Have any of you seen the documentary Bag It? (http://www.bagitmovie.com) My husband and I watched it tonight. And it made me sick. It gave me just a glimpse on how plastic affects our oceans, our waterways, and our bodies. It shows the plastic that sea and land animals consume. It was gross. They found some birds on a bird refuge (I don't remember the name) that had died and were decomposing and they were full of plastics that were not decomposing. I know it is totally gross to talk about decomposing animals, but it is even more disgusting that the poor animals eat the plastic because they mistake it for food.
Bag It talks about how most of the plastics that people recycle do not get reused because manufactures like to buy new plastic not recycled plastic. Then it shows how a lot of plastic that we (the consumer) think we are recycling really gets sent over to Asia and the people over there work for very little pay sorting through the nasty dirty plastic to find the stuff they can use. It was sooo sad to see this picture. I can't even describe it. Then to make it worse, they end up melting a lot of the plastic. Can you imagine the stench? It smells bad enough when someone accidentally throws a piece of plastic into their burn barrel; I can't imagine having to smell that all day.
According to the documentary, The US International Trade Commission reported that in 2009 there were 102 BILLION plastic bags used in the US. Can you or I even imagine how many bags that is? They are bad for wild life, are ugly to look at, and require a huge amount of non-renewable (meaning the earth is not making more) resources to manufacture, transport, and dispose of the bags. Many places around the world have banned or restricted the use of plastic bags. China banned ultra-thin plastic bags in 2008 (which is estimated to have eliminated 40 billion bags in the first year). San Francisco has banned plastic bags and so has Aspen, CO, Basalt, CO, Portland, OR, San Jose, CA, Santa Clara County, CA, and Marin County, CA. http://www.bagitmovie.com/about_issues.html.
Bag It tells a little bit how the chemicals in plastics affect the body. Two commonly used additives in plastic are BPA (which makes plastic hard) and phthalates (which makes plastic soft). They are known endocrine disruptors. This means they disrupt hormones in the human body. Anybody that can think for themselves should realize that this is NOT a good thing. These two chemicals come in contact with our bodies through our food, personal care products, and plastic containers. Did you know that metal cans that we buy our food in are lined with plastic that contains BPA?
According to the Bag It's website "BPA has the characteristics of estrogen, a hormone that determines sexual traits and is the key in the development of brain function and nerve cells. Recent studies have linked BPA to breast and prostate cancer, enlargement of the prostate, early onset of puberty, hyperactivity in children, obesity, heart disease, and diabetes." No offense, but there are a lot of people out there that do not use their brains to their full potential; and it makes me wonder if maybe part of it is because of all the nasty chemicals that we are getting from things that we use everyday and don't even realize how bad they are. BPA is in a lot of things and it affects the hormone that helps brain function develope. Ugg.
"Phthalates are not only used to soften plastic, but they are also one of the oily substances used in cosmetics, perfumes, and many beauty products. Phthalates are labeled on common household products as 'fragrance.' The new-car smell or new-shower curtain smell is the pungent odor of the release of phthalates into the air. Studies have found low levels of phthalates to cause infertility, lower sperm count, and smaller penis size." Yuck!
Now I am not saying that all plastic is bad. I believe that plastic has its place. For example, if we didn't have plastic how would a hospital keep a premature baby alive? How would we have cars without plastic? Or car seats? I am not saying that we should eliminate all plastic from our lives; I don't think that is possible. But I think we can all do our part to minimize our usage.
There is so much more that Bag It made me aware of, I can't write all of it in this blog post. But now the question comes in. What am I going to do about it? How am I going to reduce my precious family's exposure to plastic and harmful chemicals? How am I going to reduce my family's plastic waste so another plastic bottle cap doesn't go into the ocean for some bird to mistake as food and eat? Here's how:
1. I can use reusable shopping bags. And they hopefully will be made from cotton. My darling husband told me today that a lot of synthetic materials are made from... you guessed it.. plastic.
2. I will not purchase another bottle of bottled water. I will take my stainless steel water bottle with me when I go places and I will put an empty extra one in the car so if I forget mine, I can stop somewhere and fill it up. This saves money!
3. I will not buy soda. Soda bottles are of course made out of plastic and soda cans are lined with a plastic coating. This will also be healthier for my family!
4. I am going to try to buy stuff in bulk (spices, rice, pasta, etc). Our local Winco store has a selection of bulk items. And I am going to use cloth sacks to put the food in. When I get home I will move the food to glass containers for storage. This usually saves money as bulk is usually cheaper!
5. I will use bar soap instead of shower gel.
6. I will use homemade lotion.
7. I will use cloth produce bags.
8. I will figure out how to store my homemade bread in something other than plastic. This sounds hard, but I'm sure there is a way.
9. I will make my own cleaners. I'm sure I will need a plastic spray bottle to hold them, but at least I can reuse it instead of just throwing it out when I use all the cleaner. This also saved money!
10. I will try to buy my milk in glass containers. Reed's Dairy in Idaho Falls is now selling non homogenized milk in glass containers.
11. We are going to only use glass to store our food in. This also saves money!
12. We are going to use cast iron pans. I'm excited for this. My husband has started restoring some old cast iron that we found. The old stuff is slick on the bottom (the new stuff is rough) and after many uses will be non stick! Once he gets me a complete pan set no more yucky non stick chemicals in our house!
I know that this is a lot of things to do, and I know it will not come all at once, but over time, we will get there. So if you see me at the store and I forgot my reusable bag, please forgive me and don't think bad thoughts. The goal here isn't to be perfect, it is to try as hard as I can to help my family be healthier and more environmental friendly but at the same time not to be so worried about it all the time that I am miserable.