I have a challenge for you. (It’s one I heard about on TV during a “60 Minutes” episode on climate change and pollution.) After you read this post, I want you to try to go as long as you can without touching anything plastic. How long do you think you could last?
Almost everything we use is made of some form of plastic. One day, I accepted the challenge. It was impossible not to touch my phone or my toothbrush within moments of waking up.
I’m concerned about the rate at which we are contributing to global warming and our overdependence on plastic, especially single-use plastic. While some usage of plastic materials is unavoidable, I believe we can do without an abundance of it. For example, “we are producing over 300 million tons of plastic every year, 50% of which is for single-use purposes – utilized for just a few moments, but on the planet for at least several hundred years,” reports Plastic™ Oceans. The plastic garbage that makes it into our oceans, lakes, ponds, and streams are killing wildlife from fish to birds. Much of this trash washes up on shore and pollutes beaches.
How can someone do their part to reduce their use of single-use plastic? Follow my lead! While I’m not perfect (our household has only begun the journey to a reduced-waste lifestyle), small changes are decreasing our dependence on plastic. Which one of these small actions could you take in your household starting today?
STOP BUYING INDIVIDUAL BEVERAGES
The days of grabbing a water bottle on the way to leave the house are over for me. If I need a roadie drink, I fill up a reusable metal bottle for the trip. Aside from the fact I’m no longer spending a ton of money on bottled water in bulk at Sam’s, I’m consciously decided that I don’t need to buy single-sized sweetened beverages. Now, that is better for my health, too!
USE METAL OR BAMBOO STRAWS
Although not as common as a metal water bottle, metal straws (some are collapsable and made to fit in your pocket or purse!) and bamboo straws are the solution for not using plastic ones. Don’t worry about how you’re going to clean them either. Most straws of this kind come with their own cleaning brush. I stock both types of straws and typically prefer the metals ones. When dining in a restaurant, I don’t use the straw provided or decline it.
SWITCH TO BAR SOAP
I’ve switched to bar soap. It’s funny, I used to think bar soap was so archaic, so I dunno…grandma-ish. Today’s premium bar soaps are luxurious, made from all-natural ingredients, and lather up just as well as most bottled shower gels. If you really want to go for the gold, ditch your plastic shower loofah and opt instead for a wash cloth.
BRING CLOTH TOTE BAGS TO THE STORE
I’m not sure why my local grocer hasn’t switched to a anti-plastic bags rule yet, but they haven’t. I bring reusable, cloth bags to the store and ask that they use them instead when sacking my groceries in small, plastic bags. If I accidentally forget my cloth bags, I simply ask the store to use paper bags.
REUSE PLASTIC PRODUCE BAGS
I haven’t yet purchased cloth reusuable produce bags, so in the meantime I try to avoid using plastic produce bags for items such as avocados or citrus that I can hand-wash before eating. If I have to bring home any plastic bags, then I simply stash them in my cloth grocery bags so they make their journey back to the store.
PACK BAMBOO CUTLERY
Made from earth-friendly material, bamboo flatware is surprisingly durable and can be cleaned in the dishwasher. While it’s most likely not strong enough to cut a steak, it does the job for most foods. I pack a set, like this one from Knork, in my lunch bag daily.
USE A CLEANING CLOTH INSTEAD OF PAPER TOWELS
Easy to wash in the laundry, cleaning cloths can be used to wipe up spills or wash your dishes. I don’t use them to clean windows, but they are awesome for use in the kitchen. I’ve noticed that I’m buying far less paper towels now and eventually I will stop buying them at all and opt for micro-fiber cloths instead.
MORE IDEAS FOR REDUCING YOUR USE OF PLASTIC
- Instead of buying your milk or juice in a plastic jug, buy it in waxed cardboard instead. The packaging contains some plastic material, but it’s far less than the alternative.
- Buy ingredients in bulk.
- Store leftovers in glass containers.
- Avoid using restaurant take-out containers. Bring your own or request some items to be packaged in foil.
- Don’t buy frozen dinners. Cook for yourself. Grab a dinner recipe here.
- Buy bread in a paper sleeve or make it yourself.
- Don’t change out your garbage can’s trash liner after every use. Better yet, don’t use a bag at all.
- Use real silverware instead of plastic cutlery when hosting parties.
- Make your own salad dressings and store them in mason jars like this recipe, Homemade Buttermilk Ranch Dressing.
- Use biodegradable paper bags instead of plastic bags for disposing of pet waste.
- Make your own household cleaners. Consider this one that uses leftover orange peels. I reused a plastic spray bottle at the time, but I see value in using glass spray bottles now.
It’s on us to make a contribution to reduce our use of plastics since so much of the waste is ending up in our world’s oceans, rivers, and streams. To do more research into the environmental issue, I encourage you to visit this link by National Geographic.
Do you have ideas to share about how to reduce one’s dependence on plastic? Feel free to leave it in the comment section below to inspire others!