Cut Your Use of Plastic, Plastic, Plastic

Recycling isn’t enough

Household items made of various types of plastic
Household items made of various types of plastic Wikimedia Commons

You are not new to recycling.  You’ve been doing it for years and it’s a big part of your daily routine. You’ve become at an expert at identifying what plastics you can and cannot recycle. Now focus on another important part of eco-friendly living: reduce your use of plastic.

Each year, an estimated 500 billion to 1 trillion plastic bags are consumed worldwide. That comes out to over one million per minute. Billions end up as litter each year or in landfills. If that’s not enough, almost 3 million tons of plastic are used to bottle water each year worldwide. Nearly 80 percent of all water bottles are not recycled and wind up in landfills.  We are drowning in plastic, people!

That plastic can be bad for us and bad for the environment. Recent studies have shown that there’s more plastic than plankton in some of the remote parts of our oceans. And there are increasing reports on the human health effects of chemicals used in plastic products. Let’s also not forget that plastic is made from petroleum, which is a non-renewable resource and a major contributor to global warming.

So let’s get to it– how to reduce your use of plastics:

1. Don’t use garbage bags—just empty your trash into the garbage bin.

2. If you don’t like that approach, get yourself some recycled or biodegradable, compostable garbage bags.

3. Request that your daily newspaper not be wrapped in plastic when delivered. (Or cancel your newspaper subscription and go totally online for your news fix– you’ll save hundreds of trees as well.)

4. Take your own plastic or metal container to the restaurant to take home your leftovers when you’re eating out. Sure they’ll look at you funny, but remember you’re an eco-trend-setter!

5. Remind your favorite take-out place to leave out the plastic utensils when they pack your food to go. Your drawers are full of them already! And politely decline the bag if you only have one or two items to carry home.

6. Ask you favorite dry-cleaners to eliminate the plastic wrap on your clothes. Don’t forget to choose an eco-friendly, non-toxic dry cleaner too.

7. Take your reusable coffee tumbler with you when get coffee to-go. And skip the lid for your soft drink. Those plastic lids add up!  And now you don’t need a plastic straw.

8. You’ve heard it before but it’s critical: The simple most profound solution to reduce plastic consumption is to bring your own bags when you shop at the grocery store, drugstore or mall.  There are so many great cotton, canvas, even hemp bags available now in endless sizes and styles. Have you seen the ultra-light compact Chicobags? Throw two in your car or purse so you’re never without a reusable bag and you’ll always have one handy!

9. Another major source of plastic bag waste are the pesky flimsy plastic produce bags that accumulate in your closet.  Reusable cotton mesh produce sacks are a simple solution to that problem. Check them out at Toss them in your reusable shopping bag and head to the market. Each reusable bag you use has the potential to eliminate thousands of plastic bags over its lifetime.

10. And let’s all remember the problem that is the disposable plastic water bottle.  Many alternatives to plastic water bottles are available. Kleen Kanteen and SIIG water bottles are stainless steel safe alternatives to plastic water bottle and are available in many sizes.

11. For water use in the office…Remember the novel concept of a pitcher or a glass of water? You don’t have to drink from a bottle.

12. There are loads of ways to reduce your consumption of plastic when you store leftovers, pack lunches or food to go. Ditch those plastic baggies or foil for containers that come in endless shapes and sizes and you can use them over and over again! Pack them in your reusable lunch sack too.

13. Become an eco-wise consumer whenever you shop. Choose products that contain less packaging. Check every plastic container before you chuck it– it may be recyclable! Purchase products in larger containers—get a huge jug of laundry detergent rather than three smaller ones.  Choose glass bottles over plastic whenever possible.

Just as recycling has become second nature, these simple ways to reduce our consumption of plastic make a world of difference! And don’t be afraid to speak up about these ideas.  The more that retailers and restaurants hear about alternatives, the better the chance that they’ll make changes in the way they do business. That way we’ll multiply our individual actions.

What ideas do YOU have? We’d love to hear them!

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