Earth Day is the perfect time to think about what you are doing to help protect the environment, and there are some easy ways to do just that. For one, start by reducing your use of plastic. First, start with your single use plastic grocery bags. Think about how many of these bags you use to hold a few peppers, apples or lemons, only to discard them once you’re home? The average person uses between 500 and 1000 of these a year. They cause massive environmental damage…only a fraction of them are recycled, with most ending up in landfill. According to the EPA in 2010, only 12 percent of plastic bags, sacks and wraps were recycled.

Plastic bags also contain toxic chemicals and pose a health danger to people and other living things. Chemicals from plastic migrate into our bodies and are linked to cancer, asthma, skin diseases, endocrine disruption, birth defects, and more. A new Swedish study claims that exposure to the phthalates found in plastics (in clothing, some paint, printing ink, food wrap, even blood bags) could double the risk of adult onset diabetes among older people.

Next think about cutting back on using plastic water bottles. Eight out of 10 plastic water bottles used in the U. S. become garbage or end up in a landfill, contributing to global warming. They’re also found in our oceans broken down into small bits of plastic that fish and birds mistakenly eat because they look like krill. Greenpeace says a single one liter drink bottle could break down into enough small fragments to put one on every mile of beach in the entire world.

Plastic debris is a huge problem. A sea of plastic has formed in the Pacific Ocean, known as the North Pacific Gyre. It has been referred to as a plastic soup twice the size of Texas. It has been estimated that over a million sea-birds and one hundred thousand marine mammals and sea turtles are killed each year by ingestion of plastics.

More than half of all Americans drink bottled water; about a third of us consume it regularly, paying from 240 to over 10,000 times more per gallon than we do for tap water. Sales of bottled water have tripled in the past 10 years to about $4 billion per year, and the environmental impact is enormous. Every year, 1.5 million tons of plastic are used in bottled water manufacturing. It is up to us to avoid plastic in the things we buy and to recycle our plastic bottles when we do use them.

Another reason to stop using plastic water bottles is that many of them contain BPA (bisphenol-A), a chemical that acts a lot like estrogen if it’s introduced into your body. It can get there by leaching out of hard plastic bottles as they age, are heated (in microwave ovens or dishwashers) or exposed to acidic solutions. The Centers for Disease Control discovered BPA in 95 percent of all people in the U.S.

My top 8 tips on ways to limit your plastic use:

  • Skip the plastic bags for produce and start bringing your own reusable produce bags to the market.
  • Bringing reusable shopping bags with you to the market and the shopping mall.
  • Gradually move to storing all food in glass or ceramic containers.
  • Buy food from bulk bins to save on extra packaging.
  • Don’t buy bottled water…use water a filter instead and fill your own glass or metal water bottles at home.
  • Encourage your workplace to install a water filter instead of providing bottled water.
  • Support plastic bag bans in your city and state.
  • Don’t microwave in plastic – use ceramic or glass instead; and don’t put plastic in the dishwasher where heat can release BPA. For hot/acidic liquids use thermoses with stainless steel or ceramic interiors.

Read More:
Parenting QA: How Concerned Should I Be About BPA?
Green Living QA: Is IKEA Furniture Toxic?

Beth Greer, aka Super Natural Mom®, is an award-winning journalist, green holistic health educator, healthy home expert and impassioned champion of toxin-free living. She’s also a radio talk show host, and trusted consumer advocate, who is leading a movement of awareness and responsibility about healthy homes, schools and work environments. Connect with Beth on Facebook and Twitter.