It may have been a few years since we watched the video of the marine turtle with a straw stuck up its nose but many of us are still traumatized. Add to this the statistic that humans produce almost 300 million tons of plastic waste a year, and it is no wonder that most people are trying to cut down on their plastic consumption. If you do not want to be partially responsible for killing a million marine animals each year, here are some meaningful ways to reduce the presence of plastic in your life.
1. Bring your own bag to the store
The number one anti-plastic action is to BYOB: bring your own bag. Reusable bags are such good quality and so easily available that there is no excuse to be picking up awful single-use plastic bags when you go shopping. Most markets and stores sell their own affordable custom grocery bags at the check-out counter so you can always buy one if you forget to BYOB.
Many reusable bags are fold-away so that they are convenient to carry around and come in various forms such as insulated cooler bags. If you have a car, just throw them in the boot. In case you think that you still need single-use plastic bags to pick up your dog’s business, know that there are now biodegradable dog poop bags that contain no plastics whatsoever.
2. Say no to straws and plastic lids
Everybody loves a morning coffee or a mid-afternoon Frappuccino. Sadly, billions of coffee cups are thrown away each year, a large proportion of which are plastic. Add to this the plastic straws and lids, and you have a monumental plastic problem. Even innocent-looking paper cups are usually coated in polyethylene, preventing them from being effectively recycled.
The best way to avoid contributing to this problem is to purchase a reusable coffee cup and straw. Reusable coffee cups come in a variety of materials including silicon, glass, and stainless steel. They are thoughtfully produced in standard sizes to make life easy for your local barista. Pair these up with a stainless steel or bamboo straw to bid coffee shop plastics adieu.
3. Never buy bottled water
With access to water being one of the universal human rights, it just seems ironic to have to buy water in a plastic bottle. Although many communities around the world have poor public water systems, the tap water in the U.S. is drinkable. If you prefer to have high-quality water, you can use a mineral filter on your tap water to remove impurities and add healthy trace minerals.
When you are on the go, a reusable water bottle will prevent you from having to buy bottled water. Public drinking fountains can be found in most parks, playgrounds, restrooms, and malls in the U.S. You can also ask for drinking water refills at certain eateries or convenience stores. There are also apps and crowd-sourced maps that show the nearest water fountain to you.
4. Avoid packaging
So much of what we buy comes with single-use packaging. Many of our essentials, such as soap, come wrapped in layers of plastic. Thankfully, there are now zero-waste stores and brands that allow you to purchase items in minimal packaging. You can even learn how to DIY your soaps and detergents so you never have to pay for beauty or cleaning products in packaging again.
Another aspect of life that often comes with packaging is grocery shopping. While we can replace single-use plastic bags with reusable cotton totes, many food items come pre-wrapped in plastic. To avoid this, choose to shop at local stores or farmers’ markets where produce comes unpackaged. Also, consider buying one bulk package instead of several small packages.
5. Cook at home more
With our busy lifestyles, food delivery and takeaways are tempting ways to put food on the table. However, these options are usually accompanied by polluting single-use containers and plastic bags. To enjoy your meal without suffering from a guilt trip, try to make the effort to cook more. As a bonus, research has shown that cooking can improve your mood.
Furthermore, you are in control of the entire catering experience when you cook at home. From the vegetables that you purchase to the condiments that you use and the plates that you serve your food on, you can be sure that you have made a concerted attempt to reduce plastic at every stage of the process. With three meals a day, this is a big impact.
If you absolutely cannot avoid getting a takeaway—everyone deserves a treat now and then—there are still methods to mitigate your plastic consumption. For instance, most restaurants are happy to oblige when customers supply their own reusable takeaway containers and bags. You can additionally ask them to leave out the disposable cutlery.
Plastic is convenient but deadly. Microplastics are entering our food chains and there is no better time than now to overcome our plastic addiction. By being more conscientious with our lifestyle and shopping habits, we can cut down on our plastic use and do our part for our planet and its inhabitants.