Printed on FSC-certified paper and with BPA-free ink, Life Without Plastic strives to create more awareness about BPA-based products, polystyrene and other single-use plastics, and provides readers with ideas for safe, reusable and affordable alternatives. While plastic has its uses in technology, the medical and industrial sectors and some products around the home, single-use plastics may release chemicals when they come in contact with food and water. These disposable plastics are commonly used to package food and drinks as well as personal care and cleaning products. Jay and Chantal show readers how to analyze their personal plastic use, find alternatives and create easy replacements in this step-by-step guide. Get your family healthier, spread consciousness and radiate positive plastic-free energy by taking action to help the environment.
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|Publisher:||Page Street Publishing|
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About the Author
Read an Excerpt
FRAMING THE ISSUE
Through Our Plastic-Free Journey
We recognize that many plastics have amazingly useful properties, such as being lightweight, flexible, moisture-temperature-chemical resistant, durable and relatively inexpensive. We also recognize the important roles durable plastics play in certain settings such as hospitals and for computers, phones, safety and industrial equipment. While we hope to eventually see a product design revolution that replaces plastic across the board with safer non-polluting materials, our focus here is on the plastics that cause the most harm and that can be easily avoided in everyday life.
Plastic-free living is a goal we have spent much of the past decade working on and helping folks around the world strive to achieve. We have a few things to say about it that we hope will help you on your plastic-free journey.
But first, we'll tell you a bit about our journey into plastic-free living ... how that road trip led to those three words — Life Without Plastic — and how it changed everything for us.
We never planned to become plastic-free living experts and crusaders. It just happened as we sought a healthy, low-waste lifestyle. But there were some pretty powerful triggers that helped us along the way ...
It all started back in 2002 when we became pregnant, Chantal in particular. She began doing lots of future mother research and reading and came across an article describing how chemicals leaching out of plastics have the potential to cause problems for living beings. The article explained how those most at risk of adverse health effects from exposure to such chemicals include children — especially babies and infants, whose wee systems are in early development — and their mothers, who have oodles of hormones coursing through their fertile, life-giving bodies. This shocked and scared us.
We were already eco-conscious from many angles — recycling, composting, eating organic, consuming lots of granola and hugging trees (the latter two more Jay's pursuits) — but we had not considered the inherent problems associated with plastics. We would wash and reuse single-use water bottles over and over, thinking we were being super eco-aware by preventing them from being recycled after a single use or heading straight into the trash and, ultimately, a landfill. We didn't realize each use and wash was breaking down the cheap, unstable plastic more and more, and increasing the potential for chemicals and microscopic bits of plastic to leach into our drinks. There's a reason why they are intended for single use!
During the year before our son was born, we started experiencing strange physical symptoms that seemed to come out of nowhere: runny noses, rashes, sore eyes, chronic fatigue, achy joints. Chantal was pregnant, so fatigue and strange new body sensations were to be expected for her, but something more was going on here. And we both were feeling it.
When Chantal was eight months pregnant, inspectors found black mold in our damp basement, and they were certain that spores released from the mold were coming up into our apartment through the ventilation system. The mold spores were the likely cause of our symptoms. They suggested we move out that day, especially for the safety of Chantal and the baby in her womb.
This mold experience made us even more sensitive — intellectually and physically — to the toxins that surround us in everyday life.
Fortunately, when our son came into this world very early one frigid January morning, he was a healthy seven-pound (3-kg) baby full of life, joy and magic, and seemingly unaware of the drama that preceded his birth.
His name is Jyoti, which means "radiance" or "ray of light" in Sanskrit and Bengali. And that he is. In so many ways it has been he who has illuminated our path toward plastic-free living. After he was born, Chantal breastfed him, but there were times when we needed to store her milk. We couldn't bear the thought of putting that antibody-rich, life-giving nectar in plastic bottles that would have to be boiled to be sterilized. We were by now very concerned about chemicals leaching out of plastic food and drink containers, especially when they were exposed to temperature extremes such as boiling. So Chantal began looking everywhere for glass baby bottles.
If we go back thirty or forty years, glass baby bottles were the norm. Not so in 2003. Baby bottles then seemed to be made only out of plastic. She eventually found one possibility. Evenflo, based in Ohio, was still making the glass ones. She contacted them to order some. No problem, they said, but the minimum order was 1,000! They only dealt in wholesale quantities. We were able to find some secondhand glass baby bottles for our immediate needs, but that experience stuck with us and planted a fertile new seed.
We also decided to get a non-plastic water bottle. Easier said than done in 2005. Some Internet research led us to what appeared to be a solid possibility from a California company called Klean Kanteen. Chantal ordered a couple. We tried them out and loved them. Another seed.
