One of the core environmental principles of Judaism is that of baal tashchit. Simply put, this means that we must not waste resources. Keeping this principle in mind, this month’s blog focuses on an area of huge waste in our society: plastic use.
Over 300 million tons of plastic are produced on the planet every year. We use it to make plastic bags, bottles, clothes, computers, and many other items. Our plastic consumption is growing greatly. Over the last 10 years, we’ve produced more plastic than we did in the entire 20th century. Excessive plastic use hurts the planet in many ways.
The production of plastic is responsible for millions of tons of greenhouse gas emissions, accelerating climate change and polluting the air we breathe. On top of that, some of this plastic ends up in landfills, where it slowly breaks down, leaching harmful chemicals into the soil and groundwater. The rest of the plastic ends up on our streets, in our parks, and in our oceans. Over 100,000 marine animals and 1 million birds die each year from ingesting plastic.
Below is a list of some simple changes you can make to reduce your plastic use.
- Use a refillable water bottle: Invest in a sturdy, stainless steel water bottle (available at outdoor stores as well as at supermarkets and pharmacies). Instead of wasting money and energy buying water in plastic, disposable, one time use containers, you will be able to fill up your bottle wherever you go. It takes a large amount of energy to produce the plastic used in disposable water bottles. Take your own instead.
- Use reusable dishware at work: Bring in a reusable cup, mug, dish and utensils to your office. Then plan to use them each day at lunchtime and for coffee breaks. If your office does not have eco-friendly dish liquid, invest in a bottle to wash your items once a day. You will save money and reduce the plastic that needs to be recycled or that ends up in landfills.
- Buy canvas bags for groceries and errand running: Just about every store these days offers the option of buying a reusable bag with its logo at very low cost. Buy a few of these bags and keep at least 2-3 in your car at all times. Take them with you to the grocery store, drug store, dollar store and the mall so that your purchases don’t have to be put in a plastic bag.
These are just a few ways you can honor the principle of baal tashchit in your use of plastic. Once you begin to make these changes, they will become routine. Perhaps you will even find other ways to cut down on the amount of plastic you buy and use.
Resources: Earth Day Network
This blog originally appeared in jewishinstlouis.org at http://jewishinstlouis.org/category/blogs/planetjewish/