Plastic Reality

Plastic surrounds us everywhere. We all use plastic in our daily lives whether we know it or not. Starting my plastic journal I felt fairly confident that the number of plastic items I used would be moderately average. I try my best to use sustainable items like a hydro flask instead of plastic water bottles, or cloth bags instead of plastic ones. However, once I started my day I knew the number would be much higher than I anticipated. Many of my everyday items I used were plastic and I didn’t even know it.

As the day went on the number of plastic items I came in contact with grew tremendously. Many of the items I used were all disposable like masks, silverware, cups and plates. On top of that, I only listed things once. I didn’t repeat them. I used many disposable plastic items multiple times throughout the day and they weren’t even included in my total number. In total I touched about 30 plastic items, but if I counted everything that repeated the number would have been much higher.

I think that this number is a fair representation of how much plastic I touch in a day – except for the fact that I didn’t repeat items. Everyday is different but most of the items I ended up using, I use on a daily basis. This journal was a complete eye opener for me. As I said before I thought my number would be on the lower side, but in turn it was much higher than I thought. So many of the items I used everyday are made of plastic and I never even realized.

When it comes to recycling I try my best to recycle whenever I can. However, living in the dorms makes that much more difficult. I have yet to find a recycling bin on the floor of my dorm, which is a problem. At home I make a conscious effort to recycle but it’s much harder here. I definitely agree with Beth Terry’s quote “Guilt is not encouraged.” but after completing this journal it’s hard not to feel guilty about all of the plastic I encounter. This is because I know most of it can be replaced with something more sustainable. 


Making The Change


Change can be hard for a lot of us, but if we don’t start now will we ever? Change can be especially hard when it comes to items that we use everyday. Every morning I have a routine; I use the same products, wear the same clothes, and eat and drink the same foods. However, almost all of the products I use are made of plastic and can be replaced with something more sustainable. I have always tried to be environmentally friendly by using a Hyrdo Flask instead of plastic water bottles, using cloth masks instead of disposable ones, and bringing my own cloth bags to the store instead of using the plastic ones they provide for you. But even in doing that, the amount of other items I use that are plastic outnumber and outweigh that. I’ve never thought about changing any of these products until completing Beth Terry’s grocery shopping and personal Care/Cleaning worksheet.

Most of my plastic footprint comes from my personal care items. Face wash, shampoo, conditioner, moisturizer – the list could go on. However, many of these items I can switch to products that are more sustainable. The first thing I would change is my shampoo and conditioner. Right now I use Kevin Murphy, which is 60$ for both. I would switch this to The Unwrapped Life bars of shampoo and conditioner. Not only do these save a tremendous amount of plastic, they are also cheaper. 30$ for shampoo and conditioner however they do come with less. This would not be a big change for me because I actually used to use these before. Another product that I would change is my hair oil. Right now I use Verb Ghost Oil, but I would switch it to Love Hair Oil. Love Hair uses materials that are manufactured using 100% renewable energy, which is recyclable at the end of their life cycle. The last item I would change is my cotton swabs. I use so many people during the day when I do my makeup. The cotton swabs I currently use are Q- tips, but I switched over to bamboo swabs from Well Earth Goods. The bamboo cotton is biodegradable unlike the Q-tips One item that I am not willing to switch is my facial wash. I have very sensitive skin and certain products cause me to break out very easily. I currently use CeraVe cash wash and it has taken me a while to find a facial wash that actually works for my skin.

Change can be very difficult but if it’s going to benefit the environment and the earth then I am willing to do it. I intend on making all of the changes I said before and I hope others will try to make changes as well. 


Biting the Bullet

If theres one thing everyone knows about me, it’s that I have a hard time with change.  I wear the same pair of shoes daily, have used the same toothbrush brand since I was young, only use one water bottle even though I have 8 more in my kitchen that never get touched, and I have worn pearl earrings since my freshman year of high school.  All of these may seem small, but they make me who I am today.  Plastic has a big part in my life, from the food I eat to the clothes I wear, but so does the Earth.  I love looking at the trees as I ride up the Blue Ridge Parkway in the fall, running across a grass soccer field with my dog, and going on picnics with my friends at our local park. If I want to keep enjoying these things, I know I need to do my part in making a change towards less plastic and more sustainable practices.

