Tuesday, July 28, 2020

Tips for reducing your plastic waste

As the Plastic Free July challenge winds down, DEC has an update on how their participants are faring with their own personal goals. Here are some of the creative things they have been doing:

Kayla’s Goal: Reduce plastic meal packaging, beverage jugs, and toiletries

“One of my goals during Plastic Free July was finding and using sunscreen that doesn’t come in a plastic tube or bottle. After a lot of research I found the choices were limited, so I decided to contact sunscreen companies to start a conversation about their packaging. I personalized and tailored each correspondence, making sure to research the company beforehand to include persuasive facts about their sustainability practices and sunscreen usage facts in general. I contacted…

  • Four major sunscreen brands and another major skin care brand that offers sunscreen and focuses on sustainability. Within a few hours, I received general replies from three of these companies. A few days later I received a similar reply from the fourth company.
  • A smaller sunscreen company with sustainability in mind. They informed me of positive strides they’ve made with their sunscreen containers, such as incorporating post-consumer recycled content, and challenges they faced in moving away from plastic packaging. I now plan to delve into this further as it may be part of the reason why plastic packaging is so prevalent for sunscreen. They were also open to future suggestions about this topic.
  • A small business that offers plastic free options. They don’t sell sunscreen yet but informed me of their interest in reducing their plastic use potentially through offering a refill option.

Prior to this experience, I had never directly contacted a company about environmental issues and found it to be inspiring, especially when I heard back, and would encourage others to do the same. I always thought, ‘they’ll never listen to me’, but my experience showed me companies are willing to listen and share thoughts and experiences to start a conversation in an effort to make positive changes for the future of our environment.”

Nasibah’s Goal: Reduce plastic use in the kitchenKefir Water

“Before starting this challenge, I couldn’t help but notice how much of my avoidable plastic waste was related to food and the kitchen. I really wanted to challenge myself to reduce as much of that as I could by making my own foods and beverages and seeking out bulk, package-free products. I’m still working on getting my oat milk recipe just right, but in the meantime, I’ve been experimenting with making a few other plastic-free drinks and foods at home.”

  • Water Kefir: “If you haven’t heard about water kefir, you’re not alone! I only discovered this interesting drink a couple of months ago. Water kefir is a bubbly, slightly fermented drink made with water, sugar, and water kefir grains. It’s similar to kombucha, but the whole brewing process is done in only 24-48 hours! Water kefir tastes milder, and you can use it as a healthier, probiotic-rich replacement for soda. It’s caffeine- and dairy-free so it may be suitable for many people (disclaimer: try it out slowly if you’re sensitive to acidic foods/drinks). If you’re looking for a fun way to make some delicious, healthy, zero-waste drinks to enjoy on a hot summer afternoon, give it a try!”
  • Oatmeal: “Oatmeal is one of my favorite breakfast foods because it works well for both slow and busy mornings. To make a quick breakfast, I used to pop a single-serving oatmeal packet in the microwave. They’re an easy, on-the-go breakfast, but come with some unnecessary waste. One of my goals was to make my own oatmeal mix and store it in single-serving portions as needed. I portioned the oatmeal mix in small, reusable snack bags and they were a great replacement for the store-bought packets. Doing it this way gave me all the convenience of single-serve oatmeal packets without any of the waste! I was also able to customize it to reduce the sugar and add other ingredients like chia and ground sunflower seeds!”

Kristine’s Goal: Reduce plastic use in the bathroom

  • Online Shopping for Plastic Free Bathroom Items: “In the last newsletter, I mentioned that I would have to resort to purchasing a few plastic free bathroom items online since I couldn’t find them locally. This past week I purchased a bamboo toothbrush online and am doing research into buying a safety razor. I found it very interesting that when I went to the store looking for a non-plastic reusable razor, every single option for women was plastic based, only in the men’s section could I find non-plastic options. While this was disheartening, a quick internet search of safety razors for women brought me to multiple companies designing specifically for women in mind.”

 Amy’s Goal: Reduce plastics associated with makeup

“After realizing plastic-free lip stain and blush were as easy as using sliced beets that contain their own beautiful, natural, deep ruby stain, I was excited to try a DIY plastic free mascara, liner, and brow color. These products often come in plastic tubes and other containers. There are many DIY options out there that involve using activated charcoal or charred nuts and seeds mixed with various oils, butters, and waxes. Using this information, I came up with a recipe with what I had to try to mimic commercially available eye and brow makeup gels and pomades.”

  • Crushing Charred SeedsDIY Plastic Free Mascara, Eye Liner, and Brow Pomade: “My recipe used bulk sunflower seeds (without the shell or hull), a small all-beeswax candle (because I could not find plastic free beeswax otherwise), and coconut oil from a glass jar. To start, I chopped up the seeds and carefully charred them in a skillet- warning! Only do this under a good vent hood as it may create some smoke! You may even want to do it outside over a camp stove. Never leave a stove unattended. Once the seeds were blackened, I removed them from the heat and ground them with a wooden dowel (but a mortar and pestle would be ideal if you have one). Once it turns into a black paste, I added some beeswax (peeled from the candle with a vegetable peeler) that was melted in the microwave and a little bit of coconut oil and then poured the mixture into a tiny glass jar I had. After cooling in the fridge it turned into a nice, smooth formula. I applied it as eye liner and to my brows with a tiny, blunt wooden stick. I did apply it as mascara with a reused mascara wand I had.”
  • DIY Results: “I was actually surprised by the results! It looked really nice. I might want to experiment using more beeswax and maybe oil that’s more solid at room/ body temperature than coconut oil (like shea butter) to prevent smudging. It washes off easily with mild soap. This is definitely worth experimenting with again – I found it to be a relaxing and fun activity especially since so many of us are cooped up at home more than usual right now. It was an interesting experiment!”

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Information attributed to NYSDEC is taken from press releases and news announcements from New York State's Department of Environmental Conservation.

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