Take a moment to think about your average day. You wake up, get dressed, go to work, come home, prepare dinner, relax, and it’s time to hit the hay. If that’s not exactly your routine, that’s okay. Think about your own routine. What we really want you to focus on is how many times a day you come into contact with or use things made of plastic.
We’re going to guess it’s a lot.
Why? Because plastic is everywhere. Our personal hygiene products are put in plastic bottles, tubes, and jars. We get takeout for lunch, and we’re given plastic utensils. We throw our plastic waste into plastic garbage bags.
Look around you; it’s likely that many of the things in your direct line of sight are made of plastic.
See? It’s everywhere.
And while you may also notice that much of the plastic you encounter is recyclable, that’s not necessarily happening. In fact, according to the Environmental Protection Agency, more than 30 million tons of plastic waste was generated by Americans in 2009. Of that, research suggests only about 5% of that plastic waste was recovered for recycling.
Think this is someone else’s problem? Think again. Plastic takes an incredibly long time to degrade (up to 1,000 years!), and it has to go somewhere. At the rate we’re using and discarding it, it shouldn’t come as a shock that it’s making its way into our oceans and landfills where it continues to release chemicals that are harmful to our health and the environment.
And it’s not just people who are directly affected. Fragile marine ecosystems are being polluted by plastic. Each year, millions of sea birds and marine life are killed by plastic waste—a fact that makes the Ellen MacArthur Foundation’s prediction that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish even more disheartening and alarming.
But there are things you can do! You can start implementing strategies today that will help reduce the amount of plastic waste you generate each year. The best part is, most of the things on the list below are small yet effective—meaning you don’t have to make drastic life changes to make a big difference.
Take a look!
1. Invest in a reusable water bottle
Save money and reduce your plastic waste by purchasing a reusable bottle, like this one from The Rainforest Site Store, and using it rather than bottled water to stay hydrated. Consider getting a thermos for hot drinks, as well. Most coffee shops are happy to save a cup and fill your personal container if you ask.
2. Skip the straw
In addition to being a non-essential, plastic straws often end up in oceans, where they can be incredibly harmful to marine life. Reusable straws like these from The Rainforest Site Store are a much safer, and longer lasting alternative.
Take a look at the poor turtle who had a nasty encounter with a disposable straw here.
3. Pass on over-packaged goods
It’s easy to rely upon pre-made, packaged foods like frozen dinners. However, they typically come with a lot of packaging. When you can, try to skip the packaging altogether (think fruits and veggies), or choose things that are available in cardboard (think grains), which degrades much faster than plastic.
4. Say “no” to paper and plastic
It’s nearly impossible to go outside without seeing an errant plastic bag floating around, stuck in a tree, or crumbled up in a drainage ditch. The next time you go grocery shopping, consider ditching the plastic shopping bags and investing in a few inexpensive reusable totes.
5. If you have to go disposable, choose compostable
When you can, skip the plastic utensils and disposable cups, plates, and bowls. If you have to buy disposable items, reach for the compostable variety.
6. Break up with your K-cups
They’re easy to use, but that’s also a lot of plastic to generate each morning—especially if you have more than one cup. Instead, invest in a reusable filter compatible with your Keurig.
7. Get crafty
Find a way to reuse the plastic you’re going to dispose of. Old food containers make excellent planters, and to-go containers can often be re-purposed as storage containers for leftovers.
8. Shave off razor waste
Ditch the disposable, and switch to razors that only need their blades replacing.
9. Bulk up
When possible, shop in the bulk section of the grocery store. It will allow you to significantly reduce the amount of plastic you’re purchasing, and it may even save you some money!
10. Consider cardboard
As mentioned previously, cardboard degrades significantly faster than plastic. Try switching to cleaning supplies (laundry and dishwasher detergent, for example) that come in cardboard boxes rather than plastic bottles.
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L.D. and her eleven-year-old lab, Eleanor Rigby Fitzgerald, moved from Seattle to Grand Rapids earlier this year, and are currently enjoying exploring their new city! She likes books, music, movies, running, and being outdoors as much as possible.