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Now more than ever, it’s crucial for each of us to do our part to protect the environment and reverse some of the damage that we’ve caused.
While the onus of environmental protection is on governments and corporations, we have a duty to lower our own carbon footprints where we can. Some people do this by reducing water usage, switching to a more plant-based diet, stopping fast fashion, and more.
We want to talk about plastic, and why it’s important to learn how to stop using plastic (especially single-use plastic) in excess.
It’s a daunting task, stopping the use of plastic products. Plastic is everywhere, so how do you cut down on it?
We want to help. We have a few suggestions that can start you on your journey to a more environmentally-friendly lifestyle. Keep reading to learn more.
What Are the Dangers of Plastic?
So why do we care about this anyway?
Over 80% of marine litter is plastic. This plastic kills over a million seabirds and over one hundred thousand marine animals every year.
We ingest plastic through our cosmetics, foods, and drinks, which may lead to future health problems (including cancer). Plastic production centers contribute to air pollution.
Destruction from plastic costs the world billions of dollars, so why do we keep using it? Well, it’s convenient. We live in a society that values instant gratification and convenience over everything else. It doesn’t help that plastic is cheap, making it accessible to people across income brackets.
If you have financial stability, you can start making changes.
How Can I Cut Down On Plastic Usage?
We can’t change the world by making a few adjustments to our own lives, but when everyone works together, we can make a huge dent in the problem. One of the best things that you can do is vote for green policies so the weight goes onto the government, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do things at home to make an impact.
There are plenty of ways that you can cut down on your plastic usage by changing some of your day-to-day habits. While it may feel difficult at first, before you know it these things will be a part of your normal routine.
Reducing your plastic consumption doesn’t mean you’ll have a lower quality of life. You’ll find that you’ll end up spending less money (after a few initial investments), producing less garbage, and even living a healthier lifestyle if you make the right changes.
Use Reusable Water Bottles and Mugs
One of the best things that you can do for your wallet and your environment is making the switch to reusable mugs and water bottles.
This might seem obvious to anyone who’s already made the switch, but consider it for a moment. How often are you out and about on a hot day and realize that you need to buy a drink?
Disposable plastic water bottles are expensive and unnecessary. You’re paying for the plastic container, not the water, especially considering most places have some form of water source (in the forms of water fountains or sinks) that you can use for free.
Bring a glass, metal, or (in a pinch) sturdy and reusable plastic water bottle to fill up instead.
Even if you plan on getting a sugary drink like a soda or juice, most places will be happy to put your drinks into your reusable container if you ask.
This goes for coffee as well. We all love our occasional coffee shop treats, right? But even those cardboard cups are often lined with plastic, not to mention the lids and the straws.
Instead, ask the barista if they’re allowed to use your reusable mug instead. If you’re drinking inside the coffee shop, they may even have reusable mugs for you. Your drink will stay warmer and you’ll know that you’re doing a small part for the environment.
Bring Reusable Utensils Around With You
Okay, so we’ve gotten rid of drinking devices, what’s next?
How often do you use single-use plastic utensils and straws? Almost every time you get takeout or fast food, right? Even if you don’t do this often, everyone doing it means that the single-use items add up.
Have you thought of keeping your utensils from home with you? Put them in a small pouch and keep them in your purse or car so you can use them at any time.
You can even buy metal straws that retract so they fit into small spaces.
It’s estimated that over 500 million straws are used in a single day in the United States. You don’t have to contribute to that number. Be a part of the change.
Need Disposable Options? Plastic Isn’t the Only Option
Sometimes we need disposable utensils and plates, even if we don’t want to. Plastic isn’t your only option, though.
When you’re hosting a birthday party for a child, a big event, or providing meals for schools, you can’t get away with using all reusable products. It’s too much.
There are options. Bamboo is a popular alternative for single-use plastics. There are also plenty of new compostable options. These things may not be as sturdy as the plastic items that we’re used to, but considering that they’ll only be used for a short time, it’s a good tradeoff for the health of the environment.
Don’t put convenience ahead of the earth that we live on. We may get infinite plastic plates, but we get one planet.
Don’t Use Bags that You Don’t Need
How often do you know that you could go without a bag, but you choose to use one anyway?
More and more places are putting a price on plastic bags in grocery stores to dissuade people from using them. Others are taking more extreme measures and banning single-use bags.
We’ll talk more about finding reusable bags in a moment, but first, consider opting out when you don’t need a bag at all.
