Single-use plastics account for more than half of all the plastic we use around the world today, and it is the biggest contributor to plastic pollution in our environment. The only way to put a stop to that pollution is to say no to single-use plastics, but it can be harder than you might think. Fortunately, there are several clever ways to enjoy the same convenience without all the harmful pollution.
Carry Your Own Straw
You might think that a single plastic straw couldn’t possibly make a difference in the environment, but when you stop to consider that Americans alone use up to 500 million single-use drinking straws every single day – enough to fill 125 regular school buses from top to bottom – it’s a sobering perspective. When you order fast food or your favorite iced latte, bring your own reusable cup and straw, and tell the staff that you do not want straws. It’s really that simple, and it can make a world of difference when everyone pitches in. You can find foldable metal straws that clip to your keychain so you’ll always have one handy!
Bring Your Own Bags & Packaging
When you go to the grocery store, there are two things to consider. First, bring your own reusable bags and skip the plastic ones. In a single year, Americans use 100 billion plastic bags that take 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture! Furthermore, in 2015 alone, there were 730,000 tons of plastic bags produced in the United States. When you consider what one plastic bag weighs, it really puts things into perspective. Bring your own bags when you shop, and whenever possible, avoid foods and items that are packaged in plastic, too.
Ditch Bottled Water for Good
Bottled water is another major contributor to plastic pollution, and it’s one that’s incredibly easy to avoid. Rather than buying plastic bottles filled with water – and rather than accepting them from other people – look into some alternatives that might solve your unique needs. For example, you might choose to carry your own water bottle with you! You can invest in a good insulated bottle that will last a lifetime for less than $50, and you can find quality options for around $20, as well. While most plastic bottles are recyclable, about 80% of them still wind up in landfills – and they’ll remain there for the next 500 years or more.
Pack Your Plastic-Free Lunches at Home
Fast food is one of our biggest weaknesses when it comes to plastic usage, but it’s easy enough to avoid by simply packing your own lunch at home. There’s no need for plastic straws when you bring your own beverage, and if you put silverware in your bag, you won’t have to snag the plastic flatware from the restaurant or the breakroom at work. Be mindful of the items you pack, though: avoid foods that are pre-packaged in individual servings as these tend to utilize a large amount of plastic. Look for whole foods like bananas, bake your own sandwich bread at home, and when you buy meats and cheeses, ask the deli to skip the plastic and wrap your items in paper, instead.
Saying no to single-use plastics isn’t as difficult as it might seem, but if you aren’t prepared, you might be caught off guard by the sheer amount of plastic you use in a single day. These ideas are all great places to start, and don’t be too hard on yourself if you miss something. After all, any eco-friendly change is better than none at all, and for most of us, there’s a learning curve.