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Waste Not, Want Not

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An introduction to zero waste living

The problem with plastics and waste: it’s us! 

waste not want not

More plastic in the sea by weight than fish by 2050?!(1)

Plastic NEVER biodegrades? It only breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces?! And those pieces enter our food chain?!

What?! Recycling isn’t the perfect solution?

Ho-ly COW. Cue panic attack!

These were just a few of the mind-blowing, and frankly terrifying, facts I came across in 2016 that led to the concept for Unwrapped Life.

Prior to late night nursing sessions with my eldest child, I had never come across information related to plastic use, other than I knew some products contained a bad thing called BPA, and I best avoid it if possible. In fact, I’m ashamed to admit, but I naively thought that since I was a stickler for recycling and I reused water bottles, I was doing my part. I was not following the waste not, want not philosophy. 

It wasn’t until something popped up in my news feed on Facebook - the viral video of the turtle with the straw stuck in its nose (caution: disturbing content) - that I went down the rabbit hole of reading articles about plastic waste, and waste in general.

And that is when my anxiety skyrocketed (likely made worse by the sleep deprivation that comes with being a new parent). I felt helpless in the face of such a large scale problem, and I felt conflicted. I mean, surely not all plastic is bad, right? Just look at modern medicine and hospitals, where most of the equipment and supplies that save lives are made of the stuff. And car seats! And other amazing inventions that actually seem to help society and the world!

What I came to realize was that it isn't plastic per se that is the problem; it is our casual attitude towards a very robust and quite amazing material that is the issue. The fact that we view one of the most ingenious and resource intensive materials of our time as something so disposable is a sad reflection on our society. Think about it: that plastic package your food comes in was once a hydrocarbon (ethane or propane) buried deep underground. To make that product you mindlessly throw away, that petroleum-based hydrocarbon had to be extracted from the ground, transported to several processing facilities and then finally formed into what you hold in your hands. It’s a whole lot of effort and resources for something we use once and throw away.

The expression ‘waste not, want not’ means that if you do not use too much of something now, you will have some left when you need it later. This is where I’m at with plastics. I have come to view it as an extremely valuable resource, just like the petroleum that it is derived from. A change of attitude towards this material is what’s needed to save us, and our planet, from ourselves.

The good news is there are many people waking up to the idea of cutting down the waste they produce. If you search the term ‘zero waste’, you’ll see there is a whole movement towards actively minimizing waste (some amazing leaders in this area have only produced a mason jar of trash in a year)!

A few tips to get started on cutting down plastics in your life include bringing reusable bags with you while shopping, saying ‘no’ to plastic straws, and transitioning towards products that use minimal or no plastic packaging (like our hair bars, for example)! We’ll be exploring many other ways to cut down on plastics and waste in this blog, as well as investigate overall issues of sustainability, so stay tuned!

Photo by Jakob Owens on Unsplash

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