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Plastic Pollution and The Plastics BAN List

the plastics ban list

Thanks to research done by four organizations devoted to solving the plastic pollution problem, we now know the most harmful plastic products on the market in California—and the alternatives. The Plastics BAN List is a comprehensive list of the most common discarded plastic items with information about their impact on the environment. Most of the worst offenders are designed for our on-the-go lifestyle. Almost all of the products on list are related to disposable food and beverage packaging, like disposable takeout containers, coffee cup lids, plastic bottles and straws. “There will be more plastic than fish in the sea by 2050 if we don’t solve this problem. Eliminating single-use disposable plastics must be a priority.” – Anna Cummins, Co-Founder and Global Strategy Director of 5 Gyres

First on the list: Food Wrappers & Containers

It’s no surprise that disposable food wrappers and containers have the greatest impact on the environment. In fact, over 30% of the plastic collected fits this category. Recycling is not the answer because most of these products have no economic value in today’s recycling systems. The BAN List’s recommended solution is easy and becoming more mainstream in many grocery stores: Bulk purchasing with reusable containers. It takes some planning, but even with a few reusable items, you can have a significant impact on the plastic pollution problem. Also try Bee’s Wrap to cover a bowl, wrap a head of lettuce or wrap a baguette, and never buy plastic wrap again.

More ideas to help reduce plastic pollution

In addition to using reusable food-storage containers, here are a few more ideas to help you replace plastics you might be using from The BAN List:

Every year Americans throw away 100 billion plastic bags. These bags threaten wildlife, pollute our waterways and contaminate our soil. Sea otters, turtles, seals, birds, and fish get tangled or suffocate inside bags, and they commonly mistake them for food. Take the first step in eliminating plastic from your routine by keeping a Flip & Tumble 24-7 reusable bag with you at all times.

Personal care products also contribute to a significant amount of plastic pollution on The Plastics BAN List. Reusable pads might seem gross, but just imagine a lifetime supply of used pads and tampons in landfills – now that’s gross. In addition to the environmental impact, there are plenty of reasons to switch from disposable feminine hygiene products to reusables. Inspired by the simple utility, earth-friendliness, and comfort of cloth diapers, try GladRags reusable options to help reduce your plastic waste.

Americans use enough plastic straws every day to wrap the Earth 2.5 times, so it’s not surprising that straws are one of The Plastic BAN List’s most common polluters. There is a strong movement to reduce their impact and many restaurants are adopting straw-free initiates, but there is still a lot of work to do. Committing to using just one reusable straw can eliminate thousands of disposable straws and can have a profound impact. Try U Konserve stainless steel straws and always say “no straw please” when ordering drinks.

Thanks to 5 Gyres (our partner and research-based non-profit focused on plastic pollution education), Surfrider Foundation, Clean Production Action and UPSTREAM.

Read the full The Plastics BAN List report here.

Five Ways to Honor the Planet this Earth Day

Honor Planet Earth Day

Our favorite day of the year is this Saturday, April 22, marking the birth of the environmental movement. More than 1 billion people acknowledge Earth Day every year by participating in planet-friendly activities, making it the largest civic observance in the world. The possibilities for participating are endless. Here are our favorite five ways to honor the planet this Earth Day:

1. Get outside

Spending the day outside in nature with family and friends can be one of the most sustaining and powerful ways to celebrate Earth Day. Our culture is becoming increasingly reliant on our phones and our televisions to hold our attention, and as a result we’re spending less time connecting with and appreciating nature. This disconnect between children (and adults) and the natural world is causing us to be less interested in and less passionate about our planet. In one of our favorite books, Last Child in the Woods, author Richard Louv says “direct exposure to nature is essential for healthy childhood development and for the physical and emotional health of children and adults.” He believes that there is a correlation between the health of children and the health of the Earth.

2. Change a habit

To honor Earth Day, commit to making a change, and keep that commitment every day. Start small: give up plastic wrap, stop buying Ziploc bags, bring reusable containers to the market, carry a reusable utensil in your bag, make your own cleaning products. The key is to keep this small change going every day. Get inspired by two women, one on each coast: See Bea Johnson’s journey on her blog: Zero Waste Home. She and her family are not only happier since their quest to live waste free, but they also lead more meaningful lives based on experiences instead of stuff. Lauren Singer, inspired by Bea, keeps her trash in a 16-ounce Mason jar, and hasn’t emptied it in four years. How? Find out at: Trash is for Tossers.

