SAN DIEGO — Change can be hard for a lot of people to embrace. But what if I told you that if you started small and kept a positive attitude, lifestyle choices like maybe using a metal stainless steel water bottle or swapping out plastic utensils and using some metal ones, could actually have a long-lasting impact on the health of our state and our planet. Are you in?
"A lot of people think, oh it's going to be expensive, it's going to be hard. They come up with all of these false excuses and it's really much easier than people think to go plastic free," said Sandra Ann Harris.
Sandra is the founder of ECO Lunchbox, a company that specializes in making plastic free, nontoxic re-useable food containers to help you in your everyday life. She's also the author of "Say Goodbye To Plastic." She calls it an invitation to join this Earth conscious lifestyle. In her book, she discusses topics including how to eliminate single-use plastics from your daily routine. She also said this will mean more money in your wallet.
"A typical American family, based on the study we did at ECO Lunchbox, can save $432, just by not doing prepackaged single use in their lunches," said Sandra.
This is if you buy food in bulk and store them in reusable containers like hers. But, here's a bombshell! She also mentioned re-useable alternatives for two common items that most people recycle, when in fact, they are plastic waste.
"A lot of single-use plastics that are super sneaky that people actually don't recognize as plastics, I think, are the typical coffee cup. The to-go coffee cup is one of those. People all the time will tell me, but this is paper. It'll totally fine. I'll just put it in the recycling," said Sandra. She continues, "the truth of the matter is once paper is lined with some kind of a plastic, it's not recyclable and it's not compostable. It's only trash."
Sandra said the same thing about brown takeout boxes with a plastic lining inside of them.
"They may have a recycling symbol on the bottom and it may feel really eco to get your takeout in one of those brown, kinda origami boxes. But unfortunately, even though the material used was of recycled paper in a craft color, it's not an eco-friendly option," said Sandra.
Sandra has suggestions for you the next time you need a roasted pick me up or don't have time to cook.
"A pulp container that can be composted after you've eaten your takeout meal would be a much better choice. And in terms of the reusable coffee cup, we're so lucky that most coffee shops now are again accepting re-useable cups," said Sandra.
If your favorite coffee shop, cafe or restaurant doesn't offer re-usable alternatives, Sandra suggests kindly speaking up and using your voice to propose the idea. She also stressed using our voices in other ways to advocate for this lifestyle.
"Talking to our local, state and federal leaders to say, let's put in place structures and support, so we don't have to have this tidal wave of plastic entering our home and our environment," said Sandra.
She views this push for a plastic-free life, in her words, as a team sport not a competition against our neighbors. Sandra said we all need to seriously think about the harmful nature of this material.
"Plastic is very insidious. It gets its way into everything. A lot of people don't even think about it. Plastic has a strong connection to climate change as well. You know were pulling the gas and petroleum out of the Earth and it's being manufactured into these plastic products and trucked all over and often incinerated at end of life, so there's a real carbon footprint associated with our own personal plastic footprints," concludes Harris.
Sandra said she understands some restaurants are hesitant to use your reusable items from people's homes due to the pandemic. She's more hopeful when case numbers and restrictions are on a downward trend. But, she has a few more personal suggestions like wearing clothes made from renewable materials or using a bamboo toothbrush rather than the plastic one you toss after a few months.
For more and to check out her book and products, go to www.ecolunchbox.com
WATCH RELATED: Road made of recycled plastic at UC San Diego is first of its kind in America (Nov. 2019)