Plastic Free July – Week 2 REDUCE

This is week two: REDUCE, in our series of weekly blog posts about Plastic Free July. If you can’t refuse all plastic products or packaging (very few of us can since plastic is so ubiquitous in our modern life), the next best thing you can do as a consumer, is to reduce the amount of plastic you accept into your life. How can you do this? Here are some ideas:

  • As with the focus on refuse last week, ask yourself “Do I really need this or do I just want it?”
  • Bring your own bags when you go shopping. This will reduce the need for new bags, including plastic bags, which despite recent bag bans, are still available at some stores.
  • Borrow instead of buy if you need something. This is obviously more difficult in light of the ongoing pandemic while the Berkeley and Richmond tool libraries are closed. However, you can still borrow from friends and neighbors.
  • Look for and purchase clothing made from 100% natural fibers like cotton, linen, or wool vs. polyester, acrylic, or spandex. According to Adam Minter in his book, Secondhand, about the global reuse market (more on reuse next week!), when our clothing reaches the point that it can no longer be worn as a garment, the rag industry makes further use of it by turning it into rags. However, clothing made of synthetic materials makes rags of lower quality – they aren’t as absorbent which is generally desirable quality in a rag. On top of this, clothing made of synthetic materials sheds microfibers in the laundry, which end up going down the drain to pollute the ocean. There are products, such as this Guppy Friend microfiber catching bag, that can help with this issue, however, reducing the amount of synthetic clothing you purchase to begin with is a better solution.
  • Another way to reduce plastic, especially plastic packaging, is to purchase products that are packaged in plastic-fee materials whenever possible. In the Bay Area, we’re lucky to have, a local shop based in Albany that provides refill services for home and body products!

Some neighbors share a lawn mower; this one is zero emissions!

Of course, there is only so much we can do as consumers to reduce our plastic consumption when so many products, including essential products, are made from plastic and/or packaged in plastic, such as medication. While it feels good for each of us to contribute in our own small way by reducing the plastic in our lives, we also need manufacturers and retailers to do their part. Greenpeace has an ongoing campaign to tell Target to ditch plastic packaging. You can send a message to Target about this here. Ordinary citizens like us signed onto a campaign to persuade Trader Joe’s to stop packaging produce in plastic clamshells and the stores have removed a lot of plastic packaging for produce. As a result of a petition that we presented in July 2019  to El Cerrito Natural Grocery, in November last year, they stopped selling plastic water bottles that are less than a gallon. You could write to your favorite businesses and urge them to stop using plastic.

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