Plastic and chemicals; will we all die the plastic death?

Plastic is such hot topic right now, and with good reason, there is such large problems connected to plastic. But do you really need to go on a plastic free diet? Will children be poisoned because of feeding bottles? Should I just quit everything because I microwaved my food container for 3 minutes?

t is very easy to get scared and jump on the panic-wagon, but taking it easy is very rarely a bad thing. I just want to share my views on this. First of all, chemicals are not bad, and everything is chemicals, and how and if they have adverse health effects or are nasty for the environment depend on the chemical itself and the dose. All chemicals are not hazardous, many have no effect what so ever and for others we don’t really know, especially regarding long-term effects. The chemicals associated with plastic are PVC, BPA, phthalates and flame retardants, and they could possibly have adverse effects on our health and we are mostly exposed to them through our food, that are packaged in plastic but mostly from food containers and kitchen utensils because chemicals leach from the plastic when it gets heated up. Fortunately, this is really easy to deal with, by using a food container made of metal or glass, or by simply putting your food on a plate before microwaving it.  with regards to kitchen utensils, such as spatulas and teflon frying pans, they also leach chemical but most importantly they release micro plastics when they are subjected to high temperatures and scratches. All those particles end up in our food, and later in the environment, leading to major chaos.

 

Another thing about plastic is that it cannot be recycled in all eternity. Even if the plastic is recycled, it can usually not be reused into a better quality plastic item, but it depends on the type of plastic. When trying to research all of this, I realized that recycling plastic is a whole knowledge in itself, and it is a complex process, but lets put it this way, recycling is the  prolong the life of the plastic, but it does have a limited life. Put this in contrast to a glass item that can be refilled hundreds of times or be melted into a new product. Same goes for metal, even of the process is needs loads of energy. In addition, producing plastic is not a very environmentally friendly process. To be fair, neither is mining for metals, but at least it has a much longer life than plastic.

I actually don’t think it is possible to live a life without plastic these days, and I don’t think we should stop using plastic because we will all be sick and die. But I do think we should consider when it is appropriate to use it, and think about limiting it for the sake of the planet, because it is not very friendly to the environment. So what can we do? And what do I do? I am trying to get rid of plastic one thing at a time in my home, when something needs replacing I try to come up with another option that is not plastic. It is not very sustainable to throw out all your plastic items and buy a new set f everything in stainless steel. I still have food containers in plastic, that I use sometimes, but I put the food in a glass container before I go to work so I don’t have to heat up the plastic one. I also use them for things around the house, like storing my soaps and organizing my makeup. Other things you can do is the same old thing, reusable bag, water bottle, produce bags and think about the packaging options in the store. Go for cardboard, glass and metal instead go plastic. Try also to think about the products you buy, a hard soap instead of liquid in a bottle with dispenser for example. It simple things to do, but it makes a lot of difference in the end.

 

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Plast och kemikalier; Vi kommer alla dö plast-döden

Plast är ett hett ämne just nu, med all rätt, det finns väldigt stora problem kopplade till plast. Men behöver man verkligen plastbanta sitt hem? Kommer alla barn bli förgiftade av plastgolv på fritids och sina egna nappflaskor? Är livet kört nu för att jag mikrar min  matlåda i 3 minuter? Borde jag bara lägga ner allt på en gång?

Det är lätt att hoppa på skrämseltåget, men att ta det lite lugnt brukar inte ge folk cancer ,så jag tycker vi ger det en chans.  Det här är hur jag tänker. Kemikalier i sig är inte dåligt. I princip allt som finns är kemikalier, och hur dom kan skada vår hälsa eller miljö beror på vad dom är och och i vilken dos. Alla kemikalier är inte skadliga, många av dom har säkerligen ingen effekt alls, och för andra vet vi faktiskt inte rikigt vad de långsiktiga effekterna är. De kemikalier avges från plast är framförallt ftalater, PVC, BPA och flamskyddsmedel  och de skulle kunna påverka kroppen på olika sätt. Här är Naturskyddsföreningens lilla guide till olika typer av plast.   Plast som hettas upp på olika sätt avger olika kemikalier och dom kan man ju göra bäst i att strunta i att äta. Och det är ju egentligen ganska enkelt gjort genom att ha en matlåda i stål eller glas, eller helt enkelt stjälpa upp på en tallrik eller i ett glad innan man värmer upp det. När det gäller olika typer av hushållsredskap eller teflonpannor i plast är det så att de kan släppa ifrån sig mikroplaster när det utsätts för hög temperatur eller rispor. Och dom partiklarna hamnar i vår mat, vi äter upp dom och sen hamnar dom i naturen, där dom gör kaos med allt.