Chantal had always wanted to start her own business. This plastics issue seemed like the perfect pathway to fulfilling that dream. We spent a couple of years daydreaming about how to make a contribution to reducing the massive quantities of plastic that are consumed every second of every day around the world. We wanted to address the damage that toxin-leaching plastics can cause to human and animal health and the environmental disaster that the increase of plastic waste is causing. We soon realized — based on our own experiences of often searching in vain for everyday products made out of non-plastic materials — that to effectively help people reduce their plastic use and exposure we had to be able to point them toward non-plastic alternatives. We also knew from our own searching that there were still very few alternatives to plastic consumer products on the market, especially for food and drink containers. Then that pivotal road trip conversation took place.
In 2005, we were both working for the federal government and having difficulty finding good caregivers to be with Jyoti. This was just the catalyst we needed. Once again, that cute little kid was shining his light to lead us in the direction of living without plastic. Chantal took a leave from her job and set to work building the company while caring for Jyoti. Thus began Life Without Plastic, our online store with the all-encompassing tagline of offering safe, high quality, ethically-sourced and Earth-friendly alternatives to plastic products for everyday life.
It began with just a few products, and you can probably guess what some of those first ones were ... Klean Kanteen stainless steel water bottles in various sizes, Evenflo glass baby bottles, as well as some stainless steel food containers Chantal found at a product trade show in Asia.
From the start, the idea was to offer people solid information about the harm plastics are causing to human health and the environment. With this information in mind, they could then choose to take action and reduce the use of plastic in their lives. If they were looking for alternatives to replace their plastic products, we had some to offer that we had tried out and used regularly in our own lives.
At that time, there was some scientific research out there on the adverse health effects of chemicals leaching out of certain plastics, but not a lot, and it was difficult to find conclusive studies — though there were some. The public view of plastics was rather benign and uninterested, apart from those like us who had a personal reason to do their own research. We knew there was something wrong with plastics and we preferred to take a precautionary approach and try to avoid them. Most, however, had no idea that using plastics could adversely affect their health. The minimal public interest in toxic chemicals leaching out of plastics began to change in 2007 when the media started talking about something called bisphenol A (BPA).
You've likely heard of BPA. It's a synthetic plastic chemical that is the building block of hard clear plastics known as polycarbonates and some epoxy resins. Polycarbonates are used to make things like drinking bottles, tableware, CDs and DVDs, and BPA-based epoxy resins are used as the lining for metal food cans and on cash register receipts. The problem with BPA is that it is an endocrine disruptor, meaning it disrupts normal hormonal processes in the body; in particular, it mimics the female sex hormone estrogen and has been linked to health problems ranging from obesity to cancer, potentially with even miniscule exposures.
In 2007, the environmental group Environmental Defence Canada compiled rapidly growing scientific research and began spreading the word about health problems associated with BPA and calling for a ban on BPA in consumer products. Some Canadian retailers pulled polycarbonate water and baby bottles from their shelves. We were constantly getting calls to do media interviews about the issues related to BPA and plastics in general.
For us, this is when things really took off as the demand for non-plastic bottles exploded almost overnight. We realized that the issue was here to stay and we were going to play a key role in spreading the word while helping the world decrease its addiction to plastic. We were regularly in close contact with our fast-growing stainless steel bottle supplier in the United States, trying to increase quantities and speed up shipments of bottles. During one conversation, a Klean Kanteen employee reeling with the voluminous demand for their bottles from the Great White North asked, "What in the world is going on up there in Canada?!"
What was going on was that Canada was in the process of becoming the first country in the world to impose a ban on BPA. The federal government's 2008 ban was restricted only to baby bottles and the lining of containers of infant formula, but it paved the way for other similar bans around the world, including in the United States and Europe. And broader, more precautionary bans will likely come eventually — restricting the ban to baby bottles ignores the fact that BPA is in a multitude of other products that surround us and our food daily. The number of scientific studies documenting health issues related to BPA and other chemicals leaching out of plastics continues to grow and grow.
In tandem with the revelation of all the health issues linked to plastics, we observed the staggering environmental impact of plastic pollution — it's especially vivid in the oceans — gaining increasing media and global attention. We spread word of the issues through our own channels: our website and social media, blog posts and media interviews. We raised awareness in our home community of Wakefield, Quebec by organizing a campaign to reduce plastic bag use, providing bulk stainless steel water dispensers for local festivals and events and organizing film screenings. All the while we were continuing to seek out new plastic-free alternatives to offer in our online store. We also got to know more of the passionate visionaries around the world working on the front lines of the plastic toxicity and pollution movement. Yes, it was becoming a global movement.