When evaluating my recent Harris Teeter trip last week, I noticed every item I picked up contained at least one little piece of plastic, and most were even fully made of plastic.  So how do I change this?  The first step is becoming aware and educated.  Throughout my last month in my Swimming In Plastic Soup course, I was able to learn about different types of plastic and their impacts on the earth.  The next step was to list things I cannot live without, and simply find a less-plastic alternative.  After looking into this, I realized how simple it can be to make changes.

My second step is to take the initiative and change one thing at a time.  When going in college, I purchased Cleancult Laundry Detergent.  Their packaging is 80% paper, 15% PE (polyethylene), and 5% aluminum; all materials that can be easily broken down and recycled at local recycling centers. This is one of my favorite purchases in my journey to having less plastic waste because it is an item that I use weekly, plant based, comes in a variety of scents, and cost the same as other detergent brands found in stores, such as Tide. I have also purchased toothpaste tablets from Bite, and shampoo/conditioner bars from a local shop in my home town.  All of these items are either package free, or come in 100% recyclable packing that will be properly disposed of.

Being 100% plastic free is not always obtainable though.  One plastic item I cannot replace is my debit card; I carry it everywhere with me.  I use it to pick up food, purchase groceries, buy clothes, get paid at my job, even pay my college tuition every semester. This one little plastic card has been swiped thousands of times since 2019.  There are now things such as apple pay, where you can just use your phone and tap to pay directly from there, but since it is such a new system, many places do not even have it established yet.  Many places do not take cash either, due to the change shortage that recently occurred within the past year, as well as the pandemic and trying to cut down contact. Luckily this is a reusable item and only needs replacing once every three years under normal circumstances.

Although changing up things in your life may seem unobtainable, small changes can really make a big difference and they start to add up, sometimes all it takes is a little push.

Small Change, Big Impact

Plastic surrounds us. We eat, sleep, and breathe plastic. But now we have an excessive amount of it, and it keeps getting put to waste.  If people think that when they recycle their plastic today that they are doing something good for the economy, they are mostly wrong. The plastic that is getting ‘recycled’ isn’t going to get recycled. Only 9 percent of the plastic that people recycle is getting recycled. But this also does not mean it is getting recycled efficiently. Only 2 percent out of the 9 is getting used effectively to where people will be able to use it again. So where does all this plastic end up? Across the ocean after we ship it over the low-income countries that apparently deserve all our trash just because they don’t have as much stability snd money to rid of it as we do. Seeing the impact, we have on these countries is just horrific and we need to make personal changes to benefit ourselves but also others around us.

I made a list of all the most common things I might buy at a grocery store and my durable goods that I use or used a lot. Below is a picture of all these things and then alternatives that could be used instead to help create a plastic free environment.

For grocery shopping I do use my own bags and have been doing that since forever. With my mom, we would always take our own recyclable bags that we would just reuse each time so we wouldn’t have to waste the useless plastic bags they give away at the stores. Now living down in Charleston on my own, I take my own backpacks to the store if I ever wanted to buy things for my dorm room. Water bottles are a huge problem too. People go out to the store to buy those big 20 packs of water when that Is just a complete waste. There are so many alternatives like getting a Brita filter if you think your sink water in unhealthy so that you can just keep reusing that at home. Going out you can use a reusable water bottle and not grab a quick and disposable water bottle that you’re going to toss right after finishing it.

Over the past week I have been able to use all the alternatives to good use. I don’t have a car down here, but I have been able to walk everywhere I have needed to go which is good for the environment. I use my phone instead of buying the disposable cameras that people have begun to start buying again. I think they are a cute idea, but I think the cameras that are disposable are a big waste of plastic. For mac and cheese, I have not bought the pastic cups in a while and have bought the bozes. I do know that still isn’t the best, but it is a better alternative and I think the small changes can start to make a big difference if everyone starts to act.