3. Create a healthy home

Spend Earth Day by taking steps to create a healthy home. Simple changes can have a staggering impact on your health and the health of the planet. Read about our top ten healthy home tips. Some are very simple but also very impactful, like avoiding so-called “natural” fragrances in dryer sheets, fabric softeners, cleaning products, candles and air fresheners. Other tips might take a little more thought, like finding alternatives to non-stick, stain-resistant and water-resistant coatings.

4. March for science

Science plays a critical role in the health of our planet. This Earth Day, join a nonpartisan and diverse coalition of organizations and individuals who advocate for evidence-based policy, education and research to protect our planet. If you’re not near Washington D.C., find a march closer to you here.

5. Participate to connect

Beach cleanups and tree-planting parties can seem cliche on Earth Day, and sometimes these one-time activities seem less authentic and less meaningful than doing something with a more lasting commitment. However, these activities can actually be incredibly beneficial for the environment because you’ll be connecting with likeminded people to work for a similar cause. This kind of experience can be empowering and can help solidify your appreciation of the planet. If there’s an Earth Day event near you, try it! A one-day activity can often lead to wonderful long-term commitment and have a lasting effect on your dedication to protect the environment.

Photo credit cdm_photo.

Guest Post: Six Things You Didn’t Know About Plastic

six thing you didn't know about plastic

Think you know what’s in your coffee cup… or closet? Think again—it could contain a type of plastic that’s polluting the environment and/or endangering your health. With nearly a decade spent committed to the fight against marine plastic pollution, The 5 Gyres Institute shares these tips on discovering hidden plastic—and going #plasticfree.

1. Your faux-fur jacket is plastic. So are your workout pants.

All materials shed fibers. But unlike wool and cotton, which biodegrade, microfibers from synthetic clothing never biodegrade—because they’re made from plastic. When these garments are washed, the tiny plastic microfibers slip right through sewage treatment filters and into our waterways: One recent study found a single synthetic fleece jacket released as many as 250,000 microfibers when washed in a machine. When these fibers are eaten by small organisms and fish, they can work their way up the food chain and onto our plates.

Solution? Avoid acrylic garments, which are particularly harmful and can release as many as 700,000 microfibers during the lifecycle of one item of clothing, and if you do own synthetic fabrics, wash them less. Oh, and if you’re buying a new washing machine, choose a front loader—it releases fewer microfibers.

2. Much of the plastic dropped in recycling bins isn’t recycled.

In 2014, 22% of PET plastic collected for recycling was exported out of the United States. Why? Our facilities can’t keep up: Plastic production surged from 15 million tons in 1964 to 311 tons in 2014—an increase of more than 2,000 percent. Also, as oil prices fluctuate, so too does the price of plastic. When those markets are depressed, virgin plastic becomes far cheaper to buy than recycled. Without a profitable market in which to sell it, it’s not cost-effective for many recycling companies to process plastic—so they sell it to other countries at a loss. In 2011, China imported nearly half of America’s plastic waste.

Solution? Use less disposable plastic! Refuse the top five sources of single use plastic: plastic bags, water bottles, to go containers, takeaway cups and straws, and switch to reusable solutions.

3. Most coffee cup lids are made from the same type of plastic as Styrofoam.

Starbucks sells 400 billion cups of coffee annually—each with a polystyrene lid. Toxic styrene—the primary component of polystyrene, and expanded polystyrene foam better known as Styrofoam—is proven to be carcinogenic to animals, and is a probable human carcinogen. It can migrate from containers into food and drinks when it comes in contact with fatty or acidic foods, and when heated—like for your coffee or take out. While some cups are recyclable; typically, the lids are not. Billions of coffee cup lids are landfilled and/or littered daily.

Solution? Request your coffee without a lid. Or better yet, bring a reusable insulated stainless steel coffee cup and avoid the plastic waste altogether.

4. Straws are not recyclable.

Americans use more than 300 million plastic straws each day. Straws are too small to be easily recycled. So they become trash—often in the ocean. In fact, plastic straws are one of the top polluters on our beaches and can be harmful to animals. More than 600 species are impacted by small pieces of plastic—like straws—in the ocean, either through ingestion or entanglement, which can sicken or even kill them. Birds, fish, turtles, dolphins, sharks and even whales can be poisoned or trapped by plastic waste.

