Last year, I made a New Year's resolution that I actually kept. My resolution worked for me because it combined an aspiration (why) with practical steps (how). The aspiration provided the inspiration and motivation and the practical steps let me actually do something about it.
My Resolution: Use Less Plastic
Why use less plastic
- The chemicals that leach from plastic into food probably cause many health problems, including lower IQs, lower fertility and altered sexual development, and higher risk of cancer. Embryos and growing children are at the most risk, but the chemicals affect fish and wildlife exposed to polluted water.
- Plastic is made from oil and natural gas, which generates greenhouse gasses and other pollution.
- Plastic, like paper, degrades each time it is recycled. Recycling processes can be polluting themselves, says 5 Gyres in The Truth About Recycling. With oil prices down, it's more likely that plastic won't be recyced at all.
- Plastic pollution is now like smog in the oceans, harming sea life, from fish and whales to seals and pelicans. If you eat seafood, this pollution comes directly back around to your plate.
How to use less plastic
Thinking about the why makes me willing to put up with the inconvenience of avoiding plastic. When I don't feel like washing out a plastic bag or whipping out a bamboo fork where everyone else is using plastic ones, I picture the health these small actions can bring to me, my Taster, dolphins, and sea turtles.
I was already eating mostly fresh, whole food with minimal packaging, bringing canvas bags to the grocery store, and carrying a stainless-steel water bottle. Here are the extra steps I took this year to put my New Year's resolution in action.
- Bought freezer-safe glass jars to refrigerate and freeze food.
- Put a reuseable grocery bag in the glove compartment to use on unplanned shopping trips
- Took a reuseable bag with me to Europe and bought another one there. Free bags were simply unavailable and asking for one made cashiers give you the hairy eyeball.
- Hung three canvas bags to sort plastic bags I couldn't avoid. 1) The untorn clean ones I take to the grocery store and farmers' market to reuse for fresh produce. Once I started recycling plastic produce bags, I wondered why I used to get a new bag every time I bought some apples or squash. 2) Worn out clean bags and other plastic wrappers go to the dry cleaners to be recycled. 3) Dirty bags replace "new" trash bags.
- Pack To-Go Ware bamboo cutlery (and a cloth napkin) in my purse when I go to events where food might be served. You could carry regular silverware too.
- Bring paper or canvas bags to take-out restaurants.
- Bring my water bottle to places that typically offer me bottled water, such as my the hair stylist.
- Replace plastic household items with metal, wood, or glass when needed. Years ago when I bought an electric kettle, I couldn't find one without plastic that touched the boiling water or steam. When that kettle broke this year, I replaced it with the new Secura water kettle. Unfortunately, it's still plastic on the outside.
These simple steps helped me make real progress on my resolution. I've avoided using hundreds of plastic bags this year and dozens of plastic forks, spoons, and bottles.
Succeeding with Other Healthy Eating Resolutions
Here are two more healthy eating resolutions to inspire you for this year, with example aspirations and practical steps to help you succeed.
Eat the Optimal Amount of Protein
Nearly everyone who is not starving gets enough protein. In fact, most people get too much. Resolve to get about 9% of your calories from protein and to focus on plant-based sources.
- Why? You'll reduce your risk of early death and slow climate change.
- How? Eat all or mostly plants. Start by cooking a pot of beans every week. Save the broth from cooking chickpeas to replace egg whites in many recipes.
Eat Organic Food
Plastics aren't the only toxins in our food supply. We actually spray neurotoxins on crops and breed poisons into GMO plants to streamline agriculture. Ai yi yi!
- Why? Poisons on crops wind up on your dinner plates and in your bloodstream. This is especially dangerous for growing children. They also wind up in the bloodstreams of farm workers, their families, and wildlife.
- How? Buy certified organic produce and other food if you can. Avoid geneticially modified organisms (GMOs), including non-organic corn and soybeans. If you can't buy all organic, concentrate on avoiding the most toxic of the industrially grown produce (see the Environmental Working Group's Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen). For example, buy organic strawberries and kale but conventional avocados and pineapples.
What are the Whys and Hows of Your Resolutions?
What challenges have you faced with past resolutions? Do you even make them? Please share in the comments below.