What’s your Plastic Footprint?

plastic footprint

You may know about your carbon footprint, but what do you know about your “plastic footprint”? How much plastic trash are you responsible for?

Activist and author, Beth Terry, has been collecting and tallying her plastic trash since 2007 and encourages others to participate in the Plastic Trash Challenge:

Do you know your plastic footprint? Join others from around the world. Collect your plastic waste (both recyclable and non) for one week or more. Then photograph, tally, and post it here.

On the page about the rules for the challenge, it states that “Guilt is not encouraged. Nor are comparisons with other people whom you perceive to be doing “worse” or “better” than you in terms of plastic waste. This exercise is for purely educational purposes. Guilt doesn’t help.” 

Actually, it goes on to say that two more times. That’s how important the message is. The challenge is meant to teach you, to show you the amount of plastic trash you are responsible for and hopefully encourage you to find ways to lessen your plastic footprint.

While I never participated in the Plastic Trash Challenge, it did prompt me to take a closer look at what I was “throwing away”. 

Here’s a quick list of some of the plastic that used to end up in my trash:

  • plastic bags for: flour, sugar, salt, pasta, bread, lentils, beans, eggs, take-away food, laundry soap

  • plastic bottles for: olive oil, vegetable oil, vinegar, tahina, molasses, honey, dish soap, shampoo

  • plastic boxes for: helawa, cheese, sour cream

  • polystyrene trays/plastic wrap for: cheese, nuts, strawberries, butter, agwa, meat

  • Tetra Paks for: milk, buttermilk, juice

  • yogurt containers

  • plastic packages for tissue and toilet paper rolls

  • tubes of toothpaste, deodorant cream, shaving cream

This list is not exhaustive. (And some of these items still end up in my trash.) It made it clear, though, that while REFUSING plastic shopping bags and bottled water was a good start, I could do more to reduce my plastic footprint.

In her book, Ms. Terry, recommends considering the following questions after you’ve taken a look at the plastic you “throw away”:

  • Which items can you replace with plastic-free or less-plastic alternatives?

  • Which items could you give up?

  • Which items are essential?

  • Which items have no alternative?

  • Are lifestyle changes necessary to rid your life of some of these plastic items?

Over the last few years, we have been able to find plastic-free or less-plastic alternatives for many of the items on our list. And that, of course, is what this blog is really about: sharing with you these alternative practices and products that are available and practical here in Dahab.

I encourage you to participate in your own Plastic Trash Challenge! Start to pay attention to what you are “throwing way”. And stay tuned. Over the new few weeks and months, we’ll be exploring and discussing the questions posed by Ms. Terry and how we can each reduce our plastic footprint. 

* Original photo of plastic trash above taken by Steve Wilhelm.

Refuse ~ Reduce ~ Reuse ~ Recycle


3 thoughts on “What’s your Plastic Footprint?

  1. Pingback: Plastic Packaging of Food | Don't Mess with Dahab

  2. Great blog post!

    Inspired by Beth Terry for a few months I took weekly tallies. Every week I would select one item to be replaced with a plastic-free alternative that week. I documented it all on my Dutch blog PlasticMinimalism. I managed to reduce my plastic footprint to almost zero.

    However, a few months ago, we moved from the Netherlands to Beijing, China. This meant starting from scratch again when it comes to living plastic-free. Slowly but steadily we are navigating our plastic-free way through the enormous omnipresence of plastic here.

    • Great idea to select one item a week to replace – and getting your footprint to almost zero! We’re not there yet – or even close – but we’ve come a long way over the past 6 years. Starting from scratch in China – that must be quite a challenge! What’s the most difficult item to find a plastic-free replacement for there in Beijing?

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