How two Frogtown neighbors tackle plastic pollution

The world is awash in plastic. Every day, the equivalent of 2,000 garbage trucks full of plastic are dumped into the world’s oceans, rivers, and lakes. Beyond the aesthetic mess of plastic litter, plastic items can be confusing to recycle, “plus they harm water and wildlife and have largely unknown health impacts for us,” reports the Ramsey County Public Health Department. 
In February, health departments in Ramsey, Washington and Hennepin Counties join together in a four-week effort to help citizens reduce plastic consumption. Families, businesses, organizations, and community groups can join the counties’ “Plastic Free Challenge.” Accepting the challenge for a few weeks is a great way to learn more about the impact of plastic pollution, while garnering tips on how to avoid it. 
In the spirit of this challenge, Frogtown Green interviewed two Frogtown neighbors who have been avoiding plastic for decades. We asked naturopathic doctor Kristin Becker and fellow Frogtown resident Gene for their top tips, both for newbies and veterans hoping to trim their plastic consumption. Here’s what they had to say:
Just Say No to Bags
Nearly 25 years ago, Kristin made a resolution: never to take another plastic bag from a store. She has met the challenge by always carrying a cloth bag with her when she goes shopping. “Pocket” bags that fold up into a small carrying bundle make the substitution easy. 
…Or Wash and Re-Use ‘Em
Gene acknowledges that Ziploc and other plastic storage bags can be handy, but she washes them out and re-uses them many times over, air drying them on a bottle drying rack. For most leftovers, she uses vintage glass refrigerator containers, instead of plastic.
Make It Fizz
Kristin’s family avoids pop, but they do enjoy unsweetened soda water. They use a soda water maker for the homemade version, but if they buy “fizzy” water, it is in cans, not plastic bottles.
Buy in Bulk
Gene and Kristin both like to shop for bulk items using glass or metal containers that can be refilled. When she runs out of a bulk item, Kristin pops the labeled jar it was in right into her cloth bag, so she remembers to refill at the co-op. The jars work as a grocery list, too.
Go Beyond the Coop
Check out The Tare Market, a Minneapolis grocery that sells foods and goods in bulk, or Evergreen Collective on Grand Avenue in St. Paul, another source for bulk personal and home cleaning materials. Both stores offer bins for recycling items that aren’t accepted in St. Paul’s recycling program, says Gene. 
Dish Your Own
When invited to picnics or potlucks, Kristin grabs a to-go bag with camping plates and silverware, so she can avoid plastic dishware. Her family also carries their own metal straws with them, including extra-wide straws for their favorite boba tea, with its chunky tapioca bubbles.
Forget the Fleece
Gene worries about the microplastic fibers that shed from fleece outdoor wear when it is washed. She avoids PVC, synthetic fabrics (polyesters, acrylic, spandex) and shops thrift or vintage stores for 100% cotton clothing and bedding, wool sweaters, and good leather shoes. 
Think Again!
Gene’s best advice fits any occasion: “When you’re about to buy something plastic, or something wrapped in plastic, just stop and weigh your options. Is there an alternative? Can you make a better choice, so there’s less plastic in the waste stream? Probably.”
Frogtown Green is a resident-led and volunteer-powered environmental initiative in St Paul’s most diverse neighborhood. 


No comments on this item Please log in to comment by clicking here