Solution? Ask for your beverage “straw-free” or try reusable stainless steel straws.

5. You might be washing your face with plastic.

Many exfoliating products contain plastic microbeads—tiny round beads look innocuous but are actually pretty evil. When we use products that contain them, plastic microbeads go down the drain. Because they’re too small to be filtered—smaller than a grain of salt—they end up in our rivers, lakes and oceans. In the United States, we release 8 billion plastic microbeads into the environment each day.

In 2013, research conducted by 5 Gyres and SUNY Fredonia found a high concentration of plastic microbeads in the Great Lakes, which inspired a movement that culminated when President Obama signed The Microbead-Free Waters Act into law. However, at the current rate, more than 7.3 trillion microbeads will enter the marine environment before the Microbead-Free Waters Act becomes effective in 2018.

Solution? Avoid exfoliating beauty products that contain “microbeads,” or show polyethylene, polypropylene, polylactic acid (PLA), polystyrene, or polyethylene terephthalate on labels.

This was reposted, with edits, with permission from 5 Gyres.

 

The Turning Green Waste-Free Starter Kit

turning green waste-free starter kit

Our New Waste-Free Starter Kit

New this month, we’re teaming up with our partner, Turning Green, to offer our first waste-free starter kit with four of our most popular reusable essentials. When transitioning to a zero-waste lifestyle, preparation is half the battle. Most people see the benefit and have the motivation to change habits, but they just don’t know where to start.

The Turning Green Starter Kit includes an insulated stainless steel Coffee Cup, a stainless steel Divided Rectangle Container, a stainless steel Round Medium Container, and a Bamboo Utensil. A thoughtful gift, the waste-free starter kit will make it easy to reduce single-use trash every day: work lunches, travel, morning coffees, and trips to the market. It’s easy to stash in your bag and have on-hand when on the go.

Our Partner: Turning Green

Turning Green inspires students all over the world to make conscious choices and become advocates for issues that directly impact personal and environmental health. Their work encompasses a wide spectrum of advocacy platforms and initiatives including Project Green Challenge (30-days of environmentally themed challenges providing students with mentorship, advocacy and leadership skills) and The Conscious Kitchen (transitioning school dining from pre-packaged, processed food to meals prepared with fresh, local, organic, seasonal, non-GMO ingredients).

And Turning Green is on the road right now on their annual seven-week trip to sixteen universities across the country where they’re educating campus communities about conscious living and developing collaborative student-led initiatives. The Conscious Campus Road Tour inspires students to rethink mindsets, practices and actions, while working together toward developing intentional and sustainable campuses. They have worked directly with 50,000 students on more than 2,000 campuses around the world.

$10 back for every kit

Turning Green is quite a force, and a natural partner for us to align with on our first waste-free starter kit. To honor their impressive work, we donate $10 per kit back to them in support of their mission for environmental change. Get The Turning Green Starter Kit on our website. You’ll be giving back to Turning Green and you’ll never be without your reusable essentials again!

6 Toxins in Household Cleaning Products

Toxins in Household Cleaning Products

It’s easy to assume that household and personal cleaning products are clean and safe. However, most are loaded with toxic chemicals that can have negative effects on our health and the environment.

There are no federal regulations related to safety standards when it comes to common household cleaning products. This means that manufacturers can put just about anything in these products, without any significant testing. They may claim that trace amounts of these chemicals pose no risk to our health in small doses, but with consistent exposure over time, and in combinations that haven’t been studied, it’s impossible to gauge the risks.

It’s easy to make your own cleaning products with natural, non-toxic ingredients. There are also many resources that specialize in making organic, natural cleaning products that are safe for ourselves, our pets and the planet. Fillaree is a zero waste, sustainable soap company whose core mission is to reduce household plastic waste through refill. That’s a message we can stand behind!

Toxins in household cleaning products can be avoided by switching to handmade, natural alternatives. Here are some of the worst offenders:

Ammonia

Found in glass cleaners and furniture/silver polishes, this chemical is a respiratory irritant. Also, when mixed with bleach it produces a poisonous gas. Prolonged exposure can cause cases of chronic bronchitis and asthma.

