The Plastic Bag Problem: Using Safe Alternatives to Protect Our Planet

by Megan Kioulafofski
garbage overflowing

The grocery store can be a dreaded spot for the sustainable shopper. Plastic is everywhere! It lines the walls of the produce section. It covers the checkout counter. Not to mention just about everything you buy is packaged in it.

This plastic bag problem is a hurdle for anyone trying to live a greener life. It goes well beyond the grocery store. Plastic touches every part of our consumer culture. You know you should cut down on it, but it seems unavoidable. It’s gotten to the point where even the most environmentally conscious consumers are scratching their heads wondering how to use less plastic

While fixing the plastic bag problem seems daunting, don’t despair! There are plenty of ways to cut back on your plastic consumption. In fact, a lot of them are easier than you imagine, and some of them are fun! In this article I want to show you how to use less plastic. You’ll learn 5 plastic reduction secrets that you can start to use immediately. But before we get there, I want to give you an idea of what the use of plastics costs us and the environment. 

The Real Cost Of The Plastic Bag Problem

So how much plastic do we actually use? According to the nonprofit organization Conserving Now, every year people consume more than 500 billion plastic bags worldwide. If you’re doing the math that’s over a million bags used every minute!

Worst yet, we only recycle 9% of the plastic we consume. Most of it ends up in landfills, riverways, and oceans. According to the Journal Of Science between 4.8 and 12.7 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year, and 100,000 marine animals die from the waste. 

While these statistics are disheartening, they are a clear call to action for people concerned about the plastic bag problem. Whether you’re a seasoned zero waster or just getting started there is no better time to commit to sustainability! Use the 5 suggestions below as a guide on how to use less plastic

food in plastic at grocery stores

Use Reusable Shopping And Produce Bags

When people ask me how to use less plastic the first thing I tell them is to buy reusable grocery bags. Overuse of bags at the supermarket is at the heart of the plastic bag problem. According to the Natural Resources Defense Council the average American alone takes home 1,500 plastic bags in a year. That’s a lot! Simply by using reusable bags you’re taking a huge step to reduce your plastic consumption. 

What type of reusable bags should you buy? If you’re really wondering how to use less plastic you should avoid most of the grocery bags they sell in the supermarket. While most grocery stores sell reusable bags, many of them are made from plastic. Plus most of these single use grocery bags are made of low quality synthetic material that breaks easily. This means you have to replace them frequently. Which only makes the plastic bag problem worse! 

If you’re looking for a durable, environmentally friendly option I recommend picking up natural fibre reusable produce bags and reusable bulk bags. All the bags are made from 100% organic cotton and are GMO free so you can feel good about your purchase. They’re even packaged in recyclable paper boxes to reduce waste, and made with renewable energy. Plus, every shipment is offset with a percentage of the order invested in protecting our rainforests. A good set of reusable bags from a reputable brand is your first line of defense against the plastic bag problem!

Choose Fresh And Healthy Foods

The plastic bag problem doesn’t stop with grocery and produce bags. If you look around your local supermarket you’ll notice that many items come pre-packed or wrapped in plastic. This is especially true if you buy processed and frozen foods. 

It’s not just the packaging, sometimes the ingredients themselves are literally made from plastic. Take chewing gum for example. Did you know that one of the main ingredients in chewing gum is a synthetic rubber called Polyvinyl Acetate? That means when you stick a piece of gum in your mouth you’re actually chewing on plastic. Yuck!  

Buying lots of frozen and processed foods just adds to the plastic bag problem. Why not switch to natural fruits and vegetables instead? Bonus points if you follow the advice in step one and bring reusable produce bags and reusable bulk bags for your fresh food! Not only is natural food better for the environment, it is healthier and tastes delicious. It’s a great solution for people curious about how to use less plastic while enjoying a healthier lifestyle!

fresh fruits and veggies

Try Homemade Foods, Drinks, And Sauces

Instead of grabbing a big sugary container of Minute Maid juice, why not enjoy a cup of fresh squeezed Orange Juice? Instead of buying a bland bottle of French’s Mustard why not try out a home-made mustard recipe with a friend of family member? 

This is my favorite suggestion to give people who ask how to use less plastic. It’s not only a great way to cut down on your plastic use, it’s an opportunity to try fun new recipes! There are a ton of recipes for homemade sauces and condiments. Most of them don’t take much time to prepare, and you avoid plastic packaging that contributes to the plastic bag problem

glass of freshly squeezed orange juice

Get Reusable Containers For Your Food And Cutlery

The small plastic bags used to store snacks and sandwiches help feed the plastic bag problem.  I recommend buying stainless steel or other eco-friendly containers for your food. They’re great for packing your kids lunch box or bringing a snack to work without using plastic. 

If you like to eat out get a set of bamboo cutlery! It helps you avoid the pesky plastic forks and knives you get at some cafes and restaurants. If you want to take it a step further you can even buy a glass or stainless steel straw to use in place of the plastic one that usually comes with your drink. Make sure when you order a drink, to tell your server “no straw please!” It sucks (pun intended!) when you come prepared and bring your own reusable straw, only to have a plastic straw served in your drink.  

bamboo cutlery and stainless steel straw sitting on organic cotton reusable produce bags

Ditch Plastic Water Bottles Once And For All

A recent study found that humans buy a million plastic bottles every minute. Most of them end up in landfills. However, what really shocked me is only 6-7% of plastic bottles are made from recycled material. This means even if you do recycle plastic bottles, hardly any of them get reused.

If you’re serious about sustainability, it’s time to stop buying plastic water bottles altogether. The good news is there are a ton of eco-friendly water bottles out there to buy. Check out this list to see some of your options! This is another big win for those curious how to use less plastic.

steel and blue colored reusable water bottles

It’s Time For You To Make A Difference!

While the plastic bag problem isn’t going away any time soon, you can take steps to be part of the solution. You’re well on your way if you took the time to read this article on how to use less plastic! But let’s not stop there. Now more than ever we need people to take action on behalf of the environment. 

Facing the plastic bag problem can be overwhelming. To get started, I recommend you pick one of the five items in this article to focus on. Even something that seems small like investing in organic grocery and reusable produce bags can go a long way. Once you master one item on the list start moving on to the others. The world changes one step at a time. It’s time to take your first step towards a greener future!

stepping into a greener future

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