Currently, there is an incredible movement happening. You’ve seen it on TV - those commercials promoting cleaning systems that don’t use plastic. You’ve also probably seen some ads on Social Media that are related to awareness for how plastics are harmful to the environment. Even Aquaman has gone out of his way to publicly support the use of aluminum instead of plastic - so why is there suddenly this big push to reduce plastics?
The Low Down of Plastic Waste
Regardless of whether you live in an urban area, or a rural one, the effect that plastics have had on our environment is becoming ever more prevalent. Animals are suffering from intestinal blockages because of accidentally ingesting parts of plastic bags. Plastic invades our oceans, and scientists have even discovered that because we consume the fish of the ocean, we end up with plastic in our own systems. Additionally, plastic, because it takes so long to break down, causes issues with our trash disposal systems worldwide, creating an overflow that leeches into many landscapes and is introduced to so much wildlife. According to the Environmental Health News, the world is producing and discarding almost 360 million tons of plastic a year. This may sound terrifying and cause panic, but we’re here to tell you it’s easier to reverse these negative effects than you may think!
Are you ready to show your support to mother nature and reduce your use of plastic? Read on to find 10 helpful tips to help you out.
Tip #1: Reusable Water Bottles
This is one of the first steps that we see people embracing, and it is amazing to see so many people walking around with their aluminum refillable water bottles! Gone are the days when you used to walk into a gas station and pay for a cup so you could grab some free ice… not when you can simply walk in and refill your own cup.
How does this help? After a plastic bottle is used, it remains on earth for about 450 years - so using a reusable water bottle can reduce the number of these bottles by as much as 156 bottles a year. Think about how many bottles you could save if your whole family started using reusable water bottles!
Tip #2: Reusable Grocery Bags
Make a fashion statement or have a different bag for each day. Either way, we all hate losing your groceries when the bottom of that crazy thin bag breaks, so replace it with a tote or a reusable grocery bag. If you are single or only live for two, you may not buy a lot of groceries, so having a couple of simple reusable bags can work. If you have a larger family, consider something like “box bags” that collapse, are easy to carry with you to the grocery store, and can handle the weight of a lot of groceries.
Americans use an average of 365 plastic bags per person per year! So, if you have a family of 4, replacing your grocery bags for cloth bags, or reusable bags can save 1,460 bags per year from re-entering our environment. Think about how much ocean wildlife you are helping by doing this. Also, if you store your reusable bags in the trunk of your car, you will always have one for those spontaneous shopping trips. If you are using public transportation, there are some amazing totes that fold up small enough to slip into your purse or briefcase. With such an easy and beneficial change, who wouldn’t pass up reusable bags?
Tip #3: Steel or Aluminum Tupperware Options
Did you know that if you bring your own Tupperware, which you can buy in steel or aluminum, you can pack your “doggy bag” yourself? Instead of waiting for the waiter to bring back a plastic or Styrofoam “to go” box, consider bringing your own. If you don’t go out to eat much, you can still call ahead and let the restaurant that you are picking up your order from know that you would like for them to pack your to-go order in your Tupperware, and sometimes they will give you a discount!
If you are the chef in your kitchen, this tip still helps, because any leftovers from your meal can be packed neatly into your to-go box and brought to work the next day. While you can’t microwave an aluminum lunch box, you can move your food to a plate and feel great eating in an esteemed manner at work. ;)
Tip #4: Reusable or Biodegradable Straws
Ahhhh… straws. The video of the guy pulling a straw out of a turtle’s nose is so popular that I don’t know anyone who hasn’t seen it. These little turtles also have issues with the plastic rings that keep our cans packaged together. Paper straws are a great option, since they are highly biodegradable, but perhaps consider toting a reusable stainless-steel straw with you as well. They sell these nifty inventions with re-usable aluminum water bottles too, and you can even find them with silicone or rubber tips if you have sensitive teeth.
Bamboo is one of the world’s fastest growing renewable resources, and because of this there are even bamboo straws available on the market as well. Try out one or two of your options and see what works best for you. The average person in the United States goes through 584 straws a year. Replacing your straws with something that is reusable or biodegradable will help make a significant impact on the environment, no matter how small!
