8 Easy Ways to Reduce Plastic Use
People seem to have this mistaken belief that going green is hard and complicated. Actually, the exact opposite is true. In fact, there’s one thing you can start doing right now that will have a huge positive impact on the environment: reduce plastic use.
Single-use plastics are items we use once and then throw in the trash, and they’re clogging up our waterways, overflowing in landfills, and hurting wildlife. While you might not be able to eliminate all single-use plastic from your life, even just cutting back on a few items is a great step in the right direction.
If you’re interested in easy ways to cut back on your plastic use, consider implementing some of these simple suggestions.
1. Bring Your Own Reusable Shopping Bags
According to the EPA, we use over 380 billion plastic bags and wraps every year. While they might be free at the store, we pay a high price elsewhere to use those thin bags. Most of the plastic ever made still exists because it doesn’t easily biodegrade. Additionally, it requires around 12 million barrels of oil to create all the plastic bags we use. They litter our roads, parks, rivers, and oceans, and can kill wildlife that accidentally ingests them. In fact, one study found over 50 percent of deceased sea turtles had plastic bags in their stomachs.
The problem is so bad that many cities around the world are now banning the use of plastic bags. If you live in one of those cities, you’re likely accustomed to carrying your own reusable bags to the grocery store. If not, it’s very easy to start this habit. I leave mine on a dining room chair so I remember to grab them before I head to the store. You can get foldable reusable bags that you can leave in your car or purse so you always have them with you.
You can reduce your plastic waste even more if you also switch to using reusable produce bags. I use these mesh reusable produce bags for my own shopping.
2. Opt for Reusable Storage Bags
Another great way to reduce your plastic use is to choose reusable storage bags instead of plastic bags you throw away after one use. You can find reusable storage bags that range from small snack bags that are ideal for a sandwich to large lunch bags that can hold your leftovers. They work just like your traditional plastic bags, except they’re made from PVC-free, lead-free, and BPA-free PEVA material that’s safe for food, is leakproof, and can go in the freezer.
Not only are reusable storage bags better for the environment, but they can help you save money in the long run. Instead of buying traditional plastic bags every few months, you buy these reusable bags once and use them again and again.
3. Eliminate Plastic Straws
Recently, the world has witnessed a big push to stop using plastic straws, and for good reason. Around 7.5% of plastic currently in the environment comes from stirrers and straws. Even worse, the World Economic Forum states that if we do nothing to change our plastic consumption, we’ll have more plastic in our oceans than fish by the year 2050.
However, it’s not just the environmental impact that’s causing cities to ban plastic straws. They can also have a serious impact on our health. Plastic straws are made using polypropylene, which is a type of plastic commonly created from petroleum. Although the FDA approves a certain amount of polypropylene in food products, some studies have suggested that chemicals from polypropylene might release compounds that affect estrogen levels, especially when exposed to UV light, acidic beverages, or heat.
Now, obviously one solution is to stop using straws altogether, but as a person with teeth sensitive to cold, I knew this would also mean needing to drink beverages that were room temperature. That’s not exactly an appealing idea. That’s why I purchased these reusable straws.
They’re made of stainless steel, so I don’t have to worry about BPA or any other harmful chemicals. They come with a cleaning brush, and they’re dishwasher safe. They’re also bent just like a traditional straw, which makes them convenient to use.
Now whenever we go out to eat, I simply put the straws in a carrying case and toss them in my purse. When we order our drinks, we let our waiter or waitress know we have our own straws, so we don’t need any brought to the table.
4. Choose Reusable Food Wrap
By now you’re likely noticing a theme on how to reduce plastic use: choose reusable instead of plastic. If you can find it in plastic, you can likely find it in a reusable form, and that includes food wrap.
I will fully admit I was thrilled to give up plastic food wrap for the reusable kind. I have a love/hate relationship with plastic food wrap. Mainly, I love to hate it. Surely I’m not the only person out there who can’t seem to use the stuff correctly? I could never get it to stick to the bowl, plate, or itself when I wanted it to. It usually only stuck to itself when I didn’t want it to. That meant half the time I was throwing away wads of the stuff because I didn’t have the time or patience to unpeel it from itself.
That’s why I love reusable food wrap. You simply put the food wrap over your food, bowl, or plate, and use the heat from your hands to mold it into place. When you’re done using it, simply wash it with a little cool water and soap, and then you can store it until the next time you need it. Reusable food wrap will last about a year even if you use it multiple times a week. It’s made from cotton, so when it reaches the end of its use, you can compost it.
5. Stop Drinking Bottled Water
Eliminating the plastic water bottles that are piling up in our landfills is just one of many reasons to stop drinking bottled water. Drinking bottled water is expensive. In fact, bottled water is over 600 times more expensive than tap water. Bottled water companies aren’t required to list their source on their label, and more than 25 percent of bottled water comes from a municipal supply. In essence, this means you’re paying more for glorified tap water.
The easiest way to save money and ditch bottled water is to use your own refillable bottle. If you’re worried about chemicals that might leach out of plastic bottles, you can use a glass water bottle with a silicone sleeve for protection. If you’re worried about contaminants that might be in your tap water, you can also find water bottles with a filter.
6. Pick Cardboard Over Plastic
For the most part, it’s easier to recycle cardboard than plastic. Although it’s not always possible, try to choose products that have cardboard packaging rather than plastic. For example, if you’re buying groceries, consider the pasta that’s in the cardboard box over the plastic container. Also, if possible, look for boxes that say they’re made from 100% post-consumer recycled paper. This means the box was produced entirely from paper that was recycled, so no trees were cut down to make it.
Another even better alternative is to look for grocery stores that sell dry goods, such as pasta, cereal, and rice, in bulk. You can then bring along a reusable bag or container to fill up on what you need. Not only does this reduce plastic use, but it also saves you money since you don’t have to pay more for unnecessary packaging.
7. Skip the Facial Scrub
I love a good skin exfoliation as much as the next person, but many companies use tiny plastic beads as the exfoliator. These beads are so small that wastewater treatment facilities can’t filter them out, and they end up in our waterways. Once in the water, marine animals start to ingest them. Not only is this bad for their health, but when the fish that we eat ingest them, that means that we turn around and consume the harmful chemicals in these plastics.
Fortunately, this doesn’t mean you have to give up exfoliation completely. Instead, simply look for products that use natural exfoliators.
8. Make Your Own Cleaning Products
When you make your own cleaning products, you’ll enjoy several benefits. First, these cleaning products use ingredients that are less toxic and safer for your family. Second, most DIY cleaning products use easy-to-find ingredients that make them cheaper than commercial cleaners. Finally, by making your own cleaning products, you can cut down on the number of plastic bottles you use.
Looking for some great DIY cleaning products? Here are a few of our most popular:
- How to Make DIY Hardwood Floor Cleaner
- How to Make DIY Laminate Floor Cleaner
- Natural Ways to Clear a Clogged Drain
- How to Make a DIY Fruit and Veggie Wash
By following these easy tips, you’ll find that you can reduce plastic use and save some money at the same time.