What's your plastic footprint?

Sun, Sep. 7, 2014
Your trash can tell you how much plastic has infiltrated your life
By Bernadette Simpson
You may know about your carbon footprint, but what do you know about your “plastic footprint?” How much plastic trash are you responsible for? How much trash do you send to the landfill? How much is recycled? Activist and author Beth Terry has been collecting and tallying her plastic trash since 2007, and she encourages others to participate in the Plastic Trash Challenge: “Do you know your plastic footprint? Join others from around the world. Collect your plastic waste (both recyclable and non) for one week or more. Then photograph, tally, and post it here.” On the page about the rules for the challenge, it states that “Guilt is not encouraged. Nor are comparisons with other people whom you perceive to be doing “worse” or “better” than you in terms of plastic waste. This exercise is for purely educational purposes. Guilt doesn’t help.” Actually, it goes on to say that two more times. That's how important the message is. The challenge is meant to teach you, to show you the amount of plastic trash you are responsible for and hopefully encourage you to find ways to lessen your plastic footprint. While I never participated in the Plastic Trash Challenge, it did prompt me to take a closer look at what I was “throwing away”. Here's a quick list of some of the plastic that used to end up in my trash: • plastic bags for: flour, sugar, salt, pasta, bread, lentils, beans, eggs, take-away food, laundry soap • plastic bottles for: olive oil, vegetable oil, vinegar, tahina, molasses, honey, dish soap, shampoo • plastic boxes for: helawa, cheese, sour cream • polystyrene trays/plastic wrap for: cheese, nuts, strawberries, butter, agwa, meat • Tetra Paks for: milk, buttermilk, juice • yogurt containers • plastic packages for tissue, kitchen towels, and toilet paper rolls • tubes of toothpaste, deodorant cream, shaving cream This list is not exhaustive. There are plenty of other items that end up in my trash, just not on a regular basis. (And some of these items still end up in my trash.) It made it clear, though, that while REFUSING plastic shopping bags and bottled water was a good start, I could do more to reduce my plastic footprint. In her book Plastic Free — How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too, Ms. Terry recommends considering the following questions after you've taken a look at the plastic you “throw away”: • Which items can you replace with plastic-free or less-plastic alternatives? • Which items could you give up? • Which items are essential? • Which items have no alternative? • Are lifestyle changes necessary to rid your life of some of these plastic items? Over the last few years, we have been able to find plastic-free or less-plastic alternatives for many of the items on our list. And that, of course, is what this blog is really about: sharing with you these alternative practices and products that are available and practical here in Egypt. Stay tuned. Over the new few weeks and months, we'll be exploring and discussing the questions posed by Ms. Terry and how we can each reduce our plastic footprint by going beyond REFUSING plastic shopping bags.

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle

Bernadette Simpson is the author of the field guide Wandering through Wadis: A nature-lover’s guide to the flora of South Sinai and An ABC Escapade through Egypt. To learn more about her campaign to reduce disposable plastic, visit: DontMesswithDahab_Cover Image Don't Mess with Dahab Wordpress Blog: http://dontmesswithdahab.wordpress.com/ Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Dont-Mess-with-Dahab/548828135199063 Twitter: https://twitter.com/DontMessDahab
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