There are things that I am not able to replace which are the electronics like my phone and my computer. I use these both every day for social and education purposes. My computer isn’t really a wasteful piece of plastic a I will be using this for many years to come. I think moving forward, these bigger things that we need in our life right now aren’t the problem. We don’t need to focus on how we are going to be able to rid of all pastic. We should focus on the small waste we throw away daily. Making those small changes in each and everyone’s like will make a bigger difference then most people might expect. People might be surprised to see that they could help make an impact on our future world.

The Easiest but Hardest Changes

Sakshi Kaikini

When you think about living plastic-free, you think oh ‘easy peasy.’ In reality, that’s not necessarily the case. As we live our day to day lives, we use so much plastic daily and we don’t even notice it. As many of us have a daily routine, we use the same one time use products a lot. When we get used to a product we use the same one for a while and don’t like to change it. For instance, when you’re going to the store to get tampons fro example, you will most likely go for the Tampex ones you grab every time that are the cheapest and most convenient. Although the cardboard tampons would be the best choice for the environment, they are a lot more expensive and you’re not used to them so you normally wouldn’t reach for them.

After being in this FYE, Swimming in Plastic Soup, I have quickly how much our country and world takes for granted and how we are ruining the Earth or futures are going to be living on. We keep on using plastic and materials than take hundreds and some thousands of year to decompose and just sit on Earth and ultimately end up hurting the poor environment and wild life that don’t deserve what we do to them. Considering that, I’d be extremely willing to make multiple changes to my lifestyle to help the environment. Even though I barely affect the worlds plastic footprint, I feel like I’m still making a difference.

As I went to the grocery story I looked at the list I made last week and looked at some items I knew I could replace, and some I knew I couldn’t. One item I knew I absolutely could not replace is tampons. I’m so used to the Tampex brand of tampons and they are about $7.30 from Target for 36. I found a brand of cardboard tampons that are most definitely better for the environment but they were $7 for 18. That’s basically the same price but I’d be getting half the amount. Although it might not seem like a big difference, over the months and years, the prices add up. I do think that all women should be given free healthcare products but that’s a whole different story.

Tampax Pearl Tampons Super - Shop Tampons at H-E-B      Organic Cotton Tampons with Applicator - Super – Public Goods

I used to buy individual bottles of water from the store, individual bags of Cheez-Itz and individually packaged makeup wipes. I substituted them all for a gallon jug of water, a big box of Cheez-It’z, and a bigger pack of makeup wipes. The thing about plastic is it’s so easy and efficient. With my water bottles, individual bags of Cheez-Itz and my individual packaged makeup wipes, they were so easy to take on the go. All though I have to pour the gallon jug into a reusable water bottle, pour Cheez-It’z into a reusable container, and take the makeup wipes everywhere I go, it honestly wasn’t even bad. Although it was a little bit annoying having to take those extra steps when I’m leaving my room, I’m still making an effect on my plastic footprint and it made me feel a lot better. I will be continuing to purchase these items because ultimately they are saving a lot of plastic than the items I was buying before. Cheez-It Cheese Crackers, Baked Snack Crackers, Office and Kids Snacks, Original, 30oz Bag (30 Packs)Cheez-It Cheese Crackers, Baked Snack Crackers, Original, 28oz Box, 2 Ct -

Great Value Spring Water, 1 gal - Neutrogena Facial Cleansing Towelette Singles, Daily Face Wipes to Remove Dirt, Oil, Makeup & Waterproof Mascara, Gentle, Alcohol-Free, Individually Wrapped, 20 Count : Clothing, Shoes & JewelryNeutrogena Makeup Remover Cleansing Facial Towelettes 125ct Wipes for sale online | eBay

Some advice I have to other contemplating changing their items they use is to try it once. Try it once, see if it’s bearable. Although it might be weird at the beginning it will make your conscience a lot better knowing you are lowering your plastic footprint. We live here, on Earth, and we need to start treating her right. And the first step for us is to use less and less plastic.

