I have been proudly living plastic-free for over one year. As a conscious consumer, I no longer buy items in plastic, preferring items that can biodegrade naturally rather than those that will sit around for hundreds of years.
That is not to say my life is devoid of plastic. There are still many moments when my hands come into contact with the material (for example, on public transport, or at work), but, as a whole, I try my best to avoid products made of plastic and items that cannot be recycled.
Though I took the plunge to live plastic-free for environmental reasons, I was shocked and pleased to see how my diet improved.
A glance at any supermarket aisle or corner store and your vision will be graced with never-ending food packaged in plastic. I can still remember my food cupboard littered with the material. Everything seemed to have some form of plastic associated with it, but it was not necessary. After all, human beings survived for thousands of years devoid of packaged bread and ready-made meals.
There is research suggesting that the chemicals in plastic packaging are contributing to weight gain.(1) The chemical bisphenol A (BPA) has been found to mimic hormones in the body, tricking your body into thinking it is eating more than what’s going into your mouth.
By avoiding plastic, I am exposing my body to fewer chemicals and reducing my risk of deadly diseases.
Due to hidden plastic linings in some soda cans and take-away coffee cups, I have given up both of these foods (and money wasters). I carry a water bottle that can be refilled, which is better than any soda and cheaper than a takeaway coffee.
Here are some of the other ways living plastic-free improved my diet and my life:
1. Less Junk Food.
An absurd amount of junk food is wrapped in plastic or packaging that cannot be recycled. Giving up plastic took away the ability for me to prop myself up with a prepackaged, sugary snack from the local convenience store during the usual afternoon slump.
Packaging is not the only plastic I avoid. Think about all the fast food joints that carry single use items like plates, cups, and straws. Unless I have my own plate, cup or straw, I don’t have a choice to eat fast food. Most big fast food companies ban B.Y.O. cutlery and plates. Food courts have also become a no-go zone. It’s a ceramic plate and metal straw, or nothing.
2. Less Takeaway, More Eating In.
Getting food to go or takeaway without plastic is not easy. If I have a craving for green curry but can’t be bothered to cook it, then I have to go to the restaurant and enjoy it with a regular plate and metal cutlery. The chances of that happening are usually slim and my wallet is definitely happier. Instead, I just use up what I have in my fridge, which is healthier, and less food is wasted.
3. Less Rushing.
Many of the food and beverages that are available exist because we feel that we do not have time, or we can’t take the time, to sit down and enjoy them. Who is to say I am not worth the time? If I need it, then I make time to sit-in and enjoy my meal. Who is to say it is not worth taking five minutes in a cute coffee shop? Taking time out is much better for stress levels than grabbing a drink to go. Less stress, better health!
4. Less Sugar.
Besides the sugar that we know is in junk food, there is also the hidden sugar in packaged goods like pasta, bread, sauces and pre-packaged meals. Many of these foods I have taught myself to make, or, I support locals in my community who sell healthier options that I can buy in reusable glass bottles or reusable bags.
I have also found that a lot of the pre-packaged food items I thought I needed could be done without.
I really don’t need a chocolate bar. The world will keep turning without it.
Seeing results in my skin and waist line; not to mention, my energy, keeps me just as motivated to stick to the real, un-packaged food, and skip the overly processed, sugar-laden food.
5. More Vegetables and Fruit.
When I first went plastic-free I was limited (that’s how it felt) to the vegetable and fruit section of the supermarket. Once I began cooking, I realized that I was not limited at all! Instead, my culinary world was opened up as I trespassed through the un-packaged fresh food. I ate less meat and more vegetables, and discovered that vegetables are just as fun and tasty as fried chicken.
Eating more fresh fruits and vegetables is important for our health, and good for the planet’s health, too.
6. Learning New Skills.
My cooking skills grew in leaps and bounds. I was inspired to make some of the food that I would normally buy at the supermarket, such as: bread, tomato sauce, mustard, mayonnaise, pasta, pie crusts, jams, chutneys, etc. The power of making your own food allows you to make food to your own taste. Plus, your friends will be impressed with your new skills.
7. Saving Money.
When choice is taken away, there is less ability to waste money. There used to be many trips to the supermarket in the past that saw me buying items just because they looked good or because I thought I might do something with them later on. Now, my shopping is planned because I have to take my own bags and containers to collect my food. If I don’t have a bag or container, then I am not tempted to spend my money on an item because it happens to be on sale. My weekly shopping bill fell by $60.
You don’t have to give up plastic completely in one big shift. It is a slow process, but I can guarantee that the benefits are great for your health and for the health of the earth!
(1) “BPA linked to obesity risk in puberty-age girls.” Science Daily.
“Rapid Insulinotropic Action of Low Doses of Bisphenol-A on Mouse and Human Islets of Langerhans: Role of Estrogen Receptor β.” PLOS ONE.
Love elephant and want to go steady?
Author: Erin Rhoads
Assistant Editor: Leah K / Editor: Renee Picard
Photo Credit: Author’s Own