When you pick out produce, do you need a bag for every item? With small things, the answer may be yes. With larger items like bananas and cabbages, though, why bother?
You’re going to rinse the produce at home anyway.
When it comes to your overall shopping trip, if you only have a handful of items, consider leaving the bag out of the equation. It’s a convenience, not a need.
Use Reusable Shopping Bags
Sometimes we do need shopping bags, and that’s okay! When we do large shopping trips or we have many small produce items to carry, there’s nothing wrong with using a tool to help.
This is where reusable shopping bags come into play.
These bags are sturdier than plastic bags, so you shouldn’t ever have the problem of a bag breaking while you’re trying to bring your groceries inside. They’re easy to carry around, and they come in plenty of varieties.
There are even reusable produce bags so you don’t have to use the flimsy bags from the store. While many of us reuse the plastic grocery bags from the check-out lanes, those produce bags aren’t good for much aside from produce.
You don’t need to use them when there are better options available.
Buy Bulk Foods
Another great way to make your grocery trips plastic-free is by buying bulk foods. Look for places that allow you to put foods in your own containers so you don’t have to use plastic bags to hold them. You may have to weigh your container first to get an accurate price.
This is a great way to reuse old containers like jars.
Many things that we use every day can be bought in bulk, like spices, candies, and cereals that would otherwise use disposable plastic containers.
Glass not only makes them easier to sort and store, but it’s also more aesthetically pleasing in your cabinets. You can have a well-designed space with the benefit of knowing you’re doing good work for the environment.
Replace Plastic Tupperware
Speaking of reusable items, we should be striving to replace all of our reusable plastic items as well.
A note: it’s not good for the environment to throw away perfectly good plastic containers. While it seems helpful in theory, in practice you’re contributing to waste. Remember, “reuse” is one of the primary “Rs.”
However, when your reusable plastic containers wear out, it’s time to replace them. There are other options.
We love glass for the things that we have to store every day, like leftovers. It’s easy to clean, easy to heat up, and we can see what’s inside it for quick and easy access.
Metal is a great option for lunchboxes. It retains heat and cold well.
Regardless of what you choose, once your reusable plastic containers have worn out their welcome, replace them with alternatives that are better for the environment.
Avoid Single-Serving Meals and Snacks
On the topic of plastic containers and grocery stores, try to avoid convenience meals and snacks if you’re trying to cut down on your plastic consumption.
We understand that sometimes time is tight and you need to grab the occasional quick snack. Do your best, though, to meal plan ahead of time when you’re able.
These snacks and convenience meals are packaged in plastic. They have plastic trays, plastic wrappers, and sometimes plastic utensils.
Try bringing healthy snacks, like fresh fruits and vegetables, or granola) with you in your reusable containers. For meals, try to pack a lunch ahead of time and store it in a metal container so you don’t have to worry about it losing too much heat.
You’ll forget about the inconvenience when you adapt to the habit of making your own meals and snacks. Your wallet will thank you as well.
Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Repurpose, and Then Recycle
Most people only use three of the “Rs” when they’re talking about helping the environment: reduce, reuse, and recycle. These are great things to keep in mind and it provides a catchy mnemonic device to teach children how to do their part early-on.
There are two other parts, though. Refuse and repurpose.
Not all plastic is recyclable. There are piles of unrecycled plastic garbage flowing into the seas and filling landfills worldwide.
While recycling is a fantastic end goal, the first point of attack against environmental damage is refusal. You refuse new plastic products in favor of other products.
The reduction is next. It’s hard to live a modern lifestyle without any plastic products at all. Using alternatives where you’re able is how you reduce your plastic usage.
This is where reusable items come in. Whether you’re using products with an eco-focus in mind, or you have reusable plastics, you’re doing a good thing for the environment.
Repurpose is next. What can you use these plastics for so you don’t have to throw them away? Some people make wallets, others make fun DIY items for around the house.
The last step is recycling. While recycling does a lot of good for the environment, it isn’t going to save the world.
Now That You Know How to Stop Using Plastic, What’s Next?
All we can do is give you the information on how to stop using plastic. Your job is to implement these ideas into your own life.
We won’t lie, changing your habits is a challenge at first. It’s a worthwhile challenge, though, as it will save you money and save the environment at the same time. You’ll find that your home has less garbage and clutter and you’re able to stay more organized.
Once you’ve gotten started on your plastic-free journey, spread the word!