One Green Thing: No More PVC

Like many other people, I’m concerned about the environment. When I consider issues like climate change, our exposure to toxins and the stress that our natural world is under, I often feel overwhelmed. It’s tempting to just hide my head and ignore it all, to be quite honest. It certainly would cause me less internal angst every time I go to the grocery store or plan a family vacation.

In spite of the temptation to pretend as if the problems facing our environment are not an issue, I can’t ignore them. Once you know something, you can’t un-know it. Yes, it might be a bit inconvenient. But in the face of despair, I choose hope. The way that I choose hope is by taking action, and making changes. I trust that these changes will make a difference, and have an impact.

I’ve decided that for 2012 I will take one small step each month to become more green. It feels manageable, and tangible, and hopeful. And I’m starting by looking at PVC.

PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, is a type of plastic. Because it is cheap and durable, Wikipedia says that it is the third most widely-used plastic. It is also toxic. After reading The Non-Toxic Avenger by Deanna Duke (who, incidentally, will be on my podcast on Friday), I started to become concerned about the PVC in our home, and I decided to take steps to eliminate it.

The first place I looked at was food. If PVC is toxic, I really don’t want to be eating off of it. Many insulated lunchboxes have PVC linings – including, quite possibly, the ones my children were using. I tracked down an alternative that’s lead, phthalate, PVC and BPA free. They also happen to be super-cute, which helped to sell my kids on the change. We also had some old PVC place mats, and I decided to just use our cloth place mats instead. It’s also possible that the cling wrap in my kitchen drawer contains PVC, but I haven’t used that in ages. My husband still does, so for now we’re keeping it.

There’s some PVC in our house outside of the kitchen. Jacob had a PVC raincoat, but it doesn’t currently fit him and he doesn’t really like it, so it went into my donation bin. There’s likely PVC piping in my house, and I won’t be getting rid of that – it wouldn’t be practical. I have a PVC-free shower curtain, so I’m clear on that front. I have some PVC binders. I’ll be looking for an alternative for the binders that are still in use, and getting rid of the stack of old empty ones from our laundry room.

Our toy box presents a particular challenge. Based on my internet research, it seems that toys like My Little Pony and possibly Barbie contain PVC. It’s hard to get a clear answer, and it would also be hard to force my daughter to get rid of every toy that may be at issue. Instead, since we’re going through a post-Christmas-de-clutter, I plan to pick out the toys I think may be a problem, and work it out with her.

Getting rid of the PVC in our house won’t reduce my carbon footprint, but it will hopefully reduce my family’s exposure to toxins, and I feel good about that. It feels like good progress for January.

Are you concerned about potential toxins in your home – and what do you do with them when you find them? I’d like to hear your thoughts!

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  1. i try to take little steps and not get over-reactive.
    i also try to remember why these convenience alternatives were introduced, and sometimes the originals were much worse. i’m not sure whether to rejoice that i no longer receive running water in my house which comes through lead pipes, or stress my self about the pvc piping it now runs through, or just be grateful i have clean water in the first place.
    likewise the toxins leaching out of the cardboard (recyclable) boxes my food comes in – do i rejoice at eco-packaging, wish for a return to questionable food sources, or delight in being able to feed my family?
    am i happy with the mercury in my new lightbulbs since they are allegedly energy-saving, or do i hark back to the 70’s when steps were taken to remove the metal from our environment?
    i’ll continue to take my little steps, along with all the other ordinary people taking little steps, and together we’ll amount to progress in the right direction.
    pomomama’s last post … midlife monday: off to a running start …My Profile

  2. Thanks for the information! Are you still thinking of a word for 2012? If so, what about “Clean?” When I first read this, I thought “Healthy,” but “Clean” could relate to your family, your home AND the environment. BTW, I linked to your posts several times in my last few blog posts, I hope that’s OK.
    Audra’s last post … Their Words: 2012My Profile

  3. Curious: Do you ever feel guilty donating things you know are toxic? I have done it but I wonder if I’m really doing a good thing by making something not good enough for MY family available for another family, quite possibly one with less resources and education than I have.

    • It’s a tough question. The answer is that yes, I do sometimes feel guilty. But I’d also feel guilty for throwing it out.

      If someone is going to buy something anyway, then it’s better for them to buy second-hand, so by donating you’re at least keeping more of the toxin from entering the environment. But it’s not perfect, and there are ethical concerns. I’m also taking the time to write blog posts about the evils of PVC, though, so that eases my conscience somewhat. I’m taking care of my family and doing my best to inform others.

  4. I like how your green tips, like removing some of the toxic PVC in your home are very do-able. Gosh knows, we’re not perfect but it’s in the small greener steps that makes a difference- like using re-useable lunch containers instead of all of those plastic baggies. Really is it a big deal if baby carrots touch your sandwich? (My personal pet peeve is plastic bags) Anyway, we love what you’re doing. We’ve got a Go Green section on our site with Eco Tips so we’re always looking for insights on how to live more eco-friendly.
    Mary @ Green Global Travel’s last post … GLOBAL CUISINE: Simple Crock Pot Carnitas (Mexico)My Profile

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  1. […] Last month, I told you that I’ve decided to take one small step each month to become more green during 2012. It feels manageable, and tangible, and hopeful. I started by looking at PVC. […]

  2. […] once, donated items that I don’t want to use myself. I did this, for instance, when I was clearing my home of PVC. My rationale at that time was that if someone is going to buy a yoga mat, anyway, they may as well […]

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