Easy steps to help your friends use less plastic

I’m here in Washington, D.C. and quite close to the action of tomorrow’s inauguration of Barack Obama as the forty-fourth President of the United States. I can only imagine how much plastic will be used in the collective festivities. But that’s not why I’m writing.

With the new Administration comes a measure of optimism, if not certainty. And with optimism, resolve. While plastic-free bloggers can strip their use down to nil, real reduction will come only if we can convince producers to use less plastic and consumers to rely on it less. I’ve wondered if some actions — particularly around plastic-free alternatives to shampoo and deodorant — is more discouraging than inspiring. More about that later.

Unlike the maxim on saving — take care of the pennies and the pounds take care of themselves — I think plastic-reduction has address big uses first. So this is how I would start.

  • give up plastic-bottled drinks. replace them with canned drinks, if at all.
  • give up plastic-bottled cleaning supplies. replace them with pasteboard-boxed powders.
  • don’t waste products that come packaged in plastic. recommended amounts –detergent, toothpaste — are often excessive.
  • clean plastic goods to extend their life. that includes polyester fabrics.
  • give up microwaving in plastic storage containers.
  • if you eat at inexpensive restaurants, choose those that serve food with durable service pieces or sandwiches wrapped in paper.
  • decline plastic bags, even if you don’t have your own bag, if you can carry what you bought.
  • request that vendors not ship with plastic packaging. sometimes they comply.
  • save money by not buying plastic kitsch for home decor, holidays and celebrations.

If you can make those changes, you’ll really drop your plastic use. Then, if you like, you can move to advanced studies.

By Scott Wells

Scott Wells, 46, is a Universalist Christian minister doing Universalist theology and church administration hacks in Washington, D.C.

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