Chlorine

A common ingredient found in scouring powders, toilet cleaners and laundry detergents. It can cause respiratory issues and thyroid disruptions with long-term exposure.

Sodium Hydroxide

Also known as lye, this is found in oven cleaners and drain-unclogging liquids. It’s extremely corrosive and can cause chemical burns on skin, and damage to the mouth and throat if inhaled.

2-Butoxyethanol

This is found in kitchen, window and multipurpose cleaners. This is what gives the cleaners that sweet smell and there are no regulations that require this ingredient to be listed. However, when inhaled, it can also cause respiratory problems and even liver or kidney damage.

Phthalates

Fragranced cleaners, air fresheners, and even some toilet papers are loaded with these chemicals. Phthalates are a known endocrine disrupter, even causing low sperm counts in men. Most ingestion is inhalation, but fragranced soaps are dangerous as well since the skin absorbs the toxins directly.

Triclosan

Found in lots of dish detergents and antibacterial products. Triclosan is an antibacterial agent that can cause the growth of drug-resistant bacteria. Not only is this counterproductive for cleaning, but it’s harmful for our health in the long run.

These are just a few common toxins in household cleaning products, hidden in plain sight underneath our kitchen sinks. Instead of posing a risk to our health, start 2017 by making the switch to natural cleaning products. Shop Fillaree to see all the natural options they can offer your family and home!

This was reposted, with edits, with permission from Fillaree.

I Tried Going Completely Plastic Free for a Day

plastic free for a day

Living zero waste is second nature to me, but my attempt to go plastic free for a day didn’t even last until noon. I knew eliminating plastic would take some thought, but figured it would be easy enough for one day. My family is used to refilling shampoo bottles, using bar soap in the kitchen and banning Ziplocs. I was up for the challenge. After all, I practically do this for a living so how hard can it be?

A simple gift (made of plastic)

My first plastic-free errand was to find a gift for a friend. We have a lovely bakery within biking distance so I sent my daughter out to pick up a paper gift certificate. When she returned with a plastic gift card in her hand, we felt defeated. More than 75 million pounds of PVC from plastic cards heads to landfills every year. What I didn’t do (but maybe should have done): returned the card. What I did do: emailed the bakery with my feedback and vowed not to get a gift card there again unless they switch to paper.

A local newspaper (wrapped in plastic)

Not soon after, our local paper landed in our driveway. If rain is forecast, every paper in our community is delivered wrapped in plastic. We usually read the news online to avoid the waste associated with delivery, but in this case we don’t even order this paper; it is delivered to every household regardless. What I did: contacted them directly to discontinue the paper. We love the paper, but we don’t love the plastic. We’ll read it online.

An organic apple (with a plastic sticker)

Then I was off to the market and what I thought would be an easy place to avoid plastic. I bring my own produce bags, use my own containers for prepared food, and purchase in glass wherever possible, but I forgot that practically every piece of produce is stickered. A Swedish supermarket has a solution: by using natural branding on all of their avocados for one year, they’ll save 135 miles of plastic 1 foot wide. I love the idea of marking produce with a laser instead of a sticker, and I also enjoy the farmers’ market for plastic-free produce. At the grocery store, however, produce with plastic stickers is pretty much unavoidable. Going plastic free for a day was becoming a challenge.

A glass bottle of milk (with a plastic cap)

Next, I realized that our delicious glass-bottled organic milk has a plastic cap and a plastic seal; both go into our recycling bin but I have a feeling that they don’t meet the recycling requirement in our town. The refillable glass bottle is a throw-back to the good old days, and an amazing improvement from plastic milk jugs, but alas the disposable cap and seal are nonetheless plastic.

A receipt (coated in plastic)

Last, as we checked out at the market, we were asked if we’d like our receipt. The cash register prints it regardless, so if we decline a receipt it goes in the recycling. Because receipts are commonly coated with plastic BPA, they not only pollute our environment, but they also contaminate paper recycling.

Our attempt to go plastic free for a day barely lasted a few hours. If you’re inspired to try it, please let us know! We’d love to hear your ideas and suggestions. Lauren Singer said that living completely waste-free is impossible, but she also said that it is possible to take huge steps toward reducing one’s waste in as little as a single day.