Dessutom kan inte plast återvinnas i oändlighet. Även om plast blir lagt i återvinningen kan det oftast inte göras om till bättre plast, utan endas mer lågkvalitiativ plast, men det beror vilken typ av plast det är. När man (jag) försöker sätta sig in i processen inser en fort att det ar ganska komplicerat, men enkelt kan man väl säga att  återvinning är att förlänga livet på plasten, men den har en begränsad livslängd.  Jämfört med en glasflaska som kan tvättas och bli påfylld tusentals gånger eller nersmält och bli till en ny produkt. Samma gäller för metall, även om det är en energikrävande process. Dessutom är det liksom inte världens renaste och goaste process att framställa plast heller.

Jag tycker inte att man ska sluta använda plast för att vi alla kommer bli sjuka och all plast är farligt och vi borde förbjuda all plast. Jag tycker däremot att vi borde sluta använda plast som slit-och-släng produkt, därför att det inte är hållbart i längden och är miljöförstörande på många olika sätt. Så vad göra? Och vad gör jag åt plast i mitt hem och i mitt liv? Jag försöker byta ut saker pö om pö, det är ju inte särskilt miljövänligt att gå bananas och slänga allt man äger och har för att köpa ett helt hem i rostfritt stål, för  sen ser det ut dom att man bor i ett slakthus och det minskar mysfaktorn en del. Jag har fortfarande matlådor i plast, som jag använder från och till men jag lägger alltid min mat i en i glas när jag ska till jobbet. Vi har inte så många men än så länge klarar vi oss med tre större och en mindre. Annars är det ju det gamla vanliga; bärkasse, vattenflaska, egna påsar till grönsaker, tänk på vilka förpackningar du tar i mataffären och vilka produkter du kan köpa utan förpackning, till exempel en hård tvål istället för en med flaska. Det var denna veckans dos av dåligt samvete, om ni gillar mitt rantande så skriv gärna en kommentar eller säg till alla ni känner att läsa.

Simple switch II

The next thing in my series of very simple switches requires a little bit more work. Or work, or requires you to be okay with sometimes being slightly uncomfortable.

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What I’m talking about is to get yourself a set of small bags, either in mesh or fabric that you can use when buying groceries specially fruit and veggies. So these small kinda sloppy produce bags are essentially made for using only once, maybe you could extent the life to use it three or four more times, but then you would have to treat is it as your first-born. I can’t stress enough how much of a problem plastic bags in the ocean is. Norwegian researchers recently found a whale so stuffed with plastic that it eventually starved to death when the body could not break down all the plastic inside the stomach and intestines. You can read all about it here and watch a video here.

As complex as the issue of marine plastics might seem to you, this is something very very simple to do something about. Your contribution really is making a difference here. And to be honest, I do not know how I survived without all these bags before. I use them for everything especially when I travel. One for underwear, one for shoes, one for chargers. I even have one for old chargers and broken cables waiting to go to the recycling centre. Right now they are all labeled with a number and the weight, which is useful when buying bulk produce. The ones I have are made of linen, which is a good alternative to cotton as it does not need as much water and pesticides as cotton to grow, another reason is that I found the fabric at a reasonable price at IKEA. Because yes, I did sew these myself * patting myself on the shoulder* but that is part f the advanced course of environmentalism. It doesn’t even have to be better than buying, I just like sewing. I also have couple that I got as a present from my partners mother. They are probably my favourites. And then this one in polyester with a zipper. I don’t know when I bought it, but it was years ago. It’s very useful for onions or potatoes that take a lot of space.

