With Earth Day around the corner, going green is at the top of everyone’s mind. One way to make a big impact in a small way is to reduce your household’s dependence on plastics. Unfortunately, plastic is one of those products that turns up in sneaky ways, so even with the best intentions, it’s hard to be green. Luckily, there are some genuinely practical ways to reduce household plastic waste.
But first, why the big focus on plastic, anyway? According to Plastic-Pollution.org, global plastic consumption nearly exceeded 300 million tons in 2015. Don’t believe it? Think about all those plastic water bottles we use (of which 35 billion are thrown away every year). On top of that, the average American throws away around 185 pounds of plastic each year, which accounts for around 10% of the total waste that the world generates.
Since plastic doesn’t degrade for almost 1,000 years, it has to go somewhere; oftentimes, that somewhere is our ocean where it’s broken down into small pieces that either end up in the stomachs of the fish we eat or can be found in “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch,” a large floating mass of plastic that’s twice the size of Texas. Yes, an island of plastic.
Fortunately, there are realistic, everyday things we can do to help mitigate our plastic waste. In honor of Earth Day, here are some tips that will help you turn your household into an (almost) plastic-free zone.
Just Say No To Plastic Utensils
Yes, takeout is imperative, especially when you’re running late from a meeting before going to pick up the kids at practice, only to get home and realize that no one has gone to the supermarket in a few days. That’s when calling your local Chinese takeout or pizza joint is extremely convenient. However, all those plastic utensils that they shove in your bag are useless to you, especially since you’re eating at home. Next time, tell them there’s no need to include utensils. After all, cleaning your own utensils is easy, and they’re way better at grabbing a hold of those crunchy pieces of chicken in your General Tso’s platter.
Yes, the dreaded water bottle. We know how horrible it is for the planet, but did you know that it’s way more cost efficient to just install your own filter and drink tap? Charging for water – especially the amount of water you’re supposed to drink every day – is almost like charging for the air we breathe. Ok, maybe not exactly the same, but it’s close. Think about how much money you would save if you just grabbed a glass or a refillable water bottle every time you were thirsty.
This is something that you may not even think about. But, the thin plastic straw in your drink is not biodegradable. You may not use them much at home, but think about every time you go out to eat. Do waiters even ask you if you want a straw? Half the time, it’s sitting pretty in your drink already. It may seem a little weird at first, but let your lips touch the glass every so often.
Rethink Storage and Transport
All those plastic containers you’ve stored up from Chinese takeout orders have taken over your closet. It’s time to revamp your food storage routine, starting with recycling those plastic containers. Keep one or two for old time’s sake, then head to the store to purchase some glass containers that are not only safer for food, but can also go into the microwave and dishwasher.
Next, ditch the plastic wrap that drives you crazy when you attempt to cover anything with it. Instead, switch to a natural alternative such as “Bee’s Wrap.” Not only is this product reusable, but it sticks to the bowl, plate, etc. and not to you!
Lastly, let’s tackle the infamous coffee cup. We’re all guilty of using that throwaway coffee cup that seems like just paper, but did you know that it’s actually lined with plastic too? Now that you know, bring your own cup next time! Your hot (or cool) beverage will stay that way longer, and if you’re lucky, your local coffee shop will even give you a discount for bringing your own cup! Being green does save you green!
Buy In Bulk
All those big box stores may seem like a bad idea, especially when your household consists of just three people, but there are plenty of great deals on products that are not only organic, but less expensive when you buy in bulk. If your main cooking oil of choice is coconut, buying a large tub of organic coconut oil lessens the amount of packaging (and plastic) that’s being produced. The same goes for other pantry necessities like olive oil, flour, etc. Just be sure the items you purchase in bulk will either be used right away or have a long shelf life.