Easy Upgrade: The Paper Trail

When we recently heard that some receipts can release a lot more BPA than any plastic bottle on the market we had to know more. And while this subject might not be inherently DIY related, it can certainly factor into having a safe and happy home- especially on Earth Day. Plus we’re all about simplifying our lives (it was even my 2010 resolution) so the solution that we reached after reading up on this topic actually contributes to less daily clutter and chaos, which is always a good thing. Who doesn’t want to have a more organized wallet, purse, and home?

Here’s the gist. Science News recently reported that some receipts are made with a technology that leaves them covered in the powdered form of BPA (which can much more easily get onto your hands and be spread around/ingested). This is particularly interesting when you consider that the much less spreadable form (and much smaller quantities) of BPA found in water bottles, old Nalgene containers, tupperware, and even baby bottles are all over the news and have many people reaching for BPA-free options these days. As a point of comparison, plastic bottles can leech “nanogram quantities of BPA” while the average BPA-laden receipt will have “60 to 100 milligrams of it” (yup, that’s way more) – all of which are loose and ready to be spread around (unlike a bottle which usually needs to be heated or aged to release them). Who’s dying to wash their hands? I was when I got about this far into the article.

Although some people are still skeptical about the true dangers of BPA (we’re still trying to wrap our minds around it), it’s been flagged as an “endocrine disruptor” by the Centers for Disease Control, and studies have linked it to breast cancer, obesity, attention deficit disorder and abnormal hormonal and genital development in infants. Even the Food & Drug Administration believes there is “reason for some concern” over the chemical’s effects on fetuses and children and Dr. Robert Lawrence of Johns Hopkins School of Public Health has said “I would avoid it- enough research suggests there are risks.” The unfortunate thing about the whole receipt debacle is that the BPA laced receipts don’t look any different than non-BPA ones. Que the wop wop sound effect.

Our BPA approach is pretty much an “it can’t hurt to be better safe than sorry” mindset. We try not to drive ourselves crazy but we’ve done our best to limit our exposure by doing simple things like switching out plastic tupperware for glass containers and drinking filtered tap water from a stainless steel Klean Kanteen instead of a plastic bottle. We even registered for some cute glass Weego bottles for the bean. But the whole receipt revelation really got us thinking. Here we were assuming that BPA wasn’t an issue for us anymore and we were probably touching (and eating it) on a near-daily basis. Plus thinking about how many times we washed our hands before ordering food and then ended up touching the receipt before sitting down to eat had us a bit grossed out. Especially since I’m carrying what we like to refer to as “precious cargo” these days. There’s nothing like the self-induced paranoia of a pregnant lady, I tell ya.

But the good news is that our “answer” to this new knowledge was pretty simple. Whenever possible we now ask the cashier to toss the receipt for us. That way it never ends up in our hands, my purse, John’s wallet, and ultimately our house. After all, I’d estimate that nearly 80% of all the receipts that we’re offered on a daily basis aren’t necessary since we’re purchasing things that we know we’ll never return (food, gas, office supplies, etc). Plus if you usually use receipts as records of your business write offs, it’s nice to note that if you use your credit card for those purchases they’ll show up in your statement (so you might not even need those slips of paper clogging up your files and folders after all).

Sure there are definitely still certain purchases that you may return (you don’t want to end up with a house full of stuff you hate out of fear of touching receipts) but so many stores like Home Depot and Target can now look up any purchases that you’ve made on the credit card that you used… so no receipt is necessary anymore, as long as you don’t pay cash. Really, we haven’t used a receipt to return anything from Target or Home Depot in months- it’s so convenient. Plus by using a credit card (which we pay off in full each month) we earn more points and keep things a lot more organized and itemized for future records than the old wad of paper slips in my purse ever did. And when it comes to the receipts that you just can’t avoid touching, you can at least store them in a closed container (like one of those plastic accordion file things) either in your purse or at home. Then just wash your hands after you handle them- in case they’re of the BPA variety.

Taking it a step further, wouldn’t it be great if “opting out” of a receipt became more of a common practice in the future? Talk about all the paper waste that could be eliminated. Our ATM actually asks if we want a receipt and we always decline. It just makes us happy that we’ve been given the choice to save one little slip of paper from being generated on our behalf (and my purse is a lot cleaner since I started that practice). Plus the fact that our bank already serves up this option makes us hopeful that more stores will adopt it as well (they’d save money too!) and someday receipts in general might just be a thing of the past. Wouldn’t life be so much more organized without all those little white slips of paper? Gotta love something as simple as going sans receipt. Especially when it may even have a positive effect on your health and can painlessly cut down on purse clutter and household waste at the same time.

So what do you guys think? Do you feel like donning plastic gloves and going through your wallet or purse like it’s full of toxic waste? Please don’t! We try not to get too carried away with these things so just remember that hand washing can’t hurt and leaving receipts at the store is a pretty easy fix for the most part. And on the subject of a healthy and happy home, what are you doing these days to keep things simple and safe around your casa? Any babyproofing going on? Any no-VOC paints getting taken for a test ride? Any cookies being put on the highest shelf in the kitchen so you can’t reach them while John’s at work and eat them all (nope, not talking from personal experience here).

Update: The Washington Post later wrote an article on this very subject. Check it out here.

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