Firstly, my title rhymes! I totally meant to do that. Moving on. Anyone who has been watching the incredibly eye opening Blue Planet on BBC One, can’t fail to have started to feel something (unless you have no soul) about the amount of plastic and general waste that is blighting our planet and oceans. For those who don’t know, the programme shows exceptional images of the sea and the creatures within it, but it also shares images of turtles with beer rings wrapped around their necks, fish making homes in plastic bottles and debris washing up on far flung tropical beaches. Marine debris in the North Pacific ocean is thought to be 6 times the size of the UK. It’s thought that one rubbish truck load of plastic litter enters the ocean every minute and every day millions of microplastics enter the sea from personal care products such as scrubs and toothpastes. Wow. Just wow. Read Twitter after each programme just to see the dramatic effect the programme is having. People are sitting up and taking notice. For some time now there have been worldwide groups organising beach clear ups, and here in the UK supermarkets and the Government are slowly starting to listen with a ban on free plastic shopping bags and microbeads in cosmetics being a start. But what, if anything can we do as a family to help this cause?
Plastic is obviously public enemy number one here, this stuff doesn’t biodegrade, which is just crazy! But plastic isn’t the only bad guy when looking at our homes. In wanting to make a difference as a family, I’ve honed in on two other things alongside plastic that I’d like to tackle. BPA (Bisphenol A) is another baddie as it has high links to causing cancer. It’s a chemical that’s used in loads of household products, from plastic food containers, plates, mugs, to water bottles and paper receipts. It’s also been found in baby bottles and sippy cups. The problem with this stuff is that it can seep into these items, and that, in turn can effect our hormones. Nice. BPA is definitely one to try and eliminate in your home if you’re having fertility problems (read It Starts With The Egg if you are) Phthalates are another nasty regularly found in our homes. They’re used in soft plastics, vinyl (like table covers and shower curtains), cleaning products, nail varnish/remover and fragrances. Just like BPA this is another one to try and avoid if you’re having fertility problems, because Phthalates have been known to alter hormones levels within our bodies. Oh and they’ve been banned in kids toys since 1999, which kind of says how lovely they are really.
Starting with plastic, obviously the 5p charge has made a difference but we can still buy bags at the checkout and small shops are still able to offer them for free, not so great. I use my reusable bags where possible, read as: when I remember to take them out of the car boot *slaps forehead*. With my online food shop I always request ‘no bags’, but items like freezer foods still come in them, so this is a slow burner methinks. One city has taken the lead here – São Paulo introduced a ban on petroleum-based plastic bags a few years ago. Supermarkets now only offer bags made from plant-based plastics, and those bags must be colour coded green or grey for use with recycling or rubbish. Those who don’t use the bags properly face potential fines. Surely here in the UK we could follow suit?
Excess plastic packaging waste is a HUGE problem. Christmas alone showed me that, what with the amount of ridiculous boxes, tags, labels and just general plastic crap that isn’t needed. Food packaging has been in the press quite a lot recently (M&S Cauliflower Steak for starters) Just becoming aware of the excess makes you realise what a waste it is. If you look at everything as you throw it in the bin – Crisp packets, packaging for vegetables, meat etc, very little is recyclable and it all goes in landfill. A few months ago, in wanting to cut down on the plastic that our food came in and wanting to support local, I trialled buying from our nearest market which has really good fresh fruit, vegetables, meat and fish. This worked well for a while, however I discovered that when I needed something quickly and couldn’t just ‘pop’ into town then the local shop was easier. So we’re back to online delivery. I’ve looked into veg boxes but right now for us a family, they aren’t cost effective however it’s something we will look into another time. I think at least being aware of the amount of plastic and thinking about what we throw in our bins is a start.
