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 -

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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.