What I learned from the #PlasticSucks challenge

How much plastic do you consume each week? From coffee lids and stirrers to the dreaded plastic grocery bag, disposable plastic products have a way of sneaking up on you if you aren't devoted to choosing alternatives. Plastic is not just bad for the environment, but with the way plastic leech chemicals, all this exposure can be bad for our health, as well.

© Chris Tackett

That's what led the Keep a Breast Foundation to host the #PlasticSucks Challenge last week. KAB is a great non-profit dedicated to raising awareness about breast cancer in young people and they focus on prevention and health, which means educating about plastics and cancer-causing chemicals is an important priority. I was honored to be asked to participate and even though I was the resident "tree hugger" among the featured participants, I learned a lot about the ways using plastic can become routine.

© Chris Tackett

Coffee has become a part of my daily routine, and while I should definitely reassess my sugar and cream intake, this week I was left pondering the enormous quantity of plastic lids and stirrers that are consumed each day. Thankfully, I am able to slow down a bit in the morning and have my coffee at a real coffee shop, which serves it in glass mug with a real metal spoon for stirring, but so many people have to grab their cup to go, which means using a plastic lid. If that is part of your routine, consider using a travel mug, mason jar or some other reusable container.

© Chris Tackett

When I did want a coffee to go, I used a reusable water bottle, which worked great for keeping my iced coffee iced for way longer than a disposable plastic cup would have. I used this three times last week, which means 3 fewer plastic cups, lids and straws were thrown away.

© Chris Tackett

Another area where plastics sneak into my life is food packaging. There's not an easy fix for this, but cooking more meals at home is a great way to start. I cook a fair amount, so most of the food packaging I consumed was snacks, like protein and energy bars and drinks. Even with all the effort I put into remembering my coffee bottle, I still ended up with one takeout coffee.

After a keeping (most) of the plastic I used all week, here's what it looked like.

© Chris Tackett

Not pictured are a couple plastic bags from the cleaners, a grocery bag and a big tub of protein powder (that's what the scoop was from). With all of these things, I realized there are additional steps I can take to stop this plastic consumption. I can ask my cleaners to use a reusable bag for my clothes. I can remember to bring my shopping bags with me every day.

While we at TreeHugger know that small steps like changing your light bulbs and using reusable water bottles or shopping bags are not enough to solve big environmental problems like climate change, the Plastic Sucks Challenge was a good reminder that small steps are still worth taking and that over time these little changes in our routine can add up to a big impact over the course of weeks, months and years.

Visit Keep A Breast Foundation for more on avoiding plastics and raising awareness for breast cancer. And check out the #PlasticSucks hashtag on Instagram and Twitter for pictures and updates from the other participants.

Tags: Activism | Cancer | Health | Plastic Bags | Plastics