Mesh bags are nice when buying fruits and veggies because you can clearly se what oy have, and so can the cashier. But I just simple open it in the till so that the cashier can se what’s inside. And I figure that, as long as you’re not buying truffles or saffron the weight of the bag is negligible. Especially  if you’re buying the normal veggies such as potatoes, carrots and apples. And if you are a person that spends a lot of money on truffles my guess is that you can afford the extra cent for the 0,05 g that you bag weights…

Again the problem of purchasing the bag arises, but I have researched for you and come up with some good options. There are mesh bags on amazon ( seriously what don’t they have), but esty is also a good option, you can buy things from crafters all over the world and there are very environmentally aware people there if you feel in the mood. For you swedes out there medveten.se  have lovely options, but also laplandecostore.

And when it comes to people watching you like you are a freak in the grocery store. Well aren’t you? No seriously I have found that pretending like it is the normal thing usually works best, and simply answer with ” I just don’t like those bags so I am using these instead” or ” I am trying to use less plastic” usually works really well. I have only been met with really positive attitudes, the funny thing is that it is something that most people haven’t even thought about why they are using these plastic bags for their fruits or that you could do it in another way.  And of course, a smile always helps too.

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Coffee is like a warm hug from the inside (that also wakes you up)

I love coffee, there is no denying it. The smell reminds me of good weekend fikas, breakfast ( and endless study nights) with my girls in Uppsala and spending the morning taking to my mother in law in barely understandable Spanish last summer. Right now my morning coffee is like someone telling me ” is all going to be alright” even though I’ve spent endless hours in London traffic at a godforsaken time ( mornings). It’s also my best treat and bribe to make me do something boring. Like writing a cover letter.  Internal dialogue: ” Let’s Go to a cafe and have a coffee you’ll get thought it” or Let’s go for a walk, you can have take away coffee on the way back.”

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Source can be found here

I’m not ignorant so I do understand that there is environmental traces to my coffee consumption ( obsession) however I don’t think I’ll stop with coffee and instead trying to ensure my liquid back joy comes from a place where the people get fair wages and are not subjected to unnessessary pesticides. I’m taking fair trade people. If it is all organic that’s a big plus. Coffee is one of the things that again, pays off envirnmentally switching form conventionally grown to organic. It does make a difference.

With regards to packaging I believe the easiest option is to go to a tea and coffee shop where they grind the beans and simply ask them to put it in your own jar. It also gives you the opportunity to ask if the cooffe is organic and fair trade. Normal plastic packaging is usually not recycled.

And lastly for the actual drinking. If you don’t have time to enjoy the drink in a normal porcelain cup, please bring your own take away mug. It is so much plastic and paper just for those 15 minutes of enjoyment.  It’s getting so popular nowadays and baristas are used to people asking about using their own cups. And if they don’t want to  fill up  your reusable mug ( this has happened to me only once) than I suggest you turn around and find your coffee elsewhere. And write to their facebook or twitter, or costumer relations if it’s a big chain and ask what they are doing because it is just not acceptable. I’m not going to tell you where you can find a reusable mug with a lid, because they are basically sold everywhere. I just urge you to think about the materials and their recyclability. (I am planning to write more about materials this but for now I leave it to you to think about it yourself) And for the cup to fit to your needs, so that you sue it. I have a thermos mug with a tight lid because I work outdoors and somethimes I need to throw it in my backpack. But maybe your sitting in an office and are going g out for a cup at lunch time, then a glass one with silicone lid might be a better option. That was all for today. Please leave a comment below of you have any ideas for sustainability-proofing your coffee obsession. And remember:

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Source to be found here

Simple Switches: The toothbrush

When trying to live eco friendly it is easy to feel kinda lost in where to start. A good thing is to look at your consumables and stuff you use everyday since that’s where you’re going to make the greatest impacts with the least effort. And that is what my series Simple Switch is about.

