Hot debate surrounds the topic of what’s eco-friendly and while there’s lots of information about the drawbacks of plastic, are the alternatives really that much safer? Our planet is literally plastic choked. The recent BBC documentary creating awareness on preserving the environment in which David Attenborough and Prince William’s join forces for the Earthshot Prize – Nobel prize for environmentalism , £50m to be awarded over a decade, reminds us of the urgency to find solutions to some of the environment problems in the world.
We know that lots of chemicals can be found in plastic products and by-products and therefore it makes sense to live a plastic-free life. Earth Day has been calling for years to end plastic pollution. It’s an irrefutable FACT that microplastics are present in almost ALL the water systems of the world.
Global bodies including the Environment Protection Agency in Canada as well as the FDA have likewise all raised concerns about the dangers of plastic and in particular materials such as BPA, a weak synthetic estrogen found in many rigid plastic products. BPA leaches out of plastic products 55 times faster when it’s being used as a container for serving hot food. According to The Guardian, more than 80% of teenagers have the chemical BPA in their bodies. Are we literally poisoning our children with plastic?
So the question remains, are “green” alternatives all they’re promoted to be and how can you break your current plastic habit?
Let’s investigate further and find out how you can adopt a more conscious attitude that embraces eternal and sustainable living.
Natural alternatives to plastic, especially when it comes to everyday items such as cutlery and tableware, cooking vessels, and storage containers, include materials such bamboo, glass, and more luxurious eternal elements like sterling silver.
But, which, if any, are genuinely eco-friendly? And which, conversely, may still be contributing a negative impact on our planet?
Before we go on to take a look at some of the plastic-free alternatives, let’s recap on just why plastic is so bad for you, your environment, and the planet we inhabit.
Plastic Pollution – The Facts
It’s an undeniable fact that plastic, in particular single-use plastic, is having a hugely negative impact on our environment. According to the National Geographic, only 9% of the plastic waste we’re currently producing can be physically recycled. Worse still, estimates suggest that plastic could take thousands, not hundreds of years to denigrate.
Plastic pollutes, seeping toxic chemicals into our rivers and oceans, as well as the water we drink. As we previously mentioned, according to Earthday, a staggering 93% of all the bottled water we consume contains microplastic contamination. That’s notwithstanding the untold damage that is being wreaked on our marine life.
100,000 sea animals are killed every single year as a direct result of plastic waster. There are some 8 million tonnes of plastic waste entering our oceans every year. Not only does that waste kill our valuable marine wildlife but it also unwittingly ends up being eaten by humans because the microplastics eaten by commercially caught fish, are harvested for our consumption.
As Sir David Attenborough says,
“Surely we have a responsibility to care for our blue planet.”
He went as far as to say that the future not just of humanity but indeed all life on earth was dependent upon each and every one of us taking action and a firm stance against plastic pollution. It’s in our hands.
So we know that plastic is bad but how do the alternatives stack up when it comes to being both ethical and green and what are the most common alternatives?
Popular “Green” Alternatives to Plastic
If you’d like to experiment with less plastic in your home and clogging up the world, here are some of the alternative materials you can consider.
This material benefits from being durable and easy to clean. It’s a good option for food storage containers and can be used to replace single-use cups, lunch boxes, etc.
A fast-growing and renewable source, bamboo is frequently used to replace plastic in everyday items such as drinking straws and tableware. It benefits from being durable, lightweight, and compostable so it degrades quickly and easily. That all sounds great, right? But what a lot of people don’t realise is that reusable bamboo mugs can leach dangerous amounts of formaldehyde and melamine especially when filled with hot liquids. Not exactly what you want for your toddler now is it?
Similarly, wood is another highly sought after renewable resource and can be used to replace household items including chopping boards and kitchen utensils. Just be sure to always select wood that comes from sustainably managed forests.
While it’s not biodegradable and therefore arguably not really eco-friendly, glass does benefit from being infinitely recyclable and all manner of jars can “up-cycled” and used for low-cost food storage and so much more. Anyone with a modicum of creativity can turn a jam jar into a homemade gift with some clever decorations. It hardly screams “luxurious eternal living” though and the major disadvantage it has over sterling silver, for example, is that it can easily be broken and therefore isn’t enduring. Would you really want to run the risk of even a small piece of chipped glass entering your child’s digestive system?
Flexible and versatile, silicone is frequently found in bakeware. It’s space-saving and easy to clean but not without its issues. It can easily crack and tear and at high temperatures can denigrate. While it’s good for use in an oven, silicone can’t be used on a stove burner or hot plate. But silicone isn’t just unsuitable for your stove burner either! We’ve all heard the horror stories about what happens when silicone leaks into the body. We’re talking autoimmune problems and contributing towards a weakened immune system overall. Again, is it really worth taking the risk?
Not only does sterling silver look elegant, but it also benefits from having antibiotic and antibacterial benefits that can help kill living entities like algae, fungi, and bacteria. More than 2/3rds of silver are a byproduct of mining other base metals. Eco friendly methods of extracting minerals are becoming popular in the mining industry.
Silver is further promoted for its natural immune-boosting benefits and is the ideal vessel for serving hot food. Those silver serving platters you see at dinner parties and fine-dining venues aren’t just for show. They have beneficial hygienic properties. You get the best of both worlds. It looks good AND it fights bacterial bugs!
What’s even more impressive is that the benefits of silver are more importantly, backed by science. From destroying antibacterial bacteria in the body to healing wounds, killing viruses to containing anti-inflammatory properties, silver is nothing short of a remarkable mineral.
Here are just some of our favourite facts about silver but there are countless more.
- Silver objects have been found dating back as far as 4000BC
- Ancient civilisations learned to separate silver from lead around 3000BC
- Silver has been mined for over 6000 years
- Silver is the most reflective element
- Along with gold it’s the most malleable metal – one ounce of silver can be made into a wire 8000 feet long
- Most of the worlds silver today is found in Mexico and Peru along with US, Canada, Russia and Australia
- Silver is the best electric conductor of all the element
- Silver is not toxic to humans
- It’s been used as money since 700BC
- The most common form of silver is sterling silver
Do the planet and not just yourself a favour
Step away from any single-use products, regardless of what material they’re made of. Instead, invest in quality, durable, and dependable everyday treasures, heirlooms, and practical products made from sterling silver instead.
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Image Source: Kensington Palace, Prince William, Duke of Cambridge and Sir David Attenborough discuss The Earthshot Prize at Kensington Palace, in London, England. (Photo by Kensington Palace via Getty Images)