A Plastic-Free Lifestyle

As an American it is rather difficult at times to live a sustainable lifestyle. In order to live a more plastic-free lifestyle, things off the top of my head that I am willing to change are personal care containers such as soap and toothpaste. If I was also able to find compostable versions of cups or utensils then I would not feel as guilty when tossing them in the trash, knowing at least even if they end up in a landfill that they will just break down into the soil. 

After reading Beth Terry’s book: Plastic-Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too, I made a chart of plastic based items that I found and mostly used that could be replaced by sustainable/non-plastic options. However before going over what I could replace there are some items that cannot be replaced, such as plastic shells for objects such as keyboards and laptops. Plastic in these items is just too necessary, for it provides a strong option for protection alongside it is cheap so it keeps the prices of our electronics down. Regarding the items I found that I could replace is chewable toothpaste, boxed water, compostable cups, and powdered detergent. 

Now given my current circumstances with what is available to me, and how much money I have available to me I am not able to purchase any of the items I have listed, however I have used many of them before and I can provide the exact same insight as if I was currently using them. In this case I have decided to focus on the chewable toothpaste and boxed water, as they are two of the items that I have personally used before. 

Boxed Water is a weird concept surprisingly, but yet it makes a lot of sense at the same time. When we were in elementary school we were often fed milk in cartons which is not that different from having water in a box. When I used this item in the past the taste of the water was not off, for it just tasted like any other spring water I would get such as Evian or Fiji. However it was satisfying to know that I can just toss this box in my recycling like any other item, but I knew there was absolutely no chance that the plastic contained some wild card item that would not allow it to be recycled. Overall I enjoyed the item, and occasionally find myself buying it alongside the other waters I get, for if you want a sustainable water get Boxed Water. 

Boxed Water Is Better - Charitees

Bite is a brand that produces toothpaste bites that use absolutely zero plastic within them. I found these items very unique because not only does it not use any plastic it also is zero waste, for you are ensured that you will use 100% of the toothpaste that you have, rather than leaving some within the tube. When I used these items I found them very interesting and odd to be chewing on an item that cleans my teeth. I almost felt like a dog chewing on a dental bone! However I quickly got used to the aspect of chewing on my toothpaste, but after it was gone I did not continue to use the item. I liked the toothpaste bites, but they were rather pricey with a one month supply costing $12, and for me I could just go to the store and buy a tube of toothpaste that will last a month or two for $4. 

Naturally Whitening Mint - Bite Toothpaste Bits

In the end I did end up using some of the items I found in more plastic-free options. My advice for others contemplating such a switch is to give it a try. Do some research to find an alternative that suits you best, and if you end up not liking it don’t feel guilty as it’s not for everyone. However the one important thing to remember is don’t overspend; don’t make yourself bankrupt trying to become plastic-free. 


Little Changes-Big Differences


From 2 million tonnes per year to 381 million in only 65 years. Our plastic consumption is increasing immeasurably, especially in recent years. We can’t even imagine how our life without plastic would be because everything is made of plastic in our life’s as we saw in the last Blog. However, our life of plastic has disastrous consequences for the natural environment. Just 9% percent of our plastic will be recycled and only 2% will be recycled effectively the other 7% will be downcycled. The remaining plastic land in our environment especially in our oceans. Oftentimes the marine creatures think the plastic waste in the ocean is food but, plastic is indigestible, and the animal can thus no longer eat food and starves to death with a full stomach. And with the seafood, the plastic is landing on our plates. That is just one example of how plastic has catastrophic impacts on our environment, but it shows that we need to reduce our plastic use.

