Lessening Your Impact on the Environment: Plastic

We are all aware of the state of the planet currently with global temperatures rising, polar ice caps melting and freak weather conditions and events occurring on a more regular basis. We are in difficult times as we try to find a balance by living our modern lives in a socially and environmentally conscious way. In order that we preserve our planet for future generations we need to be acting now. For those of us from countries with a better developed infra-structure, that can sometimes seem hard in Bali. At home my local municipal arranged for recycling pick-up, provided us with compost bins and ran excellent public transportation. These things are so not readily available in Bali, even to the consumer who is willing to pay to help the environment. I am going to run a few articles on some simple ideas for actions you can take to reduce your environmental load.

There can be no doubt that plastic is truly an environmental evil. Non-biodegradable it never breaks down and returns to the earth like organic waste does. When burned (as it is so often here) it releases dangerous, noxious gases which contribute to respiratory illness and poison the atmosphere, killing plant and animal life. Make a pledge to reduce plastic usage. As with most things, a change in habits is a little difficult to implement at first, but pays dividends when it becomes second nature.

Start to take a material bag to the shops whenever you go out. If you forget to do this and are forced to use plastic then use only as many plastic bags as you need; shop assistants here seem to put things inside plastic bags, inside further plastic bags. Use the largest bag you need to comfortably fit everything, rather than several small bags.

Observe where you shop, if they double wrap things in cling-film or routinely put everything in plastic, then see if there is somewhere else to shop that doesn’t follow these practices. I actually prefer to go to the local market for all fruits and vegetables. At first they look at you really strangely when you say you don’t want a plastic bag and ask them to tip all your different foods into one material bag, but eventually they get the message and now they don’t ask me any more. Not only can you drastically reduce plastic when you shop at the market but you are also often supporting single local farmers who don’t use pesticides on a commercial basis. And of course the produce is cheaper than from the supermarket.

When ordering take-away food; let the staff know that you do not require throw-away cutlery, and that you rather that your food is not sent in plastic or Styrofoam. Cardboard or paper, whilst not ideal either, are still preferable.

Always carry your own refillable water bottle, these days many places run refill services. Get into the habit of filling it up from your house gallon before you go out. If you forget to take your own bottle out and about with you, buy the largest size water available. Several small bottles in one day can add up and incur a much larger overall plastic usage.

If you have baby who wears nappies, use a washable type, not plastic “pampers”. You will need around twenty nappies and a couple of outside “holders” to keep them fastened. Washable nappies last until your child needs the next size and can still be used for your next baby. After washing hang them in the sun to sterilize and naturally bleach them.

Incidentally never store anything wrapped in cling-film or in a plastic bag, or in a non-reusable bottle. Plastic comes in many grades. Soft plastic, like cling-film, bags or non-reusable bottles is very permeable. If something warm or cold is stored in these items, the structure of the plastic easily breaks down and chemicals leak into your food. Hard plastic should always be used for the storage of food or drink items, especially hot fluids or those going to be stored in the fridge.

It is actually virtually impossible to avoid any plastic usage at all. For those items which you must buy that have plastic packaging, make sure you recycle. Think of the money it costs as your personal contribution to the environment. Believe me it will be bringing you karmic rewards. Even recycling has it’s environmental cost in terms of the energy which is used for the recycling process, but it is still far better to recycle than throw away or burn.

If you have any influence upon others, local or expat, set an example to them with your actions, and instill the importance of behaving in tune with nature into your children.

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