Plastic pollution is all the buzz and has been for a while. I mean, it's hard to avoid. I feel like plastic is in the news constantly. Just this week another whale washed up on shore with 88 pounds of plastic in its stomach!
At the end of the article, it leaves you with a stark quote, "Everyone thinks it's someone else's problem."
And, while governments, companies, and corporations are at fault - we're responsible too!
We all need to work together to solve this problem. 8 million metric tons of plastic is dumped into the ocean each year and studies show it may be on the rise.
And, look, we're not plastic haters - plastic has allowed us to make amazing progress in medical, scientific, and technological fields (we go more into detail on that in The Problem with Plastic), but we're using this material in the WRONG way.
Single-use plastic, plastics that are used only once and then thrown away, are often used only for 15 minutes. Why are we making something that lasts forever and is responsible for polluting much of the world, if it's only being used for 15 minutes!?
Doesn't make sense, does it?
So, here are 7 easy and painless ways for you to join the plastic-free movement!
I think many of these suggestions are common sense. It's not about knowing you should do them, it's about getting into the habit of ACTUALLY doing them.
All you need is a bit of commitment. So, repeat after me, "I commit to reducing plastic in my life!"
1. water bottles:
First, let's talk about some scary water bottle facts for you to remember the next time you reach for a plastic bottle!
- As of 2018 China isn't taking our plastic waste for "recycling" anymore. The amount of plastic bottles actually being recycled is really, really tiny. Like less than 1% tiny.
- It takes 3 liters of water to make one liter of bottled water!
- In blind taste tests, tap water was preferred over bottled water
- The NRDC conducted a comprehensive study of 1,000 brands of bottled water. A third violated their own industry standards for water quality
- It takes 17 million barrels of oil to produce the plastic for the bottles and that many barrels of oil could fuel 1 million cars for a year.
- Tap water is more heavily regulated than bottled water
- Bottled water was shown to have more micro-plastic particles than tap water
If you aren't crazy about the way your tap water tastes, you should invest in a filter which will save you a TON of money over time.
Think about buying a set of water bottles and fill them with filtered water to keep in the fridge so you have that grab-and-go convenience.
Consider adding this mantra to your day so every time you leave the house, you'll have a water bottle in tow. Phone, Wallet, Water, Keys
I bet you've been hearing you should bring your reusable bags to the grocery store for years.
What's stopping you???
If I had to guess it's going to be for one of these reasons:
- I forget
- They're clunky
- I don't care about saving the environment and I hope all cute cuddly marine animals die a horrible death due to my plastic pollution.
If you're number three, I'm afraid we can't help you, but if you fall into category 1 & 2 - we've got some tips.
Look for the patterns:
Do you normally hit up the grocery store during a certain time of the week? Do you just always seem to be going on Tuesdays or Saturday mornings?
Think through your day:
Before you go to bed or before you leave the house, run through your plans for the following day.
Just thinking through your day can easily prevent so much waste!
Clip them to your keyring:
If you just keep forgetting, grab two reusable bags that fold up really small and clip them onto your key ring. This way you will never be without a reusable bag!
Of course, if you're in a pinch, you can always ask for a box from the store room. Just say no to plastic.
Americans use 500 million single-use plastic straws every day. That's 182,500,000,000 each year - and that's A LOT of straws.
It adds up to a huge problem, which is mostly unnecessary. Of course, many people need straws to drink due to certain medical conditions. This section is in no way meant to shame anyone or call for the removal of all straws.
It's simple for those of us who are able-bodied to take a second and think - do I need a plastic straw?
When I got out to eat, I normally ask for my water with no ice and no straw. Most of us tend to have the same drink order. Whatever your drink order may be, consider rehearsing it 20 times, "I would like a water no straw please."
Once you get the hang of it, you'll be asking for no straw without even thinking!
If you really like straws they make a number of reusable options. They have glass, bamboo, silicone, and stainless steel. Some bend, some twirl, and some are wide enough for boba - there's a reusable straw for most everyone.
My favorite reusable straws are glass straws!
4. coffee cups:
Alright, I'm about to break your heart. Paper coffee cups are lined with plastic.
They are NOT recyclable and NOT compostable.
The lids are plastic #6 which is Polystyrene a known carcinogen, and we normally see plastic #6 as Styrofoam.
Thankfully, you have a couple of options to avoid disposable plastic coffee cups!
Bring your own:
I like to bring my thermos to the coffee shop, they'll fill it up with coffee and most coffee shops even give a discount.
Yes, saving money and the environment - we have a whole blog post about that.
In a mug to stay:
You can always ask for your coffee to stay in a real mug. You just have to specify, that you'd like a real mug.
If you're in a rush, you can always specify for your coffee to come at a more drinkable temperature. You can drink your coffee in the real mug in a couple of minutes.
If you forget your reusable thermos and don't have a couple of minutes to drink it in the cafe, ask for your drink without the lid. What we in the zero waste community like to call - going topless.
Every bit helps!
Lunch is often the most wasteful meal of the day. Think of all the single-use packages you've used over the course of your lunchtimes.
Growing up I had the same meal every single day. I had a sandwich, chips, cookie, and a drink - all packaged in single-use packaging. I even carried my lunch in a disposable brown paper bag.
At the end of lunch, I would throw ALL of it away in the trash can. Every day, I was responsible for a pound of trash right there - with one meal!
Thankfully, I have learned the error of my ways. I'm hoping that you can learn from my mistakes too.
When you're packing your lunch or children's lunches, pack it in a reusable container that can be washed over and over again.
Some of my favorite ways to pack a trash-free lunch:
Forget the Dollar Shave Club welcome to the Penny Shave Club! This one switch could save you a lot of money and a lot of plastic trash.
The EPA estimates 2 billion razors are thrown away each year because razors are practically impossible to recycle.
On top of that, they’re expensive averaging $8-12 for a pack of four disposable razors.
Consider switching to our dear friend, the safety razor.
While you'll pay more upfront for a safety razor $30-$100 the replacement blades cost $0.10 each. The blades last for a month or longer if you dry them between uses, and the base should last you a lifetime.
In fact, you can still buy vintage safety razor bases because they still accept the same type of blade you can buy in stores today - how is that for longevity!
7. phone case:
The phone case industry makes 1 BILLION plastic phone cases every single year.
That's a lot of plastic heading into the waste stream, which is totally unnecessary. Most people upgrade their phones every two years and toss their phone case in the landfill.
Not to mention the retailers that throw out unused phone cases by the thousands when new models arrive.
Thankfully, there's a much better way. You can pick up a Pela case!
These phone cases are a plant-based, compostable alternative to the plastic/crude-oil based cases most people have.
They're super effective, shock-absorbent, and when it's time for you to upgrade, you can compost them!
But, don't worry, they compost in your pocket. As a bonus, Pela donates to clean water projects with every purchase.
So not only are you avoiding plastic, but you're also donating to environmental organizations. Talk about a win-win, and saving the planet x2!