I began to think about how I can use less plastic in my daily routine, and I was surprised how many opportunities I have to reduce my plastic. The following table is showing some examples:

Type of Grocery item Brand I buy now Less Plastic Alternative
Waterbottle Vittel Reusable bottle made of glass or stainless steel
Cornflakes General Mills Cornflakes packed in a cardboard box (Mymuesli) or buy it in a Packaging free grocery store
Choclate Hersheys Packaging made of cardboard and compostable film cellulose


Detergent Tide Packed in cardboard box (dropps)



From Plastic to plastic-free Care and Cleaning items

Type of Product Brand I Buy now Less-Plastic Alternative
shampoo Kérastase solid shampoo without plastic packaging packed in a cardboard box (Foamie)
Face mask Luvos Made it own your own
Brush L’ange Brush made of wood and has natural bristles (Aveda)
soap softsoap Packed in Cardboard (Dr.Squatch)

Those are just a few examples but there are various plastic-free alternatives especially in this to categories of items. Besides I found for the products easily and rapidly after searching on the Internet a plastic-free alternative which is more sustainable. In the Grocery store, it was more difficult and took more time to find the plastic-free alternative and there was not a wide of goods. Another disadvantage is that plenty of plastic-free items are much more expensive than plastic items. For example, my pack of Cornflakes General Mills costs 5$ whereas a pack of Mymuesli would cost 10$ which is the double price. Unfortunately for me as a student with not much money it is difficult to replace many items I use now and buy instead the expensive plastic-free alternative. However, there are as well fewer Plastic Alternative, which is cheaper especially if you focus on reuse, refuse, or repair the items. For example, if I use a reusable bottle and fill it up with tap water instead of buying always new water bottles, I would save money as well as if I made a face mask on my own instead of buying it in the store.

My plastic items and some alternatives

(My plastic items and some sustainable alternatives)

I believe that little changes in our daily routine can make a difference, particularly when everybody thinks like this. Therefore, I considered that I will replace, reuse and refuse some plastic items in my life (In addition to them I mentioned in the last section). The first item I will replace is my shower soap the same brand I use at the moment has a plastic-free alternative and costs just 2 euros more. Another thing I will refuse is the plastic cutlery and cups in the dining halls. Instead, always get new plastic forks, knives, and spoons I will bring my plastic-free cutlery, or I will reuse my plastic cutlery. And I will try to bring my reusable water bottle to the dining halls that I don’t need to use a plastic cup. An item I will reuse are bags then always when I purchase something I get new bags now I will try when I go to the grocery store to always bring my bag with me that I don’t need to get another one.

(plastic-free and “normal” shower soap)

Nevertheless, there are plastic items I can’t replace at the moment and one of the items is my laptop. I use it every day and depend on it for example to write this Blog. Furthermore, I couldn’t find a plastic-free option and if they are some, they are probably not financeable for me.

In conclusion, we must stop using so much plastic because it has already catastrophic consequences for our environment, and it will have huge impacts on the future of our planet. Therefore we need to reduce our plastic use. We don’t need immediately to live a plastic-free life because of plenty of necessary items we can’t refuse or replace at the moment, but we can try to take little steps to a more sustainable and plastic-free life. If everybody in the world just takes a little step and refuses a few items in his daily life it would be a big step for all of us and will make a huge difference for our planet.

Personal Change for Organic Growth

Things I would consider changing in my life to be more plastic-free would be the replacement of the daily use items I have.

I feel like multiple changes would slightly change my plastic footprint but also be a way to slowly ease my way into living a sustainable life. This is because the items I chose are all things I use daily.

For example:

Type of Grocery Item  The brand I Buy Now 

Less-Plastic Alternative 

Bagels  Thomas’ everything bagels  Buying straight from a bagel store 
Rice  Botan Rice  Tamaki Kenko Hagia short grain rice  
Apples  Fuji apple bundle  Get them each separately than in a case 
Type of Product  The brand I Buy Now  Less-Plastic Alternative 
Tampon  Tampax  o.b. original 
Bleach  Clorox  Clean cut organic cleaning 
Toothbrush  Oral B  Bite toothbrush 

While I’d be more than willing to replace these items, I am a finically struggling college student and currently, don have the means to fund all those changes, I did however try one of them. I bought grocery items that were useless to no packaging. It was interesting having to bring my own reusable bag to the store and then having so many loose items in said bag. I did like not having to deal with the packaging once I got home though. It was also nice to feel like I wasting anything due to there being no packaging on my fruits and vegetable and very little on my other items. I did not like having to find super random brands to get the food that I wanted. It wasn’t fun having to get items that I didn’t know if I would even like either.

