Reducing Our Plastic Usage
Plastic is one of the growing issues we are currently dealing with all over the world. Whether we go to the store to buy a case of water bottles or buy individually packaged snacks for our child’s lunch, plastic is everywhere. In order to produce plastic, we need a lot of energy resources that are obtained from nonrenewable sources, which generates greenhouse gas emissions. Not only does it require so much energy and resources to produce plastic but have you ever thought about the energy and resources it requires to break it down? While most types of plastics are recyclable, most municipal governments do not have the infrastructure to carry out such a process.
Where It Ends Up
Recycling our waste is great practice, but if it doesn’t go into a recycling bin, where does it end up? Almost 60% of all the plastics we’ve ever made are on the planet….somewhere. If plastics aren’t being properly recycled, they can end up in landfills, streams, rivers and eventually, the ocean. Once plastic ends up in the ocean, it can make its way to The Great Pacific Garbage Patch. The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is a massive dump of floating garbage in the Pacific Ocean that traps millions of pieces of plastic debris. This garbage patch is one of five filled gyres in the sea.
The Lifecycle of Plastic
One of the advantages of plastic is that it’s designed to last. However, it can take hundreds of years to break down – if at all. The photo below shows how long it can take for each particular item to break down; plastic bags, coffee cups, plastic toothbrushes, water bottles, and even disposable diapers, all of these we use and see on a daily basis.
Author Recommendations to Replace Single-Use Plastic
There are so many ways you can eliminate single use plastics daily just by investing in the right products. Below are some items I implement and hope to invest in more items in the future. Please keep in mind that the shops I’m recommending are from places that I have found interest in. You can find these items anywhere online such as Amazon.
Cotton Mesh Produce Bags
With the amount of produce I buy on a weekly basis, cotton mesh produce bags were a definite must. I was wasting so much plastic at the groceries for fruits and veggies and felt so bad once I got rid of it. I purchased mine from a local shop in Downtown San Jose called The Source Zero, but you can get them anywhere else!
Reusable Grocery Bags
One thing I find myself being guilty of when going grocery shopping is forgetting to bring my own reusable bags. I beat myself up everytime I forget my reusable bags because I absolutely hate hoarding plastic bags under my sink. I might have to implement the trick our fellow Brightly Scout, Caitlyn, mentioned when it comes to making use of those extra plastic bags. Whether it be cloth, cotton, polypropylene or nylon, reusable bags are the way to go.
Reusable Sandwich, Snacks and Half Gallon Bags
While there are many kinds of reusable silicone bags available online and in stores, Stasherbag is my favorite one. They have snack, sandwich, and gallon sizes available. Not only can you use this bag to store snacks, sandwiches, vegetables, or frozen goods, but you can also use this to put your makeup in or your toiletries for a weekend getaway out of the city. They are easy to clean and most are dishwasher safe.
Reusable Water Bottles
I cannot stress this enough but please use reusable water bottles! As shown in the section above, a single water bottle is equivalent to a lifecycle of 450 years. Almost 75% of them end up in landfills, as litter and pollute our waterways and ocean. I give kudos to every single person with a reusable water bottle no matter the brand, but Hydroflask is my all time favorite. The stainless steel bottles keep your water cold and for coffee lovers, ditch those cups because they even keep your hot beverages well, hot!
Bamboo or Steel Straws
SoSeas, a brand founded in Yorkshire, UK, sells a good variety of items that replace single-use plastics within the household. These stainless steel straws come with cotton tipped cleaners and a free pouch you can place them in. I have yet to purchase from SoSeas but the collapsable stainless steel straw I got for Christmas was from Amazon and it even came in a to-go container and a cleaning pipe
Another key item I recently invested in at The Source Zero was my very own bamboo cutlery set. I had a great routine when it came to prepping my meals for the following work day but one thing I never brought with me was my own spoon and fork. As I started becoming more aware of what I was doing, I decided to buy my own bamboo cutlery set. I know you’re probably wondering why I didn’t just bring my own utensils from home but the cute design made eating fun!
Waste Free Period Care
As someone who religiously used tampons with applicators, switching to a menstrual cup was a bit challenging and difficult for me to get used to (experiences vary per person). Now that it’s been half a year since I’ve made this switch, it was probably one of the best decisions I’ve made with my plastic free journey. Aside from the Saalt cup, there are other great brands such as Diva Cup, SoftCup and Blossom.
Favorite Accounts from the Author
There are so many platforms to find users who promote zero waste living, give eco-friendly tips and provide you with plastic free alternatives. See below for my favorite Instagram users:
- @shopwithgoodintent – Good Intent Low Waste Shop
- @theecofriendlyguide – Zero Waste & Eco-Friendly Tips
- @zerowastestore – Zero Waste Store
- @wastefreeplant – Waste Free Plant
- @the.eco.warrior – Eco Warrior
- @netzerocompany – Net Zero Company
- @soseasuk – Earth-Kind Products
- @seedandsproutco – Say See Ya To Plastic
- @thesourcezero – The Source Zero
- @packagefreeshop – Package Free
A Little Goes a Long Way
While it may be entirely difficult to avoid plastic, there are different ways you can cut down plastic use daily. A few tips you can follow aside from the items mentioned above are going to your local farmer’s market, packing your leftovers in corningware, bring your own thermos to coffee shops, get the plastic off your face (i.e. skincare and make up) or invest in a razor that lets you replace just the blade. No one is perfect and I know it may be difficult for some to follow tips like these, but investing in products that will help reduce the use of single use plastics can go a long way.