The plastic production has increased exponentially in the last few decades. It is found almost everywhere, from the computers we use to the clothes we wear to the daily packaging we buy. Many plastics we acquire are only used once and thrown away. And because it is nearly impossible to decompose plastic, our planet is suffering the consequences.
There are 9.1 billion tons of plastic on planet Earth today, and more than half of that amount exists as waste. 91% of plastic waste isn’t recycled. Virtually every piece of plastic that was ever made still exists in some shape or form–with the exception of the small amount that has been incinerated. The vast majority of plastic is accumulating in landfills or in the natural environment as litter–much of it ends up in the oceans. And if the predictions are correct, in 30 years the oceans will contain more plastic waste than fish.
Fortunately, there are an increasing number of plastic-free alternatives that are much kinder to our planet. While the majority of the environmental impact happens on a corporate level, we can all do our part to help curb the damage. Here are some ways you can support.
1) Stop using plastic straws, even in restaurants. Unless you have a physical disability, let your server know in advance that you won’t need a straw. If a straw is a must, purchase a reusable stainless steel or glass straw.
2) Carry a reusable bottle, fork/spoon and bag. Use these items as many times as possible so they are worth the resources they take to create.
3) Give up gum. Gum is made of synthetic rubber (plastic).
4) Choose products in glass or cans if they are an option.Remember to recycle those materials if they are accepted in your community.
5) Buy boxes instead of bottles. Often, products like laundry detergent come in cardboard which is more easily recycled than plastic.
6) Shop from the bulk section and use your own containers. You save money and unnecessary packaging. Some grocery stores will let you use pretty much any container, as long as you verify the weight of the empty container in advance.
7) When possible, eat in the restaurant instead of taking it to go.
8) Use a reusable bottle or mug for your beverages, even when ordering from a to-go shop.
9) If you order takeout or delivery, tell the restaurant you don’t want plastic utensils or straws. This is an option on some food delivery apps.
10) Opt for products with less packaging. Say no to bagged lemons, apples, onions and garlic, and tea that comes in plastic packets. Choose more fresh produce for snacks to avoid individual plastic wrappers.
11) Use bars of soap, shampoo, and conditioner instead of bottles and skip the plastic loofah. Find bars that are wrapped in paper, and for an extra environmental benefit, avoid palm oil.
12) Bring your own container for take-out or your restaurant doggy-bag since many restaurants use styrofoam.
13) Use matches instead of disposable plastic lighters or invest in a refillable metal lighter.
14) Avoid buying frozen foods because their packaging is mostly plastic. Even those that appear to be cardboard are coated in a thin layer of plastic. Plus you'll be eating fewer processed foods.
15) Don't use plasticware at home and be sure to request restaurants to not pack them in your take-out box.
16) Use cloth diapers to reduce your baby's carbon footprint and save money. The EPA estimates that 7.6 billion pounds of disposable diapers are discarded in the US each year.
17) Make fresh squeezed juice or eat fruit instead of buying juice in plastic bottles. Or choose frozen, concentrated juice that comes in cardboard tubes instead of the plastic jugs.
18) Either make or purchase cleaning products, which will help eliminate the need for multiple plastic bottles of cleaner.
19) Use replaceable blade razors rather than disposable plastic ones. The upfront expense may be a lot, but you will save money over time. Note that TSA does not allow passengers to fly with individual blades.
20) Use a bamboo toothbrush or one with a replaceable head.
21) Don’t buy bottled water. Filter your own. The advocacy organization’s Tap Water Database can help you select the best filter for your local water source.
22) Buy fewer clothes, or shop secondhand. Wash your clothes less so they last longer. Hang them to dry. Most clothing contains synthetic fibers made of plastic. These fibers shed in the wash and end up in waterways. However, synthetic materials may have some advantages over natural ones because they may last longer. Just don’t buy as many.
23) When shopping online, group as many items together as possible so you can receive fewer packages. You can also choose slower shipping times, which could reduce the climate footprint of your purchase.