Is the daily act of throwing plastics in the garbage (or recycling whenever possible!) making you feel a bit ill? Would you like to cut down on your contributions to the waste stream? Plastic, with its known inability to biodegrade, is a great place to start! But the prospect can be overwhelming.
We’re here to remind you that you don’t need to do it all at once. Here are five easy changes you can work on this week to drastically cut down on single use plastics.
1. Commit to Carrying Your Travel Mug
Chances are, you already own one — even if you don’t use it. No need to go out and buy something fancy. If what you have is a plastic coffee mug in the back of the cupboard, use it! Even a jar can work as a coffee mug — the ankle portion of an athletic sock, with the foot cut off, can make a great jar koozy to protect your hands from being burnt. And if you do need to buy a travel mug, consider the thrift shop — there are a ton there. But whether you reuse, repurpose or buy new, it’s simple to do a quick calculation on how many takeout cups (and lids, and lid stoppers, and cup sleeves) you’ll keep out of the recycling plant or landfill — just think of how often you buy takeout coffee or other hot drinks.
2. Say No to the Straw
When buying or ordering a drink, think about whether you really need a straw, and if you don’t, let the server know. If you do need a straw, consider carrying one with you. There are so many different options out there, from stainless steel to silicone and from glass to bamboo! Single use plastic straws are well known to blow out of waste trucks and landfills easily and the sneaky things have a way of finding their way to the ocean, where they have tragic health repercussions for sea creatures.
3. Try Out Some Creative Alternatives to Plastic Wrap
Got leftovers? There are so many storage options aside from using plastic wrap! One of my favourites, when I have the space, is to simply place a plate face-down over the bowl of leftovers. Another of my favourite ways to store leftovers is in jars — they’re great because they use space efficiently and can hold a lot. (**Hot tip: Get your hands on a canning funnel. This handy device fits inside the mouth of any jar, making it easy for food to slide in without any spills. I use mine daily!) But of course, you can always use reusable plastic containers if you have them. Once you adjust to not using plastic wrap, you’ll find that it’s really quite easy! If you need to wrap something up, you may want to invest in some reusable snack bags or waxed cloth wraps & bowl covers (which you can also make!).
4. Put Your Cloth Grocery Bags in Your Car
This is another item that you’ve likely got kicking around, since, like plastic grocery bags, these reusable guys seem to proliferate. If you don’t have any, it’s time to start your collection! You might want to start by asking friends or family if they have extras they want to get rid of (I likely have some I could give you). Here at the store, you can buy mesh bags or grab a Boomerang Bag for free (they’re meant to bring back for someone else to reuse, but if that bag is going to keep a bunch of plastic out of the landfill, we’re cool with you hanging onto it!). Every grocery store seems to have a cloth option now and if you buy one or two per trip, soon you’ll have plenty! Now, put those in your car so that you have them when you need them!
5. Pack Utensils
Skip the plastic forks and knives! Whether you have some old cutlery tucked in a drawer that you can repurpose, a bamboo set, or some utensils designed for travel, these guys are so easy to tuck in your backpack, the glove compartment and your desk drawer at work.
Reducing plastic for a week? That’s the beginning of a lifelong movement! High five!