My Plastic-Free Journey
By Kristin Weed, KIBCU President & Founder
Featuring, Heather (O’Leary) Efland
Thinking about going Plastic free? Heather O'Leary Efland of Centreville, MD thought about it then did it.
It all started when she learned of a Facebook group called Journey to Zero Waste, through a friend who she states is "really into protecting the environment for future generations." Heather learned all about our plastics crisis and was appalled. She was most taken aback to learn that microplastics have now found their way into our drinking water. Heather then took a look around her home and realized that pretty much everything she owned was made from plastic. From the products we use to clean our homes and ourselves, to how our food is packaged, and everything we order online comes wrapped up in single-use plastic.
"The more information I acquired, the more I realized it was time for a change. Also, from the journey to zero waste group I realized that there are alternative, plastic free products that are often superior to the original plastic products, which provided further inspiration."
We interviewed Heather to get a feel for what it was like for her and her family to slowly start removing one single-use plastic's item a month for 2019. We wanted to talk to someone who had taken it completely upon themselves to create a positive and sustainable change in their lives, sharing with us the small wins and the struggles so that we could share with all of our supporters and followers to demonstrate that it is easier than one may think.
Poof! Be gone!
What items did you do away with?
Plastic grocery bags
Toilet Paper that comes wrapped in plastic
Plastic water bottles
Moisturizer and beauty product bottles (they have bars available now!)
Paper towels (they come packaged in plastic).
Heather is a wealth of knowledge when it comes to alternatives to use in place of single-use plastics. She now purchases toilet paper that comes wrapped in paper from Who Gives Crap (no pun intended), an Australian-based company whose products are made with environmentally friendly materials, and they even donate 50% of their profits to help build toilets for those in need. She has also switched to purchasing some beauty products without packaging, like the ones sold by Lush Cosmetics. She is always on the lookout for companies who are making innovative changes to reduce their use of plastic packaging. Just this month, Heather tried Blueland, a company that sells reusable household cleaners and soaps. Blueland has its customers purchase a bottle for a one-time fee, then they refill it with your product for only $2. Heather even has recommendations for plastic free, zero-waste feminine products. Yep, they do exist and Heather states that they are "honestly, they are far superior than the old alternative, and she highly recommends that all ladies make the switch."
Easiest to Remove
We asked Heather what single-use plastics item(s) were the easiest for her to do without. She stated that "straws are the easiest, because for most people, you don’t really need to carry around an alternative product, I just drink from a cup without a straw. Plastic water bottles and plastic bags from the grocery store were also easy to give up! The key is to always have your reusable item available where you are. So you leave bags in the car, or your reusable water bottle ready to go with you."
She stated that finding alternatives to shampoo and conditioner has been a bit challenging. She has not found one that she likes just yet, but dilutes her product in the meantime to get the most out of it.
"At first, I tried to change everything at once and I was overwhelmed. New years 2019, I made a resolution to make ONE change each month. It’s been one year and I have made 12 EASY changes, and I am so proud of the waste I have eliminated."
Heather has been at this for 1 year and she is not turning back! She has created a Facebook group for our community, Sustainable in QAC, a place where we can all share ideas to cut back on our single-use waste and become more sustainable in practical ways!
**Heather (O’Leary) Efland is the music teacher at Centreville Elementary School and was just recently awarded the 2019-2020 Queen Anne's County Public School's Teacher of the Year! She is currently completing her twelfth year of teaching**