In 2018, Collins Dictionary bestowed “single-use” the Word of the Year. In fact, research found that “single-use” is now four times as common as it was in 2013, due to the increased public awareness brought on by the constant news stories and impactful images of the environmental damage caused by plastic. Much as the name implies, single-use is used to define a product that’s made to be used only once before it is thrown away or recycled, and often refers to products composed of plastic (i.e. plastic bags, straws, coffee stirrers, water bottles, food packaging, and so on).
Today, it is commonly known that single-use plastics cause a devastating impact on the environment, particularly on the oceans. Humans produce hundreds of millions of tons of plastic every year, most of which cannot be recycled. Most of our plastic ends up in landfills, our oceans and waterways, and the environment. The solution to this growing problem is obvious: to reduce the use of single-use plastics.
If you want to make 2019 the year that you go plastic-free or at least reduce your consumption of single-use plastics, we’ve got you covered. Below are some of our favorite tips for minimizing single-use plastic.
- Say no to straws – Even at restaurants. If a straw is an essential component of your life, purchase a reusable stainless steel, glass, or bamboo alternative
- Give up bottled water – Invest in a reusable plastic-free stainless steel water bottle, like this one from Klean Kanteen
- Bring your own bag – When food and clothes shopping (or any shopping in general), bring your own canvas tote or backpack, for example. You can even make your own reusable shopping bag from old sheets you have tucked away deep in your linen closet
- Bring what you need with you in general – Reusable containers for leftovers at a restaurant, silverware if you’re eating on the go, the refillable coffee mug…the list goes on!
- Cook more food at home – Even better than bringing your own reusables while dining out, choose to cook at home instead. Not only is it more nutritious, it’s also better for the environment and your wallet
- While food shopping, avoid items that are packaged in plastic – Choose instead items that come in recyclable or sustainable packaging (such as paper, glass, or cardboard). Another great option is to shop at local grocers and farmer’s markets where you’re able to refill your own reusable containers in lieu of the plastic bags they provide. If you must purchase an item that’s inside plastic packaging, consider purchasing in bulk
- Consider making your own personal care and cleaning products – Ideas include home-made soap, shampoo, laundry detergent, and disinfecting solution (vinegar and citrus work wonders when it comes to cleaning)
- Purchase a bamboo toothbrush – Many of these can be composted after use
- Use metal razors with easily replaceable metal razorblades
- Ditch plastic wrap – There are lots of eco-friendly alternatives available today, like Bee’s Wrap
Single-use plastics frequently do not make it to a landfill or are recycled. A full 32% of the 78 million tons of plastic packaging produced annually is left to flow in our oceans. Even single-use plastics make it to the landfill, they are certainly not harmless. Landfill liners can leak harmful pollutants into the watershed including plastics on tops of landfills. The best way to curb single-use plastic pollution is to reduce your personal plastic consumption.
Now that you have some ideas on how you can avoid single-use plastic, you’re prepared to implement some of these changes into your own life in the new year to join the movement. We know that going plastic-free is a challenge, but don’t be discouraged as you embark on your mission. Remember that even a small change can go a long way in protecting and preserving our environment for the future. Simply choosing to buy products with less packaging, no packaging, or recyclable packaging alone can make a huge difference.
Avoiding single-use plastics is one of the many things you can do to help the planet. Other actions you can take to help create a more sustainable future include being more energy efficient at home, composting, biking to work, and choosing an energy supplier that offers environmentally focused energy solutions to power your home (like Kiwi Energy, for example).