So this is one of those things that are really simple to switch to a more eco friendly alternative. Just think about how many times per day you brush your teeth, and how many times a year you switch toothbrush   (well you should ya filthy animal)  and next time you switch, why not concider switching to an eco friendly alternative?

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Toothbrushes are not recyclable. The kind of plastic they are made of is surrently not recycled anywhere and In addition they often have a mix of materials. Like rubber bristles or a rubber handle making them even harder to recycle. The good thing about bamboo toothbrushes is that they are compostable and bamboo is a sustainable and fast growing material that has some antibacterial properties which makes it suitable for a toothbrush. Another plus is that it gives your bathroom a very environmentally friendly aura ( Also important).

The critique agains the bamboo toothbrushes ( and the zero waste movement in general) is that the whole toothbrush is actually not recyclable because the bristles are made of nylon or similar materials. Which is true. It is also true that no one can live completely zero waste, and I don’t really se the problem with that. It’s like saying that you cannot go running because there is no way you will be able to brake the world record. No, you won’t but is that a reason to never go running? Having a toothbrush that to 90% can be recycled is better that having one where 0% can be recycled. I also use my old one for cleaning the bathroom. You could also use it for cleaning in between the buttons on your keyboard or look for one million other life hacks involving a toothbrush. When the brush is so flat you can’t even do that, just snap the bristles off, ship them to landfill and compost the handle or save them all and burn in the open fire place and have a super sustainable BBQ with all your friends.

As it so often is there kinds of products are not sold at you local pharmacy in the Swedish countryside, but they are becoming increasingly popular. There is a Swedish brand called Humble brush that shipps to Sweden, (and other places of the world). If you are frugal about shipping buy many, if you want to keep you dentist appointments to a minimum you will use them eventually.  They are also excellent as a present when your invited to dinner. And if your already labeled as a freak ( like I am) no one will even question the fact that you give your host a wooden toothbrush instead  of a dahlia. And if your not yet out of the closet, here’s you opportunity.

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For those of you living in the UK or other places where you have Amazon, there is a great variety there. But I would also urge you to look at the packaging, and when ordering ask for no additional packaging especially styrofoam. When I bought mine I didn’t think of this and got them in a overly large box filled with styrofoam peanuts…  But I will think about it for next time. And you should think about getting yourself a bamboo toothbrush, at least the people that I know, because otherwise you already know whats under the christmas tree next year.

 

 

The Waste Jar, and doing what is right.

The Zero Waste movement have a couple of iconic things associated with them, one is the waste jar, where hardcore zero wasters keep everything they cannot dispose of by Reuse, Recycle or Compost.

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I don’t do this. I also do not follow all the advices out there, I think you have to adapt it to your own personal references, and to your circumstances. I use contact lenses for example, is it really useful to save all my used contactlenses and packaging for them in a jar? I get the idea, to have an overview of what your waste actually consists of, and to show people that you can have an alterntative lifestyle, but I am not going to get a jar for this, it does not make it eaier for me to live a more environmentally frienly life.

It is sometimes important to  question the advices given or read on the internet and in real life.  An example, many kinds of plastic cannot be recycled, and even if they are recycled, they cannot be made into high quality plastics later on, and it is therefore good to limit the use of plastics and try to use packaging in glass or metal that can be reused or recycled an infinite amount of times.

I was trying to find an environmentally friendly SPF, since I now work a lot outdoors, and when researching this online some suggested using a SPF in metal tin, that is made in Australia. Don’t get me wrong, it seemed great, but shipping a SPF all the way from Australia to London does not seem very environmentally friendly to me. Instead I ended up buying a environmentally friendly sun block from the UK, but that does come in plastic packaging. I know, it is a environmental and recycling jungle out there, and it is not easy to do the right thing. I choose to see it like this, there is no right thing.