Onto BPA. The main contender that BPA appears in is Tupperware, so my first task here was to replace all of ours that didn’t have the numbers 2, 4 or 5 on the bottom, as those are the ones generally recognised as safe for food and drink. Any with a 3, 6 or 7 on the bottom should be chucked away because they’re considered high risk plastic. OK? Basically you need to get into that corner cupboard of doom (we all have one!) and clear out any old, scratched, or badly worn tubs, as these are the ones more likely to leak plastic into whatever you store/heat in them. We bought some Von Chef Tupperware which have glass bottoms (which can go in the oven/microwave) but with Tupperware lids as a start. I try not to wash plastics in the dishwasher too much as this can wear the plastic down, eventually making even BPA free items unsafe. So things like Olivia’s plastic plates, cups etc I mostly hand wash but I don’t kill myself over this as it’s a bit of a ball ache. Oh, water bottles are another thing that can contain BPA. We’ve got a few Sistema ones, which are BPA free and we’ve recently purchased a glass one (although this is quite heavy once filled up) and a stainless steel Sho bottle. Next on my hit list is a BPA free lunch box for Olivia, a reusable coffee cup for me, no more plastic straws and although nothing to do with BPA, I want to order some recycled paper toilet from Who Gives A Crap, who donate 50% profit towards building toilets for those in need, a box of 24 bog rolls is only £24, win.
Trying to reduce Phthalates in the home is hard because they’re basically in EVERYTHING! Before starting IVF I took a good look at all the products I was using on my skin and stopped wearing any perfume (IVF clinics also ask you not to wear fragrances) and nail polish because, yep, phthalates. This stuff is also found in hair sprays, lotions, cleaning products, hand soaps, shampoos, soft plastics like shower curtains and table covers, raincoats, yoga mats, place mats etc. Basically, loads of bloody stuff. It’s a tricky one to eliminate completely, especially if you love your skincare brands. Personally I worked out a while ago that the natural stuff works better for me anyway, so I use about 90% natural and I try and use minimal products on Olivia (the husband does his own thing) Jason, Faith In Nature, Green People and Moogoo are some of the brands I use. So far household wise I’ve replaced our shower curtain with a polyester one but that’s about it, coz, life. Something else I want to try is natural cleaning products. And by natural I mean vinegar, bicarbonate of soda, lemon etc (don’t laugh). Obviously you can buy branded stuff but it’s often pricy. To date I’ve cleaned the washing machine and dishwasher with vinegar and bicarbonate of soda and it actually works! *Proud Face* This website is great for natural cleaning tips.
And now, I’m veering off track slightly here but bear with me. Men skip this, women please hold fire. Obviously periods are a really personal thing, but if you’re keen to make a difference, are fed up of using tampons AND being taxed for the pleasure, then ladies, please consider switching to a menstrual cup (Mooncup is the brand I use) No more throw away waste with tampons and no more risk of toxic shock syndrome. Think about it, most tampon applicators are made from plastic and when they’re flushed down the loo they end up in the sea, or if they go in your bin they end up in landfill. Sad times. Using a cup takes some getting used to but once you get the hang of them, they’re easy and the most important thing is, they’re safe and reusable!
I know any friends reading this will wonder where this has all come from because this isn’t anything I’ve spoken out loud about, I guess it’s a feeling that’s been on the backburner for a while now. A lady I follow on Instagram is wonderfully outspoken about making a difference in the world and I think it’s her posts, combined with just wanting Olivia to grow up in a better world, that have spurned me on. And actually, in sitting down to write this, I’ve realised that this whole conversation is something I feel passionate about. I’ve tweeted two local councils recently about the lid-free recycling boxes many people use, which are completely pointless if it’s a windy day and I’ve also taken a photo of a dumped bus chair (yes, really!) that’s on the walk to Olivia’s nursery, to send on to the council. I guess it’s about believing that we can actually make a change, however small. Be it cutting back on plastic or trying to cut back on the toxins within our homes. However small, it’s worth a try, right? I really want Olivia to grow up knowing that she can make a difference and everything I’ve mentioned above is a good start, right?
Hopefully this post has made you think. What small changes will you be making or do you want to make?
(All images, bar last one taken from Free Image Searches)