5 Reasons to Step Up Your Food Storage with Stainless Steel

stainless steel food storage

Plastic food storage is certainly affordable and lightweight, but research shows that plastic can often leach chemicals into our food and drinks, which can harm our health. In addition to the adverse health effects, plastics are polluting our planet at an alarming rate. Take steps to swap out old plastic containers that degrade after prolonged use, and replace them with safer stainless steel. The benefits of stainless steel will help you justify the switch:

Durable, long lasting and less wasteful

Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times. As the desire to reduce waste is becoming more common, people are increasingly choosing more dependable and durable materials that do not degrade or leach after years of use and dishwashing. The longer containers last, the happier you are, and the fewer resources are used to reach the goal of working toward a zero-waste lifestyle.

Non-toxic and non-leaching

As news about toxins in plastic food storage becomes more mainstream, people are seeking safer food-storage solutions by ditching their plastic and turing to safer alternatives like stainless steel. “As scientists become more aware of the chemicals that leech out of plastics and make their way into our bodies, they are uncovering a variety of health issues that result. This includes cancer, reproductive issues, immune system suppression and problems with childhood development just to name a few.” – One Green Planet

More hygienic

Because plastic degrades over time from use, hot water and cleaning products, the surfaces become scratched and difficult to clean effectively. Smooth, non-porous stainless steel is the ideal surface for food, with fewer opportunities for bacteria to accumulate and less risk of contamination.

Less expensive over time

Saving money is an important benefit of swapping your plastic containers for long-lasting stainless steel. There is an upfront cost, but it pays to invest in quality products that stand the test of time to save money otherwise spent replacing lower-quality items.

Completely recyclable

Stainless steel is 100% recyclable and can be recycled endlessly without loss in quality or purity. Alternatively, plastic is “downcycled” into another lower-quality plastic product that becomes one step closer to a landfill. Plastic Pollution Coalition reminds us: “Indeed, collecting plastics at curbside fosters the belief that, like paper, aluminum and glass, these will be converted into new similar objects. But this is not the case with most plastic. These products will still end up in a landfill, and therefore, they do not stem the need for more virgin petroleum product.”

Switching out your plastic food storage can take time, and if you’re still using plastic during your transition, check your plastic numbers to minimize your exposure toxins. Check out our full-range of stainless steel containers, including divided containers, insulated containers for hot and cold, and nesting sets to save storage space.

Reuse and Repair: Worn Wear College Tour

worn wear college tour

Reuse and Repair on the Road

As a mission-driven company our decisions are guided by our desire to offer products that will help change our throw-away culture. We get our inspiration from companies we admire, including the outdoor retailer Patagonia. This month, they are teaming up with our partner, PLAN (Post-Landfill Action Network), to lead an impressive Worn Wear college tour to mend clothing for free and teach people how to reuse and repair, with the goal of promoting a world with less waste. And they’ll be using U Konserve along the way to help reduce their food-packing trash!

The team leaves February 16th on the 21-campus tour in their cute rolling Worn Wear repair truck, Delia. Visit one of the colleges on the tour to get your clothes (any brand is ok) repaired by the team, and participate in zero-waste activities, attend workshops, film screenings, and speaker presentations focused on reuse and repair. You can also have your Patagonia clothing repaired by one of their 45 full-time repair technicians in their garment repair facility, the largest of its kind in North America.

PLAN

We’re very excited to be partnering with PLAN this year. Reducing waste directly through innovative student-led activities on college campuses, the folks at PLAN are serious about protecting our planet. They cultivate, educate, and inspire the zero waste movement through tours, workshops, conferences, art, manuals and infographics (like this one we worked on together). They inform students and then equip them with the necessary skills and resources to implement solutions to eliminate waste on their campuses and in their communities.

U Konserve Helping Out

In the spirit of reuse and repair, while on the road, members of the Worn Wear college tour team will be avoiding packaged foods and packing waste-free meals. They’re all set with stainless steel containers, reusable sandwich wraps and stainless steel straws. We’re looking forward to seeing our trusted products put to good use!

“As individual consumers, the single best thing we can do for the planet is to keep our stuff in use longer. This simple act of extending the life of our garments through proper care and repair reduces the need to buy more over time—thereby avoiding the CO2 emissions, waste output and water usage required to build it.”  – Rose Marcario, Patagonia CEO