Green Junction: What to do about plastics? By Julie Peller Ph.D.

I often write about plastic pollution since it is one of the greatest threats to the earth. Our current lifestyles rely on these materials, meaning that plastic production will continue to increase, at least in the short term. Another reason I regularly highlight this environmental threat is because each of us can make a difference in solving the plastic waste problem. I have been on a personal journey to reduce plastic in my life, to eliminate single-use plastics. As part of this journey, I skip events or do not partake in single-use plastics: plastic cups, plastic forks, plastic plates, etc.

Here is a short list of ways to reduce plastic in your life, choices to make the world a cleaner, healthier place, demonstrate care, and set a good example for youth.

1) Say no to plastic bags. Get reusable bags for all store purchases. Make sure to get reusable produce bags for fresh fruits and vegetables. These are easy to clean; toss them in with your other dirty laundry.

2) Say no to plastic cups, at least the lids and straws. When you stop to get your favorite fast-food drink, you are paying in part for the container intended to be thrown away. Take time to get a drink in a reusable cup/bottle. 

3) Switch to solid soaps and cleaners. There are lovely personal care products, including shampoos and conditioners, available in bar form; many cleaners can be purchased as solids. Deodorants are available in paper containers. 

4) Say no to plastic wrappings/packaging whenever possible. We, unfortunately, stopped our local newspaper subscription since the paper would not be delivered without the plastic bag. With a quick phone call or email, let companies know that you want them to use less or avoid plastic packaging. Plastic films are challenging to avoid, but a growing number of places will accept these for recycling. Collect and recycle them.

5) Say no to plastic bottled water and drinks. In addition to their environmental impact.

6) Choose clothes, blankets, rugs, and other materials made of natural fabrics.

7) Invest in reusable containers, even ones for restaurant take-out food.

8) Consider your purchases: choose less plastic, demand less plastic packaging. Buy less stuff.

9) Reduce packaged foods such as mini chips and other snacks.

10) Switch to bamboo toothbrushes and use toothpaste in recyclable containers.

11) Support businesses that avoid single-use plastics.

The more we all say no to single-use plastic and reduce other types of plastic, the healthier the earth and its inhabitants. “How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.” Anne Frank 

Julie Peller Ph.D. is an environmental chemist (Professor of Chemistry at Valparaiso University ) and she leads the Environmental Ministry at Nativity of Our Savior in Portage IN. Julie has been writing a weekly column for church bulletins for the past ~6 years called the Green Junction and is helping to move the call of Laudato Si to action forward. Her Research Interests are in Advanced oxidation for aqueous solutions, water quality analyses, emerging contaminants, air quality analyses, Lake Michigan shoreline challenges (Cladophora, water, and sediment contaminants), student and citizen participation in environmental work.

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