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How to Take Steps to Make Your Home a Plastic-Free Environment

How to Take Steps to Make Your Home a Plastic-Free Environment

Plastic is all around us.

If you take a look around yourself, you’re likely to see a plethora of plastic in just about every place you look. Sitting here at my desk, I’m typing on my laptop’s plastic keys, and my glasses’ case has a hard plastic shell. The throw blanket nearby is made of microfiber, as are the base of my birds’ cage, my curtain rods, and the pens in a cup nearby. Plastic is all around us, and it’s toxic.

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Many studies have discussed plastic’s negative, poisonous effects on the natural environment, and more information surfaces every day about its effects on our bodies as well.

Bisphenol-A (or BPA) has been recognized as an endocrine-disrupting chemical since the 1940s, yet it’s a building block in polycarbonate plastic products made all over the world. Most commonly, it’s found in disposable water bottles and food packaging, the linings in cans, and even in the PVC that lines water pipes in most homes. It’s estimated that over 90% of North Americans have BPA in their blood and tissue, and unlike other toxins, BPA not only sticks around indefinitely—it accumulates. It can even be transferred from mothers to their unborn children, and traces have been found in the bodies of fetuses and newborns.

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“It’s an endocrine disruptor and in numerous animal studies it’s been linked to cancer, infertility, obesity and early puberty,” says Anila Jacob, M.D., M.P.H., a senior scientist at the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit research and advocacy organization in Washington, D.C. “The CDC has found this chemical in 93 percent of people they have tested,” she says. 

What Can We Do About It?

It’s unlikely that any of us will be able to completely eliminate our exposure to plastic, as we run into them every time we leave the house, but we can make wise choices about the items we bring into our homes. Choosing products made of glass, wood, ceramic, and other natural materials is of vital importance to your well-being, and you can start living a healthier, more plastic-free life today.

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Eliminating Plastic

Unless you have a significant amount of cash to toss around, it’s not advisable to throw out every piece of plastic in your place in one fell swoop and replace it all with healthier alternatives. Much like getting rid of a wardrobe that you’re no longer happy with, eliminate one piece at a time and replace it with something new. You can also be more aware of the choices you make when you’re out shopping so you can minimize your exposure to these toxins.

  • Every time you finish a jar of something, whether it’s pasta sauce, jam, baby food, or pickles, save the jar: wash and dry it thoroughly, and then use it to store things instead of using plastic containers. These are ideal for dry goods, leftovers, craft supplies, pet food, and more.
  • Stop using disposable water bottles. A one-time investment of $20 or so will get you a stainless steel or glass drinking bottle that will last the rest of your life. That’s a far cry better than constantly shelling out cash for bottled water, and is healthier for both you, and the environment. Tap water is more highly regulated than bottled water, but you can always use filters for extra cleansing if you like.
  • Skip the acrylics and polyester clothing and wear natural fibers instead. Poly-cotton blends might be a little more wrinkle-free, but what’s a little ironing when it comes to your health and well-being? Clothing made of plant-sourced fibers like cotton, linen, hemp, bamboo, corn, soy, etc. can be found just about everywhere now, and these fibers are just as beautiful, durable, and stylish as their plastic alternatives. Those in colder climates can go for ethically-sourced wool for warmth, and make sure to dress in layers.
  • Do your research. Check out websites like lifewithoutplastic.com to get an idea of the many different options that are available for everything from lunch boxes and toys to shaving razors, hair brushes, and  toothbrushes.
  • Examine everything. Check labels on your clothing, your children’stoys, and all of your personal care products to determine how many items are made with plastic synthetics. Check labels before buying anything new, and if materials aren’t listed for something you’re interested in, contact the company.
  • Replace your personal care products. If you find that any of your body care products, from deodorants and moisturizers to nail polish or baby care items, contain pthalates, toss them out. Your wardrobe won’t impact your health quite as much as the chemical toxins found in these products (since they’re applied directly to your body), so it’s best to replace these sooner rather than later.
  • Transfer purchased products. If your juice comes in a plastic jug, transfer it to glass bottles as soon as you get home and recyclethe container it came in. The same goes for any other item you’ve bought that’s wrapped or contained in plastic—get it into a healthier container asap. When you go shopping, be sure to bring your own reusable fabric bags as well.

Dr. Erika Nikiforuk N.D. (Naturopathic Doctor) mentioned the importance of detoxifying your life on the White Lotus Integrative Medicine homepage:

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“Minimizing the use of plastics, especially in the kitchen, is critical to good health. Chemicals found in plastics are powerful inhibitors of endocrine and reproductive health and can have effects on adults and children alike.”

Take a few moments every day to be mindful of the plastic items you come into direct contact with. It might be helpful to keep a notebook handy so you can jot down your observations about the items you surround yourself with, and hold near your body. Or in it, for that matter; like plastic tampon applicators, dental floss, and ear plugs.

Some people might argue that they have to use plastic items because the alternatives are too expensive, and buying cheap plastic products from dollar stores and low-budget shops is far more affordable. In those situations, it’s important to consider the alternatives: investing in health for the long-term is well worth a few extra dollars. After all, what’s more expensive? Shelling out a few more dollars for glass cups instead of plastic ones? Or paying for infertility and cancer treatments?

We could all do with a little less plastic in our lives, and eliminating even a third of the items we have in our homes can improve our health and well-being.

