One of the most effective ways to have an eco-friendly lifestyle and ease your impact on the environment is to eliminate single-use plastics. Single-use plastic items like plastic straws, cutlery, shopping bags, takeaway containers etc. are used for a few minutes, but their impact on our environment and planet can last thousands of years.
Many countries are issuing bans on plastic bags because they’re not easily recycled, which means they often end up in landfills and oceans.
Did you know that, only 9% of all plastic gets recycled? The majority of plastic trash we generate, piles up in landfill or contaminates recycling streams. Since 2000, the world has produced as much plastic as all the preceding years combined. And, that is a problem we all need to solve.
The best way to contribute is to avoid using single-use plastics altogether. 40% of the plastic items we consume are single-use, and sometimes not even necessary. So, eliminating these out of your life will make a huge impact on the environment, even as an individual.
Want to have an eco-friendly lifestyle? Here are some tips to get you started at home and work.
Plastic abounds at the grocery store! It’s not just the bags they pack your groceries in, it’s the packaging on the food you buy too. Whenever possible buying in bulk can help cut down on that packaging.
Flimsy plastic like these lightweight bags get stuck in the machines and inhibits the process at recycling plants. Thus they need their own specific recycling plant and not all the countries are efficiently equipped with them.
If you absolutely need a carry bag, please request paper, or invest in some reusable tote bags or jute bags as an alternative to single-use plastic. These bags are turdier than typical grocery bags and easier to arrange in the trunk of a car so that items don’t fall out. The planet aside, grocery totes really are way more convenient if you ask us!
That same flimsy plastic grocery bags are made of is found in produce bags, which again are not recyclable. You may be thinking – there’s got to be a better way! Well, there is… reusable mesh produce bags. These are available at all different price points depending on quality, but even the cheapest ones will hold up because there’s not much to them. They often come with a little carrying bag, or you can stuff them all in one of the bags. Many have drawstrings to keep items securely inside. The mesh makes it slightly more difficult to see the produce sticker at the checkout but not at all impossible, and if you weigh the items yourself the label will stick on there long enough to ring out and remove easily once you’re home. They’re also machine washable. And most produce items need to breath anyway, so you can simply leave them in the bag wherever you store them until you’re ready to wash and use.
THINK ABOUT EVERYDAY ITEMS YOU CAN SUBSTITUTE IN YOUR HOME TOO…
Eliminating single-use plastic is the easiest to do at home. You can almost always find an alternative. Sometimes it’s the everyday items you haven’t even thought about like…
Instead of cotton swabs made with plastic in the middle, choose ones that are made with paper. The paper is biodegradable so it won’t contribute to the millions of tons of plastic that end up in the oceans each year. In fact, the U.K. is moving to ban not only disposable plastic straws and stirrers but also plastic-stemmed cotton swabs in an effort to reduce ocean pollution.
Leftovers are a way of life. Some of us survive on them. And plastic wrap is often a go-to for sealing tops of containers or wrapping up food. But there are other options… Aluminum foil, while disposable, is actually recyclable. It’s easier to recycle when compacted into larger pieces, so try saving up your foil before tossing it in the green bin, but it sure beats plastic wrap. Another alternative to plastic wrap is to use covered containers that you can wash and reuse… or for containers without covers, try a silicone stretch lid. If your goal is to reduce plastic, on the whole, a great sustainable option is a beeswax food wrap. It’s natural, washable, reusable and compostable… doesn’t get much better than that.
Everything from food and freezer items to toys and small parts can be put in a zip-locked bag. They’re so convenient for travel, on-the-go snacking and even storage. But my, oh my do they use up a lot of non-recyclable plastic. You can opt for a container instead of a bag, but sometimes you just need that bag. Because of this many companies are now developing reusable sealable bags. Some are even dishwasher-safe. You actually have a lot of options here from heavy-duty, leak-proof bags perfect for liquids and freezer items to material zippered bags and everything in between. After trying a few out, (re)zip is our favorite because it most closely resembles a traditional zip-locked bag with the added bonus of being dishwasher safe.
Sometimes we prepare and cook gourmet, three-course meals. And sometimes we hit the drive through on the way home from work. It happens. Take-out somehow seems like a middle ground between home-cooked and fast food, but it’s a huge culprit of single-use plastic. To cut down on all that waste, decline the plasticware if you’re headed home to metal utensils anyway. Many restaurants have a variety of container types… when you place your order, ask if they can package the food in eco-friendly containers like biodegradable paper. If your choices are Styrofoam or plastic, choose the plastic and reuse it in your home as much as possible.
Going completely plastic-free is a lofty goal… and one that would be incredibly challenging in our current society. Reducing plastics and finding alternatives is not an all or nothing kind of commitment. And no, one person alone can’t save the world. But if we each just do what we can, what we’re comfortable with, it can actually make an impact and at the very least open up a dialog that may, one day, in fact, save our world.
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