Plastic garbage poisons our oceans, landing in the stomachs of fish before making its way onto our plate – this is just one example of the disastrous environmental consequences of plastic. Even when it seems that plastic is ubiquitous, we can nevertheless influence its use with our consumer dollar. It’s not even that hard to do so.
Step 1: Transporting Goods
The most common use of plastic on a daily basis for most consumers is the plastic bag. Everyone has seen pictures of plastic bags trapped in roadside trees or forming islands of plastic in the ocean. Morocco has already banned the use of plastic bags in supermarkets and certain chains in Germany have also begun removing these polluters from their store shelves as well.
Everyone has a collection of totes somewhere at home. Plant one at work, one in your purse or backpack, one in your trunk, and hang one on the key rack. This will ensure that you always have a tote bag handy when you need one and will never have to buy or use a plastic bag at the grocery store again. This saves you money and helps the environment.
Step 2: Picking out your Groceries
Cucumbers wrapped in plastic? Bananas in a plastic bag? Two kiwis individually wrapped in paper and plastic? We consumers can make a difference here. Consciously choose products that have the least amount of packaging necessary. Rather than buying a four pack of yogurt in serving-sized plastic cups, buy a larger container of yogurt; its reusable or recyclable packaging decreases the amount of plastic waste you’re producing.
Step 3: Coffee To-Go
Coffee is a very popular beverage, so it’s no wonder that lots of people grab a coffee to-go for a morning or afternoon pick-me-up. In your own reusable thermal cup, a latte not only stays warmer longer, but also produces no waste. If you don’t have your cup with you, you can always order your coffee without the plastic lid.
Step 4: Conquering Thirst
This tip again saves both money and prevents garbage. Virtually everywhere in the US, you can drink fantastic water for free right out of the tap. When you’re out and about, carry a refillable water bottle and you’ll never need to buy water in a plastic bottle again.
Step 5: Your Kitchen
Plastic containers for your leftovers or plastic serving ware – your kitchen is probably full of plastic you don’t even think about. Don’t just throw away all of your plastic goods, however; replace them as needed, piece by piece – for example, by trading your plastic stirring spoons for wooden ones. In contrast to plastic utensils, wooden utensils carry no risk that small plastic particles land or toxins leech into our food.
Step 6: Children’s Toys
Children use all of their senses to discover the world around them. That’s a nice way of saying that they put everything – including their toys – into their mouths! Cheap plastic toys can unfortunately be contaminated with harmful substances. Always look for labels on toys that they are PVC-free, BPA-free, or phtalate-free.
That said, toys made from wood and textiles are often the best choice. Since children sooner or later outgrow most of their toys, robust and well-made examples are easily resold or given to other families. Why not just buy such quality used children’s toys in the first place?
Step 7: Personal Hygiene
So many tubes, bottles, and dispensers! Don’t worry – just start with your bathroom soap. Replace your plastic dispenser for hand soap with a nice bar of soap. If you don’t want to stop using liquid soap, buy the largest bottle possible and refill your dispenser.
Shampoos and body washes can also be replaced with bar soaps formulated for body or hair. Aleppo or castille soaps, for example, are popular replacements for body washes, and specially formulated hair soaps or shampoo bars can eliminate the need for a shampoo bottle. Check out the selection in your local natural products store, Lush chain shops, or even online.
Welcome to you new reduced plastic life. That wasn’t so hard, now was it?
by Victoria Scherff