Today you'll learn how to say "no" to single-use plastics.
Saying "No" To Single Use Plastics
If you haven't noticed, "plastic" is fast becoming an extremely dirty word. People are starting to carry stainless steel straws and embracing that incredibly virtuous feeling of refusing a bag at the checkout, and it's all for good reason: Plastic, especially single-use plastics, lay at the center of our waste issues. Here's a fact for you: According to Science magazine, 40% of the world's plastic is made into packaging that's used once and then thrown away. 40%! That is...a lot of percents! And with that in mind, it makes total sense why cutting down on single-use plastics, which mainly exist as packaging, is an excellent first step to lowering the amount of waste you create.
Here are some tried and true tips that range from simple things you can do starting right now, to more involved habit changes and product replacements:
1. Go without plastic straws if you're physically able. Though this seems to be the most talked about waste-reduction tip of the moment, cutting out plastic straws isn't feasible for everyone. But if it is possible for you, there are a number of reusable replacements available — and the option of just, you know, drinking a beverage without a straw.
2. Use your regular cutlery and plates at picnics, barbecues, and parties instead of disposable utensils and dishes. Take along a cloth napkin or bag to wrap them all in once they're used, then throw it in with your next load of laundry.
3. Swap plastic wrap for reusable beeswax wraps. Once you get on the beeswax wagon, you're not getting off. They're cute, smell great, and are a whole lot less hassle than evil Saran wrap. You can buy em' or make 'em yourself.
4. Avoid buying pre-packaged fruit and vegetables if you're physically able to cut up your own. If you can do without the convenience, this is a simple way to save excess packaging (and often save money too).
5. Get into the habit of carrying a reusable bag, water bottle, and coffee cup (if you're a takeaway drink buyer). From personal experience, I know it's one thing to own reusable items, and a whole other thing to actually carry and use them. My hot tip: Keeping your totes close to the front door makes remembering them en route to the grocery store a whole lot easier.
6. Note that you won't be needing plastic utensils when ordering takeout. With the containers, sauce packets, and multiple plastic bags, takeout is a bit of a waste nightmare. Make your habit a little more eco-friendly by going without the utensils and just using what you've already got in the kitchen.
7. Shop in the bulk food section of your grocer rather than buying pre-packaged staples. I'm lucky enough to have a grocer that sells in bulk near my apartment, and if you are too, I can't recommend it enough. It saves me money and I get to store my oats and lentils in giant jars, like I'm some kind of zero waste Instagram influencer.
8. And buy bread from a bakery or market that sells unpackaged loaves, if this is within your budget. Again, I've found that sometimes the bread from my local farmers market is actually cheaper. A true win-win.
9. Take your own reusable container to the deli or butcher when buying meat or fish that's normally wrapped in plastic before being sold. It may take some time to get people onboard with this idea, but it's worth it.
10. If you use a ton of plastic zip-lock bags, consider buying reusable food storage bags or using upcycled glass jars. These silicone bags do the same job as the plastic ones you rely on but are zero waste and will be more cost effective in the long run. When it comes to jars, baby food jars are especially useful for small amounts since some are heat- and freezer-friendly.
11. Take your own container to restaurants if you think you're likely to have leftovers. You know that Italian place that serves pastas three times the size of the average entree? Take your own container and leave with your leftovers, without having to ask for a styrofoam doggie bag.
12. When flying, remember to pack your own headphones. The sound quality will be way better and you'll cut down on some of that unavoidable travel-related plastic waste.
13. Order your ice cream in a cone rather than a cup. The easiest and most delicious tip!
And that's it for today! Tomorrow we're going to be talking food waste, so get ready to adjust your grocery habits, learn to love composting, and be low-key outraged about just how much of our fresh produce goes uneaten every day.
Until then, if you want to read more about cutting down on plastic, here are all the posts I mentioned above — and a few others you might enjoy!