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Today’s blog post about reducing plastic waste came from a conversation with my granddaughter Aubrey.
As we watched a movie together this afternoon, she scrolled through photos online. Pausing the movie, she showed me one that halted her scrolling. An ocean bay, filled with thousands of water bottles and scraps of plastic, concerned her. Even more tragic were photos showing the devastating effects of plastics on marine life.
“What do we do?” Aubrey asked.
What Do We Do to Reduce Plastic Waste?
I’m so glad she asked.
My immediate response was to point to my metal water bottle, resting on the ottoman in front of us. We stop buying one-use plastics, I told her. I explained that recently I stopped using plastic water bottles, straws, sandwich bags and other plastics that are used once and tossed.
Her questions, as our conversation continued, were great. She wondered what I did at restaurants, if offered a straw. I decline it or lay it aside on the table, unopened. At home I use metal straws and glass containers for filtered water poured from a Brita pitcher.
This 10 year old child and I talked about ways to reduce plastic waste and clean up our oceans. I shared what I am currently doing and what habits I intend to shift. She quickly grasped that even small actions create change, as more and more people become aware and join together .
Her curiosity even led to a discussion about living a plant based lifestyle and how that helps the planet. This is a decision she can make as she gets older. However, there are many things she and I…and all of us…can do now, to help make a difference and bring healing to our home, planet Earth.
12 Ways to Reduce Plastic Waste
In 2018 more 38 million tons of plastic waste were generated in the US. Only 7% of that plastic found its way into recycling bins. Worldwide, 8 million metric tons of plastic waste, per year, ends up in our oceans. Need a visual of that enormous number? Imagine a huge garbage truck dumping a load of plastic into the ocean, every minute of every day.
One-use plastics especially, such as straws, water bottles and containers, are a huge problem. All that plastic is not just unsightly as it litters beaches and clogs inlets and bays. It’s destroying marine life and releasing toxins into the environment.
Here are 12 easy ways to begin reducing plastic waste:
Bring Your Own Shopping Bag
Most grocery stores offer the option of bringing your own cloth or reusable plastic shopping bags from home. Some stores, like Natural Grocers and Aldi’s don’t provide plastic shopping bags at all.
Use cardboard boxes or reusable shopping bags and bag up your own groceries. Take that practice one step further and bring your own reusable produce bags as well.
Stop Purchasing Products Containing Microplastics
Much of the plastic pollution in the ocean comes from microplastics. These are commonly added to consumer products such as toothpaste and face cleanser. The tiny beads are intended as exfoliators. Wastewater treatment facilities aren’t able to screen them out.
Instead, look for biodegradable alternatives. Avoid products with polypropylene or polyethylene on the ingredient lists.
Don’t Use Plastic Water Bottles
We’ve become so accustomed to the convenience of plastic bottles. However, these bottles are accumulating at an alarming rate in landfills and bodies of water. This is such an easy first step to take, in reducing plastic waste.
As an alternative, use metal water bottles. These come in a variety of sizes and colors, with loops for attaching to backpacks if desired. I’ve already become accustomed to carrying a metal water bottle with me and refilling it as needed. I even pour herbal teas into my bottle.
Similarly, carry a refillable coffee mug or thermos to coffee shops rather than using their disposable styrofoam cups.
Purchase in Bulk
Much plastic waste occurs in the kitchen, as many foods come in plastic packaging that is tossed after opening. Consider buying foods such as rice, beans, nuts, cereals, pasta and spices in bulk. Bring your own containers to tote them home in.
Think Differently About Food Storage
Rather than using one-time use plastic storage bags consider using glass or reusable containers for storage. Pack lunches in bento boxes, with compartmentalized spaces. Use stackable glass bowls with lids for leftovers in the fridge. Even glass canning jars make great storage containers.
Try taking your own clean containers to restaurants for take home food. I’ve done this for Thai take out…and no one said a word. They simply used the container, returning it to me with my food to go.
There are a wealth of reusable storage containers and options other than baggies and plastic wrap available for purchase.
Replace Disposable Razors
Instead of using plastic disposable razors, opt for razors that have replaceable blades.
Switch to Cloth Diapers
I know what you are thinking. However, cloth diapers have changed greatly in recent years. You don’t even need diaper pins, if you purchase one of the new self securing styles. And they come in a variety of fun designs and patterns.
If you’ve had babies and toddlers, you know how many disposable diapers end up in the trashcan in a day. The EPA estimates that 7.6 billion pounds of diapers are tossed yearly, in the US. Washable cloth diapers not only lessen waste, they save money too.
Refuse Plastic Cutlery
Use the real forks, knives and spoons at home, instead of plasticware. And in restaurants, refuse plastic cutlery when toting food home.
Stop Using Plastic Straws
At home, switch to metal or glass straws, if you want to use them. I have a set of metal straws that I sometimes use when drinking smoothies or cold lemon/lime water. My set came with a tiny bottle-style brush for easy cleaning.
In restaurants, refuse plastic straws. Sip directly out of the glass. This practice has been easy for me to adopt. I drink water anyway in restaurants, on the rare occasions that I eat out. And now I don’t use a straw.
Purchase Second Hand Items
Most toys, electronic gadgets and household items come packaged in plastic. Purchasing these things through second hand stores, flea markets and yard sales saves money and reduces plastic waste. And don’t you hate opening those bulky plastic packages anyway? They often require a knife or a pair of scissors, just to get them open.
Travel Without Plastics
With an international trip coming up next month, my granddaughter and I discussed what I could do about the required quart sized plastic bag that TSA requires for toiletries. You know the rule. All 3.4 ounce containers, or smaller, must be in a clear quart sized bag, one bag per traveler.
I looked on Amazon, under TSA Approved Clear Quart Sized Travel Bags. And….there are alternatives! You know I’ll be purchasing these. I can’t wait to tell Aubrey. And the two piece set below means I can give the other one to my sister to use.
Support Companies Using Ecological Packaging
More and more companies are making ecologically sound choices when it comes to packaging. Look for those companies and support them by purchasing their products. Those actions send a strong message as well to the companies who are packaging with plastics.
Here are a few brands to get you started:
Seed Phytonutrients – This company packages clean and natural hair, face and body products in shower-friendly paper bottles.
Plaine Products – Purchase bath and body products that are packaged in aluminum bottles. Plus the company offers a refill program.
PAPELYCO – This company supplies plantable paper plates…which is so very cool…and green. After use, place the plate in the ground and a plant grows out of it!
One Step at a Time
I hope you found at least one action that you can take, to reduce plastic waste. I am continuing to adopt new practices and do research.
As I drove to Subway, so Aubrey could get a sandwich, we continued our discussion about making a difference and reducing plastic use. She even declared, with a great deal of zeal, that at some point in her life, she would shift her eating habits and become plant based.
“I’m going to become a vege-freaking-tarian!” Aubrey
I love that girl’s fire and spirit! Plus, she makes me laugh.
She makes me proud too.
At Subway she ordered a plain sandwich, a bag of chips and a small cup of water…NO STRAW.
That’s my girl.
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