One of the galvanizing forces of this movement has been the California-based Plastic Pollution Coalition (PPC), which was founded in 2009 with the mission of stopping plastic pollution and its toxic impact on humans, animals and the environment. We have been active PPC members from the start and proudly offer their products in our store with proceeds going directly to supporting PPC's global mission.
So, what's the solution? There are many, many solutions — we are limited only by our imaginations and desire for change. We will touch on a wide variety of solutions throughout this book with the tips and alternatives we offer you. But we think the key big picture fundamental elements of the overall solution are that we need to:
Stop plastic pollution and poisoning at the source by avoiding plastic and using alternatives. Plastic is too microscopically dispersed around the world to try and clean it all up at this point. The flow of new plastic into our lives has to decrease. If we use less plastic, our health is at less risk and there is less plastic pollution. Prevention and avoidance should be engraved in our minds.
Change our perception of existing plastic as waste to be disposed of, and see it as a valuable — albeit potentially toxic — resource to be carefully recycled and reused in safe non-food, non-polluting applications.
Move toward a circular economy system where plastics never become waste; rather, they all re-enter the economy through recycling and reuse. Plastic products should be designed from the start never to become waste. The materials for making plastics should shift away from fossil fuels and synthetic chemicals to safe, renewable, chemical-free bio-based sources.
Embrace individual action and local, community-based initiatives. While global solutions are needed, it is at the individual and community levels that change is implemented on the ground in day-to-day life. This is where the most tangible, accessible-to-anyone, plastic-free change happens. Realize that your individual decisions DO make a difference. The beauty of our now interconnected, social media–infused world is that as individuals we ALL are now global decision makers having world-wide reach with the press of a button.
This is the upshot of what our plastic-free journey has taught us to date. And this is part of the message we bring to you now. The other part of our message is what is contained in the rest of this book: more in-depth info on plastics and the best alternatives, coupled with some easy and practical tips, tools and tricks to avoid plastic in your everyday life.
We have our radiant son to thank for helping us begin this journey into Life Without Plastic, and for holding our hand through the process. He continues to do so to this day, helping out by packing plastic-free toothbrush and floss orders and creating videos such as the stop-motion journey of a play-dough creature escaping from a stainless steel container and the unboxing of a Japanese wooden alternative to traditional plastic LEGO. Yes, he is, and always will be, the passionate shining core of why we do what we do.
ABOUT THIS BOOK
Consider this book a plastic-free living primer to help you reduce plastic in all aspects of your life, but without feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of the issue and all that you could — or possibly feel you should — be doing. Guilt is not the goal. You've got to go with what works for your life, and we're great believers in small steps toward significant, meaningful goals. Through this step-by-step guide, we'll take your hand and gently walk you through ways to avoid plastic in all aspects of everyday life.
We are plastic-free living advocates, and we look up to the examples of others striving to live with less plastic, such as Beth Terry, founder of the blog My Plastic Free Life, and the folks running visionary organizations for positive plastic-free change, such as PPC, Algalita Marine Research and Education, the 5 Gyres Institute, the Plastic Soup Foundation and Plastic Oceans. We also learn from and connect with those in the fast-growing "zero waste" movement, such as bloggers Lauren Singer of Trash Is for Tossers and Bea Johnson of Zero Waste Home. They have taken their self-aware, elegant lifestyles to levels of beauty and creativity that provide powerful, inspiring examples of ways to avoid plastic in everyday life. Zero waste is a natural, all-encompassing sister perspective and approach to plastic-free living, but please note that this book is not focused specifically on zero waste living.
This book is not about deconstructing the plastic pollution argument. It is based on the strong premise that plastic pollution must stop because it is choking our oceans, blanketing our land masses and affecting our health right now and potentially for generations to come. Anyone can Google something that might say that disposable plastics are better for the environment than durable goods based on one narrow environmental perspective. We have no desire to go there and engage in that sort of back-and-forth discourse. We have chosen to battle plastic toxicity and pollution, and we are sticking to that mission.
Excerpted from "Life Without Plastic"
Copyright © 2017 Chantal Plamondon and Jay Sinha.
Excerpted by permission of Page Street Publishing Co..
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
Table of Contents
Foreword Beth Terry 4
Chapter 1 Framing the Issue Through Our Plastic-Free Journey 7
Chapter 2 The Super Easy "Pareto Plastic-Free Living" Quick Start Guide 14
Chapter 3 Knowing Your Plastics… And the Alternatives 17
Chapter 4 Removing Plastic from Your Personal Space: How to Create a Healthier Home 73
Chapter 5 Plastic-Free Living on the Go 136
Chapter 6 Radiating the Plastic-Free Lifestyle 155
Chapter 7 Final Words: Embracing a Circular Life Without Plastic 170
About the Authors 186