I am quickly learning that it is very difficult to maintain our efforts when there are outside forces we can’t control. Along with receipts from stores, straws in drinks and junk mail, it is also hard to decline kind gifts. With good intentions and generous hearts, we have had friends and family give us things like food treats, clothing and toys. We are so grateful to have people in our lives who are thinking about us and wanting to buy us things. Having kids who grow so quickly, like little sprouts (or weeds), we often receive new clothes. Now that we have taken on this challenge, the gifts have become much more of a stress factor than a perk. With all the research that we have done and the info collected, we know now that new clothes are just not necessary and should really be avoided. Buying used or swapping clothes with other families that are looking for a different size is the better option. Even if you do decide to buy the clothes new and give the hangers back, those usually end up in the landfill anyway since the distributors ship the clothes pre-hung. Making those new products is also using up valuable finite resources on our planet just to make something that is already here.
Talking about just clothes hangers specifically, according to Green Progress over 8-10 billion plastic and wire hangers are sold each year, with only 15% ever being recycled.
“To put these numbers into perspective, picture the Empire State Building packed from floor to ceiling and from basement to observation deck-all 102 floors-with plastic hangers. Now multiply that by 4.6 to get the number of skyscrapers needed to hold 8 billion hangers. Or put another way 8 billion plastic hangers would fill 46,296 semi trucks full of polystyrene and polycarbonate hangers stretching 464 miles. That's bumper to bumper across the entire state of Oklahoma. Every year!”
It’s not just that these hangers will lay there for the next 800-1000 years, but that they are leaching benzene, a carcinogen, into our drinking water. This is the same active ingredient in cigarette smoke. And polycarbonate leaches bisphenol-A, a hormone disrupter, into the ground water. Canada recently banned polycarbonate for use in making water and baby bottles. BPA has become a big concern and you now see “BPA free” all over the place for good reason.
Things to keep in mind: Even if you are not buying gifts for a zero-waste household, think about what went into the product you are gifting. Materials, resources, ethical labour? Are these things worth it? Is this person you are giving it to going to throw it away in a week or a month? Will it last? Think about the alternatives for a gift. Think about gifting an experience or a sustainable product instead. You will feel better knowing you haven't spent your money on something as temporary and the person you are gifting to will appreciate your extra thought going into the gift. It's a win/win situation.
This is definitely a journey...