Every Spring I am reminded of the beauty of this little planet we call home. Unfortunately everyday humans as a species are killing Mother Earth quicker than we know.
LeBraun and I are always looking for ways to lower our impact on the Earth, but decided this year for the 40 days of Lent to really kick it up notch and further reduce our single-use plastic usage. A change which we will carry on long past Easter.
A typical household is riddled with plastic products—many of which are non-essential parts of our lives that cause so much damage to the environment.
World plastic production in 2016 totaled more than 335 million metric tons, roughly HALF of which were destined for single-use plastic products (according to the Earth Day Network.)
Thankfully today there is a wider range than ever of eco-friendly alternatives, and just like with everything if you take care of items, they will last longer. Yes, the road to sustainable living is long, but the little efforts we can make daily will make a big difference in the future and for future generations.
Below is a list of 9 easy ways to reduce single-use plastic usage in your household with simple, eco-friendly alternatives and lifestyle adjustments.
1. Say NO to Plastic Straws (& Stirrers)
Small plastic straws may not seem like much, but the usage really adds up. In 2017, Americans used roughly 390 million plastic straws EACH DAY (according to research firm Freedonia Group). That’s ALOT of litter. Fortunately over the past couple years more large chains and brands have been eliminating straws or developing alternative options (i.e. cups with spouts). Even if your area recycles plastic straws because of their size they often are mis-sorted and end up in landfills or make they’re way to the ocean. In 2018, plastic straws and stirrers are the 11th most found ocean trash in cleanups by quantity (according to Ocean Conservancy’s TIDES system).
So next time you go to a restaurant or cafe, simply ask for your beverage without a straw or bring your own reusable straw, which is what LeBraun likes to do.
Today there are several fantastic alternatives. A basic Google search will yield thousands of products. We purchase this Hiware 12-Pack Stainless Steel Straws with Cleaning Brushes on Amazon. The same company also makes wider Reusable Glass Drinking Straws that are great for smoothies and thicker beverages.
2. Reusable Bags In Leu Of Single-Use Plastic Grocery and Shopping Bags
According to the center for Biological Diversity, the average American family takes home roughly 1,500 plastic shopping bags a year. These single-use bags often end up in landfills and become deadly to the birds that mistake shredded bags for food, or sea turtles who can’t distinguish floating plastic bags from jellyfish.
The simplest solution? Avoid using single-use plastic grocery and shopping bags at stores and purchase some reusable bags. They can be found in most grocery stores, Targets, Walmarts, and from countless online retailers. And they’re not just for groceries. Take them to all retail stores—even the mall—anywhere you may need them.
We have an assorted collection of bags from all over, but canvas and nonwoven polypropylene bags are regarded as the most environmentally-friendly alternatives.
Reducing plastic bags at groceries also includes the plastic produce bags. We purchased a 9-Pack Purifyou Premium Reusable Mesh/Produce Bags. They’re lightweight, machine-washable, and even have a draw straw so you’re apples don’t end up rolling around your trunk.
3. Stop Purchasing Plastic Water Bottles
Another non-essential single-use plastic found in most households, offices, and stores are water bottles. The EPA has declared tap water safe for consumption in the U.S. so there’s no need to contribute to plastic bottle use that is already overflowing our landfills and polluting our oceans.
According to the leading sustainable living and green new guide gogreen.org, 1500 plastic water bothers are begin used EVERY SECOND in the U.S. alone.
Not only will purchasing a few reusable water bottle benefit the environment, it will also help save you possibly hundred of dollars purchasing single-use plastic alternatives.
S’well bottles are extremely popular at the moment, however they’re also unnecessarily expensive in my opinion. We found a similar shaped Stainless Steel Vacuum Insulated Water Bottle by Mira, that comes in a variety of fun colors for half the price. Hooray! I also have a pink-y Fifty/Fifty Double Wall Vacuum Insulated Water Bottle that I really like from Target. I can’t find the exact on online—I’m assuming it’s an older version—but here are some similar items on Amazon.
4. BYO Coffee Cup
Think about how many coffee shops you see a day. There’s practically a Starbucks on every corner, right? Now think about how many takeaway coffee cups they send out the door each day. That adds up to 16 billion disposable coffee cups used each year! The majority of which are not recyclable because of the plastic liner and coffee contamination. The single-use plastic is in the lids.
Whether we enjoy our coffee at the cafe or get it takeaway, we never leave the house without our reusable KeepCups.
Created in Melbourne, one of the great coffee capitals of the world, KeepCups are colorful, eco-friendly, and come in standard barista sizes (4oz, 6oz, 8oz, 12oz, 16oz). We purchased our first ones from a small design market in Melbourne’s Docklands back in 2016 and have since purchased a few more for us and some for our friends and family. Today KeepCups ship worldwide and can be found in stores internationally. My favorite one is a glass 12oz KeepCup with pink and green accents, reminiscent of summer watermelons. :) Each cup’s designed to replace the disposable coffee cup (not serve as a thermos) and becomes environmentally positive after 12 uses.
Many shops offer customers who bring they’re own cups a small discount. Holla!
5. Switch To Paperless Billing
Not plastic, but you might as well, right?
Switch to paperless—Everything’s online nowadays anyway so why not opt for paperless billing for your banking, insurance, legal, finance, and more!
Then subscribe to your magazines and newspapers online as opposed to their printer counterparts.
The paper industry is responsible for everything from contaminated sediments, toxic and air pollution, energy and water consumption, solid waste, and deforestation among others.
If the current rate of deforestation continues, it will take less than 100 years to destroy all the rainforests on the earth and that The United States, which has less than 5% of the world’s population, consumes more than 30% of the world’s paper(according to Conserve Energy Future).
6. Invest In Glass Containers
Reusable glass containers have a long life and are perfect alternatives to single-use plastic zip bags or one-time-use containers. They come in a variety of sizes for baking, cooking and storing everything from lasagna, casseroles, and leftovers to lunch-boxes. We purchased an assorted box from Costco when we purchased our first place in 2008 and still use them today. Check out these options on Amazon.
7. Give Up Plastic Cutlery
In addition to reusable glass lunch box containers, pack traditional silverware instead of purchasing and using plastic cutlery. Plastic cutlery is an unnecessary expense on your wallet and the environment.
8. Stop Using Plastic Hangers
Another pplastic item that people often overlook is plastic hangers. It's not single-use but their "lifespans" are shorter than alternatives. Instead opt for metal or wood versions instead. They often look nicer and last longer.
9. Buy In Bulk
Bulk buying is an excellent way to stock your pantry while cutting down on food costs. It not only can save you money, but reduce your impact on the environment. Specifically by eliminating the single-use plastic packaging in which the products would otherwise be sold. Some of the best products to buy in bulk include:
- Dried Fruits
- Dried Beans and Lentils
- Grains like Wild Rice, Quinoa, and Spelt
- Dried Pasta
- Chia Seeds
Of course there are many more ways to lower your environmental impact but reducing or eliminating your use of single-use plastics is a simple way to make a big difference.
What changes have you made to help reduce your environmental impact? Do you recommend any specific alternative products? Let me know on Instagram @studioist