Plastic is harmful to the environment, taking anywhere between 10-1000 years to decompose. Despite such knowledge, plastic usage is nowhere nearing its end. For instance, only 27% of our plastic bottles are recycled. 1 million seabirds and 1 lakh mammals die every year due to intoxication by plastic. The plastic in the sea enters the fish, and thereby our bodies. This has the potential of making us very sick. Earth is already at the brink of irreversible depletion. It is essential that we look for making small changes in our lives.
- 1. Bamboo/ paper straws
- 2. Clay water bottle
- 3. Cast iron and earthen cookware
- 4. Edible cutlery
- 5. Stainless steel ice-cube trays
- 6. Compostable garbage disposal bags
- 7. Paper/jute shopping bags
- 8. Returnable glass bottles for aerated drinks
- 9. Biodegradable sanitary pads
- 10. Reusable coffee cups
- 11. Bamboo toothbrush
- 12. Metal-based stationery
- 13. Biodegradable accessories
- 14. DIY house cleaners
- 15. Horsehair scrubbing brushes
1. Bamboo/ paper straws
Plastic straws are used in our neighbourhood juice stalls to high-end restaurants. They are mostly a non-biodegradable use-and-throw product. They get stuck in the nostrils of turtles and food-pipe of pigeons. A switch to a bamboo or paper straw is monumental.
These alternative materials are eco-friendly and biodegradable. They are safer for use, as no plastic enters your body. Bamboo straws are also re-usable. They are easily available online. Pappco India, Bamboo India, and Shunya are initiatives dealing in them.
2. Clay water bottle
A plastic bottle takes about 450 years to decompose. Even for human consumption, plastic bottles leave chemicals into the water that you are drinking, leading to health problems.
Clay water bottles provide an excellent alternative to the plastic bottles. Our ancestors used it to keep the water cool. It is also eco-friendly, decomposes faster, and fertilizes the soil. Livegreen India and Mitticool are two companies dealing in this product.
3. Cast iron and earthen cookware
Most plastic cook-wares contain a chemical called bisphenol A (BPA). Recent studies have started unearthing the health hazards of such chemicals. These chemicals get into the food during cooking or storage, through a process called “leaching” or “migration”.
The solution resides in earthen pots and cookware. Earthen cook wear let the heat circulate, adding on to the aroma as well as nutrients like calcium, magnesium, iron and phosphorous. Alternatively, cast iron or steel utensils can also act as strong replacements. They are found in any utensil shop.
4. Edible cutlery
Plastics can also transfer their harmful chemicals through cutlery. If the food is hot, the process is 55 times faster.
Owing to such dangerous effects of material, Narayan Peesapaty founded Bakey, a firm that makes cutleries from rice, millet, and wheat. Operational since 2011, these cutleries can be eaten after use or buried in the soil for decomposing.
5. Stainless steel ice-cube trays
Even plastic ice-cube trays are not free from BPA leaching. BPA-free plastic trays still have other chemicals. A great alternative is the steel ice-cube. They cool down much faster, aiding in ice-formation. They, too, can be found in most shops selling utensils.
6. Compostable garbage disposal bags
Most garbage disposal bags we use today in our everyday lives are thrown into landfills or dumps. Stray dogs and animals consume this plastic and fall fatally ill. The ones claiming to be biodegradable, too, land up in landfills, staying for years.
Compostable garbage bags, on the other hand, are made of substances like corn-starch or derivatives of vegetable oil, which breaks down completely in 180 days. Envigreen Bags is a company dealing in this product.
7. Paper/jute shopping bags
The plastic bags that we get during shopping sprees are usually thrown out. It is a much eco-friendlier to use paper bags while shopping for clothes, as they are re-usable and are easy on the environment when thrown. They also look classier when used in presenting gifts.
For buying vegetables, it is helpful to keep jute bags at home that can be taken for the heavy groceries. Both paper and jute bags are easily available in shops.
8. Returnable glass bottles for aerated drinks
While drinking aerated drinks, we often opt for the plastic bottles because of their portability. But given the harmful effects of leaching, isn’t it better to opt for the glass bottles instead? Most shops take it back after use for recycling. The choice is between a convenient but harmful option and a safer, eco-friendly option.
9. Biodegradable sanitary pads
Conventional sanitary pads use up to 90% of plastics in them that do not decompose for 800 years. Given that most women have to use it every month imagine the amount of such soiled sanitary napkins disposed of!
The government of India has recently promised biodegradable sanitary pads at lower costs. But it is yet to be proven of its efficacy at scale. Until then, menstrual cups are an important re-usable option that goes friendly on the environment. You can easily shop for it online.
10. Reusable coffee cups
Coffee shops are our frequent abode of peace and retreat. But most coffee shops use plastic cups that are heavy on the environment. To be on the safer side, it is better that you carry your mug for the coffee. Some restaurants sell cups with their sizes. Either you could buy one and re-use it on your subsequent visits, or refuse the plastic cup, asking for a paper one.
11. Bamboo toothbrush
Did you know that in India, about 150 million plastic toothbrushes are thrown away every month? All these toothbrushes take up about a1000 years to decompose.
A vital replacement in this field is the bamboo toothbrushes. They are good on the environment on disposal, and much better for your teeth and health, as they are loaded with anti-microbial properties. Bamboo India is one of the leading companies selling these eco-friendly products.
12. Metal-based stationery
We do not realize it but the stationary meant for our ease is causing a lot of discomfort to the environment. Most of the stationery items – like pens, brushes, paint bottles – they are made of plastics.
Buying metal-based stationeries like the pens, scales, and sharpeners are little ways environment-friendly options could be chosen. For paint bottles, glass-based containers are much better than plastics. These can be found in good stationery shops.
13. Biodegradable accessories
Our earrings, necklaces, handbags are made of plastics. We easily discard them once broken. What we can choose, however, are eco-friendly materials in such accessories as recycled clothes used for making purses, earrings made of metal, etc. They are classier than the plastic alternatives. They are easily available in almost every jewellery shop.
14. DIY house cleaners
A lot of the cleaners around our houses come in plastic containers. To overcome this rampant plastic problem, it would be good to have a few DIY cleaning tricks up your sleeves so that you can make your cleaners. For example, did you know vinegar and baking soda make for an excellent stain remover from cupboards?
Find out our natural house cleaning recipes.
15. Horsehair scrubbing brushes
Most of our floor scrubs and brushes are plastic, posing the environmental threat. A wiser option, hence, would be to switch to horse-hair floor scrubbing brushes. They are efficient in cleaning floors and take care of the environment upon being thrown away. They are available online and offline. Amazon India has a few good options.
Some of us may fear that our change will be too small and might not be able to create a larger impact. But imagine this – if we, as a collective – refuse to buy brands with plastic packaging or consciously demand more eco-friendly options, the producers, too, will be motivated to cater to the demands. Thus, our small changes aggregated will make a big difference!