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Life Without Plastic: An Interview with Chantal Plamondon

Life Without Plastic is a local Canadian company, started by Chantal Plamondon and her husband Jay Sinha in 2006, after finding it nearly impossible to get alternatives to dangerous disposable plastics in their everyday lives. Sparked by chronic illness, the birth of their son, and the fact that the only choice available for storing extra milk was plastic containers and bottles, they went hunting for more sustainable alternatives for their daily lives. The only place they could find selling glass bottles was based out of Ohio, and who’s minimum purchase number was 1,000 bottles at a time. Wholesale purchases only. The took a leap of faith, ordered the bottles, and Life Without Plastic was born.

Now, the company has a thriving website, found at lifewithoutplastic.com, a huge social media following, and their products are sold in 30-50 stores around the world. Most notably, the Package Free Shop in Brooklyn. They are prominent leaders in the fight against plastics, against waste, and against pollution, not only in Canada but around the globe.

The Sustainable Enterprise Alliance had the opportunity to meet with Chantal and talk Plastic Free July! Who better to interview for Plastic Free July than a strong local company who’s been leading the fight against plastic for over a decade? Here is our interview on why she chooses to live plastic-free, tips for Plastic Free July beginners, and what the future has in store for Life Without Plastic.

 

Why do you choose to live as plastic free as possible?

“So, the first reason is a little bit of a selfish reason, because when my son was little, I started reading about the dangers of plastic additives that leech into your food or into your body through products like containers. A typical container will contain around 100 various additives, and those are chemical additives that over time will leech because they are not chemically bound to the plastic molecules.” Said Chantal, adding that “a lot of these chemicals are hormone disruptors. They can affect the development of babies, and some are even neurotoxins that can affect the brain. It’s some pretty serious stuff. So I was getting really concerned for my health and for the health of my family and decided we need to switch, we need to find healthier alternatives like glass or metal.

“That was back in the early 2000’s, and I was really interested in protecting the environment, and my husband has a background in environmental law and ecotoxicology, so he was already aware of the dangers of plastic to the environment. But since then, and we’re talking eleven years later, the problem of plastic has just gotten worse and worse, especially in the ocean.”

The importance of the plastic free movement is apparent in the fact that hundreds of thousands of animals, including upwards of 90% of all sea birds, are found to have ingested plastic from their environment. Most do no survive their encounter with these products, and will die as a result. “It has to stop somewhere, we have to stop producing it, and I know that as individuals our little steps are not going to have a huge impact, but it’s the ripple effect. You do something and someone sees you and says ‘Oh where did you get that spork? I’ll get one!’” and while each step of our individual journeys do not make a noticeable impact, our collective refusal of plastics, especially for packaging or single-use purposes, will force companies to change their methods to more ecofriendly and ultimately plastic free alternatives. “… But it’s a long road ahead.” she adds, noting that many products that were easy to find in glass 10 years ago are now almost exclusively packaged in plastic.

 

What is your advice for those who are taking on Plastic Free July?

Even though Plastic Free July has just ended, the habits made from the challenge are useful all year ’round. Reducing our plastic consumption and our overall waste that we send away will help heal the environment from all the pollution plaguing its waters. Here are the best tips from Chantal on how to create a Life Without Plastic.

“[The] first piece of advice would be to really know about the recycling rules, because there are certain packaging types that are 100% recyclable. Some even have positive recycling value. For instance, stainless steel, if you gather your stainless steel that you want to get rid of, they’ll pay you to get rid of it…. Glass is another one that is fully recyclable, it can go through cycle and cycle, you can recycle glass forever. Whereas with plastics, you can only down-cycle it. You can recycle it once, but then after that the plastic becomes too degraded or too mixed with other resins, and you can’t really recycle it anymore.

“The second [piece of] advice would be just to focus on the worst culprits like water bottles, get a reusable water bottle. Coffee mugs, always bring your coffee mug with you. People think that they won’t refill it but they will, even Tim Horton’s! Reusable bags; keep one with you all the time, in your purse or your bag. And then a reusable utensil, reusable straw. If you cover these areas, you’ve just cut out a lot of plastic waste. If you can bring your own container, that’s even better. If you go to a take-out place, you know, bring your own container. You would be surprised how many places will actually fill it up.”

It never hurts to ask somewhere new if you’re able to use a reusable instead of a disposable product. If a store is accommodating and not surprised by your request, Chantal says “it’s because someone before you has done it, so it’s not a big surprise. And if in some case, they’re really surprised, that means you’re the pioneer, and you make it easier for people after you to do it as well.” How exciting is that?!

 

What plans do you have for your company for the future?

Plans for the company’s future include a Kickstarter for Zero Waste Lunchboxes that launched late last week and will run through the remainder of August, as well as a book in the works called Life Without Plastic: A Step-by-Step Guide to Avoiding Plastic to Keep Your Family Safe and HealthyPre-orders are available now at Chapters, and Amazon, and the e-book and physical copies will be released come December 12th, 2017.

“It’s a very practical book, there is a lot of very good, solid information about the problem of plastics, and we go through various materials that people may think would be good alternatives, like is aluminium a good alternative? No, aluminium oxidizes very easily, you don’t want to put that against tomatoes otherwise it just disintegrates, and now you have tomatoes with pieces of metal in them.” Read the book and you’ll find practical ways to reduce your single-use plastic consumption, how to intelligently and effectively tackle many plastic problems in your life, while offering information on safer alternatives for you and your family. All the while, supporting a local business thrive and save the environment. What more could you want?

 

To learn more about the company Life Without Plastic and all that they do, feel free to check out their website, keep up with them on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter, and check out their book, hitting shelves December 12th, 2017.

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