However, I will say there is a challenge with giving up some items with plastic as its main component. For myself, it would be my phone (though plastic may not be its main component there still are important aspects of its makeup that need plastic) It would be very hard for me to give up something that makes life so much easier and sometimes safer.

Overall I do think I will stick with starting to change over my ways into a more sustainable lifestyle. I want to keep trying to make environmentally conscious decisions, also when I am at stores to try and find more options than I had when previously looking. I really want to stick with this because it makes me feel better about myself and makes me feel a little more in control of my own environmental choices.

These choices although they are small can make a large impact, not only on my personal footprint but can also encourage others I know to make similar choices. Thus a cycle of sustainability starts, even if it’s just by a couple items from a couple of people. Society needs to start the beginning of the sustainability cycle and that starts with everyday choices. It starts with you and me making the decision to pick the slightly pricier option to make a change. Especially because pollution is a direct cause of plastic use and that results in human and animal death. It’s all of our responsibility to keep our planet clean. But for our choices to be made easier, it starts with companies making more options for consumers and having more ethical practices for their products.

Water Pollution Statistics | Alliance Disposal

(Figure 1 deadly pollution graph)

My Advice for those contemplating making similar choices would be don’t be afraid to try new things and you may even find you like it better. Also, you can find items that aren’t super expensive while still being sustainable. I would give the advice as well that you don’t have to start all at once and change your whole life overnight. You can start small and work your way up to it. Do not be afraid of change or how long it takes, take it one step at a time!

A plastic planet

As a college student, I find that plastic is one of my most used items of the day. From my toothbrush to the packaging of my textbook, I am surrounded by plastic. Listing every item of plastic I touched in a day turned out to be more than a process than I thought. I found myself listing something almost every time I moved. It’s easy as a college student to curate an extensive amount of plastic because it’s just too easy. Trips to the dining hall will add just five more items to the list. Thinks that I didn’t normally think about, my morning routine added about 8 items. I get it, it’s convenient but is it really all necessary?

I think my one day of noting my plastic use doesn’t accurately portray my whole plastic footprint. I think the transition to college completely changed my plastic use. While at home – of course, I had the same morning and night routine, using plastic shampoo bottles and make-up. I was lucky enough to be able to be using silver silverware, while at college, the plastic silverware I use at least 3 times a day normally gets thrown out because I’m too lazy to clean and reuse it.  I never could have imagined touching 35 items of plastic in a day, many of which I touched multiple times a day. I was filled with guilt each time I wrote down a new plastic item on my list however I thought back to what Beth Terry thought about guilt. That if I am guilty then it means I genuinely feel bad for my plastic consumption, which I do.

assorted clothes hanging on rack

I think that making a change in my plastic footprint honestly would not be impossible. Finding reusable silverware and using that in the dining hall, as well as my own water bottle would take off a lot of items on my list. Even starting by not buying plastic water bottles because I found an overwhelming amount of plastic bottles in my dorm room between me and my 3 other roommates. This is change that would not only make me feel better but will make our planet feel better.

Overrun with Plastic

As someone who cares about the environment and the animals in it I tried by best to  buy items that would not hurt the environment. When taking a look around my room I realized I only touch a small amount of objects repeatedly.  In this aspect I think this one trial was not enough to really show really how much plastic I used.  I say this because I fell asleep for a lot of the day and the only Items I touched were due to school and free time I had.

Here's how Indonesia plans to tackle its plastic pollution problem | World Economic Forum

When I looked around my room I noticed some of the items where label as cruelty free and when  thinking about that statement it is not all that true. Yes they may not be testing their products on animals but the packaging they are using to is harmful to the environment.  Since the packaging cant be recycled it ends up in the ocean and birds mistake it for food. Consuming so much plastic and not actual food causes them to starve and eventually die.

On campus there are different places to recycle and they are found right outside of dinning halls. Some are found in education buildings. People don’t ever stop and look at the materials they have in their hands they choose to just throw it away. If they were to actually look most of the dinning wear is actually compostable.