We have the luxury of living in an area with fresh water, expansive forests and tons of different species of fish, plants and animals. Even though it appears as if we live in a clean and sustainable place, there are lots of things that we could do to make our region more eco-friendly.
I recently counted every single piece of plastic I came into contact with in the course of a normal day. I included things I used once, like food wrappers, and things I use everyday, like the hard-plastic cover on my phone. My daily total came to 96 pieces of plastic.
Do you know that even if I had ten years of use of one of these things, I would only be in contact with it for 0.01 per cent if its life span? This is assuming that it is not recycled, and according to a recently published study, in 2015 only 20 per cent of plastics that year were globally recycled. Even after plastic reaches a waste management facility there is a high chance that the bags that arrive will be discarded because they are dirty or not sorted properly. If everything is done to a high standard, the plastic will be processed and reused!
From there it can become a variety of things that have a positive impact on society. Unfortunately though, if the recycled plastics are made into articles of clothing they can silently pollute our waterways without our knowledge. When plastic-based fabrics go through the wash they lose micro plastics which drain into our waterways. Sewage treatment plants are not equipped to handle plastics that are that small. Once they enter the waterways they can be mistaken for food, spread toxins, and can be absorbed by organisms.
We can’t outright stop this problem but there are things we can do to help work towards a solution. To reduce the problems caused by the plastics that we depend on, we need to minimize our usage of them. There are lots of different ways to do this, and it can even be done in our small community with limited places to shop. Whenever you think you need a new plastic product, consider the following, more eco-friendly, alternative options.
Starting with the bathroom
There are many alternatives to the plastics we are so accustomed to using. Shampoo bottles can be switched to shampoo bars which can be bought in Muskoka at either Bulk Barn or Soapstones. Plastic toothbrushes, which are not recyclable, can be switched out for bamboo ones which are sold at Sustain Eco Store in Huntsville. Loofah sponges can be switched out for Soapstone’s Scrub a Dubs. They use natural loofah combined with other products to make a sweet-smelling exfoliator. You can also swap out sanitary products. These products are not recyclable or biodegradable and are used every single month. A Diva Cup is a cost-effective way to reduce this waste. This easy-to-use and reusable product can be found in grocery and convenience stores across Muskoka.
Moving into the kitchen
There are hundreds of other products that can be used more sustainably. First off, soap refills can be bought in lots of stores throughout Muskoka so you don’t have to buy a new container every time you need more soap. To reduce plastic even further, hand soap can be swapped for bar soap and at Sustain Eco Store you can bring in a container to refill your soap supply. This is just one of the things in the kitchen that can be made more eco-friendly.
Finally, you can even become eco-friendlier when you’re shopping and running errands. At Bulk Barn, there is an option to bring in your own containers to fill, instead of using the plastic bags that are provided. And when shopping, try to avoid synthetic fabrics and stick to the naturals. The comfort of cotton can also help reduce the amount of micro plastics that enter the lake!
These are just a few of the thousands of ways to reduce the amount of plastic used by the individual. In no way do I expect anyone to throw away all the plastic products that they have and spend a fortune to replace each one. I just hope that the next time anyone in Muskoka goes to town to replace a product they consider an eco-friendly alternative. 🙂
Alicia McLinden is a grade 12 student at Huntsville High School. She plans to take Environmental Science at McMaster University next year.
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