Single-use plastic. Its the up-and-coming environmental cause that we are all starting to hear about. Unlike rising temperatures or air pollution, the unwelcome presence of plastic in our ecosystems can be captured on camera and easily shared. We are seeing pictures of garbage patches in bodies of water and then the bodies of marine animals on shorelines, filled with pieces of plastic.
There is no denying that humans are entirely responsible for this, because there is no history of this phenomenon or way to divert responsibility. As the guilty party, we need to take action.
This might seem impossible for some of us, because how do we avoid something that is everywhere and in everything? Where do we even start?
The first step is not to get rid of everything plastic in our lives. It also doesn't mean recycling more. Rather, we should look to diminish (or eliminate!) our consumption of new plastics, which will in turn diminish the demand for more plastic to be produced.
After stepping up my game this past year, I've come to realize that it is surprisingly easy and totally budget-friendly. It isn't about changing our entire livfe, but our daily habits. Below are 5 very simple ways to consume less plastic, save our oceans and all the people, plants and animals that depend on it.
I. Use reusable water bottles, cups and mugs
This might seem obvious, but not everyone is well-versed, or even partially versed in this matter! Opting for reusable water bottles, cups and mugs is one of the easiest and most impactful changes we can make to our day-to-day life to drastically reduce our consumption of single-use plastic. Let's use our elementary level math for this one.
1 single-use cup per week = 52 single-use cups a year 52 cups x 50 years = 2,600 cups over 50 years
2,600 cups, per person. (There are 9 billion people on this planet.)
That's a conservative calculation and still frightening.
Even if we are recycling our 2,600 cups, every purchase places a demand to produce another piece of plastic. So, by reusing our own containers we are diminishing the amount of plastic that will end up in a landfill or ocean and we're reducing the energy needed and emissions from producing and recycling plastics. On top of that, reusable water bottles, cups and mugs are widely available, affordable, and are more effective than plastic containers at keeping our drinks hot, or cold.
II. Use reusable bags
Repeat the math equation from above, then multiply it by however many bags you'd use when you go grocery shopping. This result is also equal way too many plastic bags to end up in our oceans.
Contrary to containers, plastic bags aren't as easy to re-use or recycle. Consequently, purchasing and using reusable grocery bags is even more crucial to curbing our demand, production and consumption of single-use, forever lasting plastic grocery bags.
Whether we keep them in our car, in a drawer at our work or by the front door at home - every time we go shopping, we won't have excuses but we will have reusable grocery bags.
III. Say NO to plastic straws
There's no way to sugar-coat this - plastic straws are one of the worst single-use plastic products, and something we should always refuse. Straws cannot be recycled, and plastic is not biodegradable. Consequently, millions of plastic straws are filling our landfills, seeping into our oceans and killing marine wildlife, every single day.
For those times when we absolutely need a straw, paper straws are becoming an option in cafes and restaurants, and stainless steel straws are widely available and an affordable waste-free alternative to their plastic counterpart. If you're not interested in purchasing or carrying around the stainless steel straw, don't worry, there are other approaches to the #strawfreelife.
First, we can legitimately start to flat out refuse straws, stating it as soon as we order drinks, and reminding our barista or waiter if/as needed. At a bar, sticking to anything in a can or bottle is the safest bet, but we can always provide a friendly reminder to whoever might be making our drink.
Assuming that we're (hopefully) all aware that re-usable mugs and cups are an option, if you're someone that is a dedicated green juice or iced-coffee drinker - buy a reusable cup with a straw. That's two less single purpose uses of plastic per drink, every single time.
IV. Embrace Bamboo Toothbrushes
To easily and significantly decrease our consumption of single-use plastics, the answer typically lies in changing small, but daily habits. A toothbrush is something we are (hopefully) using every day, multiple times a day and throughout all of our lives. Since we should be replacing our toothbrushes about every three months or so, most of us are sending about three or four toothbrushes to landfills every single year. Over the course of our lifetime that amounts to a few hundred toothbrushes, all of which last forever.
To avoid this, our best option are bamboo toothbrushes! They are an incredible alternative to plastic toothbrushes because they are biodegradable, meaning that they can be thrown in the compost just as easily as their plastic counterpart is thrown in the trash.
They're affordable, increasingly available and typically wrapped in compostable or recyclable materials - making the purchase friendly on all fronts.
Toothbrush game goals is purchasing fully biodegradable brushes, bristles included. Most brushes (right now) have nylon bristles, meaning that unfortunately the bristles can't be composted. But, while they're not the most environmentally sustainable option - they're close to it - and the solution is a simple extra step for us. Before tossing your brush in the compost, grab yourself a pair of plyers, rip out the bristles and put those into the garbage, then, toss the handle into the compost!
Typically, brushes that are fully biodegradable have plant-based bristles, such as corn or tapioca. As of right now there aren't a ton of options, but Brush Naked is one that I've used, works, has free shipping, and even has four colours from which to choose.
V. Use your own ustencils
Ditch the plastic. Bring your own. They don't need to be in a fancy case or to be bamboo - just reusable.
VI. Bring your own containers
When people think about a zero-waste lifestyle, bringing our own containers to bulk stores is typically what comes to mind. Bulk stores are at the forefront of the movement helping us to eliminate food packaging waste, but, its not only about bulk stores! We can bring our own containers everywhere, including grocery stores and for our to-go needs.
It might require a conversation and a bit of hassling, but its feasible. I've started telling people that I am allergic to the chemicals that are released from plastics, and have always been able to get my food put into my own container.
How to Achieve Superhero Status
Step up your grocery shopping game by bringing reusable produce bags, or skip bags altogether and buy produce naked.
Swap out your floss for plastic-free and biodegradable floss.
Shaving: Let's stop buying disposable! We can opt for
Ladies: DIVA CUP.
Here's to consuming less single-use plastic, saving our oceans and ultimately, ourselves.