Maybe this makes you react like this:

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Or like this:

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Or like this:

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Calm your self!  I have the answer. There is only a wrong way. The wrong way is to not do anything. To live like there really is no tomorrow, not to care, not recycle, and release toxic chemicals in your backyard. Just try to do something. If you think about it this way, if the only thing you do is to stop using plastic carrier bags when doing the groceries, and you do your groceries once per week, that is 52 plastic bags that you are not using, and that is 52 plastic bags that are not ending up in the ocean, and 52 bags that are not eaten by turtles or molded into microplastics. Does that save the world, maybe not, but it is better than 52 plastic bags in the ocean. We try to do what we can, sometimes it is quite enjoyable, and sometimes it is not funny. I do like to use those wet wipes for your hands, but then I realize they create so much waste and clog the sewage pipes and I decided to stop using them, and its really not that bad. It is not like I lay awake at night thinking about wet wipes… With that said though, I think we should be ambitious, and we shpuld do our best. At the end of the day there is no right answer, so we just do like Hermione.

 

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Zero What? I will tell you all you need to know

So, for a long time I have been trying to reduce my environmental impact. It is sometimes hard and boring and it feels completely useless. (I will come back to this in a later post) It can also make you feel like a total freak, like when you try to convince your new housemates to get a vermicompost, essentially a bucket filled with soil and worms that you can keep under your sink and feed with your leftovers. We are not there yet, but we have ordered a bin for food waste where we are going to…. But okay, lets take it from the start.

So Zero Waste is a movement that aims to create less waste, especially the kind of waste that goes directly to landfill, which is everything that cannot be recycled. It is based on the 5 R’s:

  • Refuse what you do not need.
  • Reduce what you do need.
  • Reuse by using reusables.
  • Recycle what you cannot refuse, reduce, or reuse.
  • Rot (compost) the rest

Sounds easy, well it is actually not. First of all because the amount of things we have in our households that are not subjected to these things are, for most people, overwhelming. Think about it , cling film, bubble wrap, plastic tuppers, envelopes, cardboard boxes lined with plastic and clothing and shoes that you never use. All of these things are an impact for the environment, from how they were made, to how they are used and how they are disposed of. What I am trying to do is just to limit the impact, and the amount of my waste that goes directly to landfill, because it makes me feel better. However, I do think it is important to say that yes; I do this for the environment of course, but I also do it for ME. I do it because I think it is important, and because I enjoy and find it interesting researching alternative ways to live your life. And if you also think so, I have some advice for you to get you started.

 

Baby steps to Zero waste

  1. Check your local council: It is a really good idea to look at the recycling plan and facilities for your local community. In my council they have great advice on what goes in which bin, at least here in England this might vary. They also give you god advice on what to do with things you might need to take to the recycling facilities, such as paint or car batteries. They might also surprise you in what services they provide, in my area they apparently did have weekly pick up for Food Waste, collection of bulky items and special prices for buying a indoor or garden compost. This meant that we are now waiting for the new bin from the council, and my house mates do not have to stand having worms under the sink.
  2. Buy a reusable bag: I would say that this is the easiest way to make a lot of impact. Single use bags are a serials environmental threat, they are made of oil, take more than ten years to decompose and are a serious threat to wildlife including turtles that mistake them for jellyfish. There are really cheap ones in normal clothing or grocery stores, and just make it a routine to always carry one in your handbag or backpack for when you need to make a quick buy. It is proving quite useful for other things as well. Another good tip is to have a couple in your car, so that you have them at hand when going to the store.
  3. Get a water bottle: It doesn’t have to be one of these expensive ones made in metal or glass with silicone cover. I got mine as a birthday present, otherwise I would have never bought one this expensive ( altough I admit that I love it). Until you know which one you like, and get into the routine of carrying around your own bottle, use an old plastic one, or one that you normally use for the gym.  I sometimes (always) get carried away and want to throw out all my plastic kitchen tools and replace them tools in stainless steel an d bamboo, until I realize that would be an even bigger waste since what we have is in pretty good shape. Do what you can in a reasonable pace.
  4. Research a little: Read some blogs,preferably mine, articles or watch some YouTube videos to get inspired, but don’t let it scare or overwhelm you. Think about that the people who make blush out of beetroot also started somewhere. And that is not necessarily the level you have to aim for even though I like the idea.