More by this author

Catherine Winter

Catherine is a wordsmith covering lifestyle tips on Lifehack.

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Last Updated on July 10, 2020

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

How to Take Control of Your Life with Better Boundaries

We all have them—those hurtful, frustrating, offensive, manipulative people in our lives. No matter how hard we try to surround ourselves with positive and kind people, there will always be those who will disrespect, insult, berate, and misuse you if we allow them to.

We may, for a variety of reasons, not be able to avoid them, but we can determine how we interact with them and how we allow them to interact with us.

So, how to take control of your life and stop being pushed around?

Learning to set clear firm boundaries with the people in our lives at work and in our personal lives is the best way to protect ourselves from the negative effects of this kind of behavior.

What Boundaries Are (And What They’re Not)

Boundaries are limits

—they are not threats or ultimatums. Boundaries inform or teach. They are not a form of punishment.

Boundaries are firm lines—determined by you—which cannot be crossed by those around you. They are guidelines for how you will allow others to treat you and what kind of behaviors you will expect.

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Healthy personal boundaries help protect you from physical or emotional pain. You may also need to set firm boundaries at work to ensure you and your time are not disrespected. Don’t allow others to take advantage of your kindness and generosity.

Clear boundaries communicate to others that you demand respect and consideration—that you are willing to stand up for yourself and that you will not be a doormat for anyone. They are a “no trespassing” sign that makes it very clear when a line has been crossed and that there will be consequences for doing so.

Boundaries are not set with the intention of changing other people. They may change how people interact with you, but they are more about enforcing your needs than attempting to change the general behavior and attitude of others.

How to Establish Boundaries and Take Control of Your Life

Here are some ways that you can establish boundaries and take control of your life.

1. Self-Awareness Comes First

Before you can establish boundaries with others, you first need to understand what your needs are.

You are entitled to respect. You have the right to protect yourself from inappropriate or offensive behavior. Setting boundaries is a way of honoring your needs.

To set appropriate boundaries, you need to be clear about what healthy behaviors look like—what healthy relationships look like.

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You first have to become more aware of your feelings and honest with yourself about your expectations and what you feel is appropriate behavior:

  • Where do you need to establish better boundaries?
  • When do you feel disrespected?
  • When do you feel violated, frustrated, or angered by the behavior of others?
  • In what situations do you feel you are being mistreated or taken advantage of?
  • When do you want to be alone?
  • How much space do you need?

You need to honor your own needs and boundaries before you can expect others to honor them. This allows you to take control of your life.

2. Clear Communication Is Essential

Inform others clearly and directly what your expectations are. It is essential to have clear communication if you want others to respect your boundaries. Explain in an honest and respectful tone what you find offensive or unacceptable.

Many people simply aren’t aware that they are behaving inappropriately. They may never have been taught proper manners or consideration for others.

3. Be Specific but Don’t Blame

Taking a blaming or punishing attitude automatically puts people on the defensive. People will not listen when they feel attacked. It’s part of human nature.

That said, you do not need to overexplain or defend yourself. Boundaries are not open to compromise.

Sample language:

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  • “You may not…yell or raise your voice to me…”
  • “I need…to be treated with respect…”
  • “It’s not okay when…you take things from my desk without asking…”
  • “I won’t…do your work…cover for you anymore…”
  • “It’s not acceptable when…you ridicule or insult me…”
  • “I am uncomfortable when…you use offensive language”
  • “I will no longer be able to…lend you money…”

Being able to communicate these without sounding accusatory is essential if you want others to respect your boundaries so you can take control of your life.

4. Consequences Are Often Necessary

Determine what the appropriate consequences will be when boundaries are crossed. If it’s appropriate, be clear about those consequences upfront when communicating those boundaries to others.

Follow through. People won’t respect your boundaries if you don’t enforce them.

Standing our ground and forcing consequences doesn’t come easily to us. We want to be nice. We want people to like us, but we shouldn’t have to trade our self-respect to gain friends or to achieve success.

We may be tempted to let minor disrespect slide to avoid conflict, but as the familiar saying goes, “if you give people an inch, they’ll take a mile.”

It’s much easier to address offensive or inappropriate behavior now than to wait until that behavior has gotten completely out of hand.

It’s also important to remember that positive reinforcement is even more powerful than negative consequences. When people do alter the way they treat you, acknowledge it. Let people know that you notice and appreciate their efforts.

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Final Thoughts

Respect is always a valid reason for setting a boundary. Don’t defend yourself or your needs. Boundaries are often necessary to protect your time, your space, and your feelings. And these are essential if you want to take control of your life.

Start with the easiest boundaries first. Setting boundaries is a skill that needs to be practiced. Enlist support from others if necessary. Inform people immediately when they have crossed the line.

Don’t wait. Communicate politely and directly. Be clear about the consequences and follow them through.

The better you become at setting your own boundaries, the better you become at recognizing and respecting the boundaries of others.

Remember that establishing boundaries is your right. You are entitled to respect. You can’t control how other people behave, but you do have control over the way you allow people to treat you.

Learning to set boundaries is not always easy, but with time, it will become more comfortable. You may eventually find that boundaries become automatic and you no longer need to consciously set them.

They will simply become a natural extension of your self-respect.

Featured photo credit: Thomas Kelley via unsplash.com

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