Tip #5: Shopping Smarter
Being aware of your plastic consumption doesn’t have to impact your budget. As a matter of fact, you may end up saving quite a bit of money just using tips 1 through 4 on our guide so far. One of the worries we hear, is that making a change to no-plastic might cause an already tight grocery budget to go bust. The thing is though, we have shopped for “convenience” for so long, that shopping with the “reduce, reuse, recycle” mindset is hard when we are used to another way. It is possible though! There are a plethora of options when it comes to where we buy our groceries, including farmers markets, where you can fill up your nifty tote or reusable grocery bag without plastic, or whole foods markets, where bulk bins and that environmentally friendly mindset is already a part of the shopping experience.
Aldi Stores actually don’t provide you with shopping bags, and they are located in 38 states across the United States. This store has gone out of their way to spend less money on environmentally damaging habits, and it saves them money, so they pass on the savings in their food prices. If you don’t have an Aldi near you, there are many options, that help you stick to your budget, and keep you in the less-plastic mindset. Ask your neighbors, or do a quick Google search, we’re confident that you can find a happy medium between going plastic-free and breaking the bank.
Tip #6: Check Your Trash
This isn’t meant to be gross, but if you look into your trash can when you walk by, and make sure that anything that you can recycle hasn’t been accidentally thrown away by the ki… dog… then you will be adding a simple step to your day that can reduce the amount of plastic that is ending up in our landfills.
We have tried this in our own homes, and it turns out that our busy kids (who always blame their actions on the dog) accidentally throw away a lot of things that can be recycled. We love our kiddos, so showing them where to find the recycle symbol on packages so that they are also making better informed decisions can also help.
Tip #7: Out with the Plastic Wrap, In with Choices
Earlier we discussed replacing your Tupperware box for stainless steel or aluminum lunch boxes, but did you know there are other food storage options as well? Bee’s Wrap can replace cling film, and silicone storage bags instead of single use zipper bags can also help!
One person uses an average of 38 pounds of plastic film per year. Simply swapping this out with other options could reduce the amount of plastic in our landfills significantly, especially since plastic wrap isn’t usually recyclable.
Tip #8: Let’s Face It Ladies… Our Girl Parts Waste a Lot of Plastic
While the goal during that time of the month is to find a way to stay active and still be comfortable, perhaps consider opting for tampons that have cardboard or recyclable applicators, or no applicator at all. In 2018, there were 5.8 billion tampons purchased. When you consider that each one is individually wrapped, enclosed in a plastic applicator, and tethered to a polyester cord, and may even have plastic intermixed in the absorbent material, it is a lot.
Today we have reusable period underwear, reusable cups, and if you are already in a place that you know that tampons are the way to go, there are 100 percent organic cotton tampons with recyclable applicators.
Tip #9: Avoid Frozen Convenience Foods
Alright, you aren’t a chef, and you prefer going out or maybe you simply just don’t have a lot of time to cook; but if you are serious about ditching plastic, consider buying your foods fresh, and freezing them in recyclable aluminum storage containers.
The problem with frozen convenience foods is that they are wrapped in plastic, and packaged in cardboard, which is often lined with plastic as well, meaning there isn’t much there that is recyclable. Another option is to start meal-prepping and cooking enough for leftover frozen options. You would be surprised at what you can freeze, do a quick google search if you are unsure, but most prepared foods can be frozen without a problem, even bread!
Tip #10: Be Kind to Yourself
Going plastic-free isn’t something that you can do overnight. Take a few tips from the above guide, and work on it a little at a time. As you become more conscious of the ways you are positively impacting the environment, it will become easier to see ways to keep doing it. Perusing Pinterest, we found ways to make reusable bags out of old t-shirts, and even saw entire gardens that re-used plastic containers for the most amazing and gorgeous potted fun time. As people adapt to reusing plastic containers, they’ve even discovered ways to help organize their homes, and put their old plastics to good use in a way that won’t fill up our landfills. If you don’t adopt these tips right away, be kind to yourself and give yourself time to adjust. You can do it. We know you can!