush normally. I have been using them for a few years now and I am obsessed. There is a brief learning curve, and surprisingly the flavor and texture can vary a lot from brand to brand. Overall, they are remarkable, and I have had great dental check-ups while using them.
Huppy (behuppy.com) is my favorite toothpaste tablet. They have great texture, foaming action and flavor. I use the watermelon flavored tabs, made for children, because I love them. Bite (bitetoothpastebits.com) is a company that makes toothpaste bits (they are great), floss, mouthwash (in chewable tablet form), bamboo toothbrushes and refillable, plastic-free deodorant. Unpaste Toothpaste Tabs are made in Germany and are well-formulated and contain fluoride.
You should also commit to a bamboo toothbrush, which is sustainably grown and biodegradable. I have used a sonic toothbrush for almost 30 years, and still do, and now there are bamboo replacement brush heads for them.
If there is anything less glamorous than the topic of deodorant, I don’t know what that is, but since (almost) all of us use it, and because it also puts millions of pounds of plastic into oceans and landfills, it must be addressed.
Dove, the company that’s been around our whole lives, makes a deodorant that is not tested on animals, contains no animal ingredients and comes in a steel container that is refillable. Dove has even made the commitment to not use plastic by 2025. You can purchase this refillable version at big box stores like Target, WalMart, some Walgreens and fromdove.com.
Meowmeowtweet is a vegan company that uses no plastic in any of its products. Deodorants come in paper and glass jars. Their deodorants are available at Target stores and can also be purchased at meowmeowtweet.com.
Native launched a deodorant that’s stored in a paper container, is not tested on animals and all scents except “sensitive” (which contains beeswax)are vegan. Visit:nativecos.com. Some other deodorant brands to look for: Humankind Refillable Deodorant, Way of Will Plastic Free Deodorant, Ethique Eco-Friendly Deodorant Bar, and Necessaire, which sells a deodorant in glass packaging that’s available at Sephora.
MAKING AN IMPACT
I hope you don’t stop at personal care products and dive deeper into kicking plastics to the curb.Plastic Free July participants have reduced their household waste and recycling by 15kg per person per year—that’s 3.5% less waste. Globally they reduced 2.1 billion tonnes of waste and recycling including 300 million kgs of plastic consumption. Eighty-six percent of participants made changes that have become a way of life.
KICK YOUR PLASTIC HABIT
- Buy cooking oils in glass packaging.
- Buy spices in glass or metal packaging.
- Don’t buy plastic wrap, instead use silicone covers which are infinitely re-usable.
- Don’t buy beverages in plastic containers—purchase glass instead.
- Carry your own reusable steel or ceramic beverage container.
- Buy toilet paper wrapped in paper not plastic.
- Always take your own reusable shopping bags to the grocery store.
- Use the bulk bins at grocery stores.
- Use a razor with replaceable blades instead of a disposable.
- Shop at your local farmer’s market.
- Avoid the worst types of plastic. If you do nothing else, try to steer clear of Polyvinyl Chloride (#3 PVC), Polystyrene (#6 PS), & Polycarbonate (#7 Other). PVC is found in many products and causes a whole host of environmental problems