by Amy Daniels

There is no question about it. It’s time to start cutting back on our use of single use plastics. Even for those who recycle, it’s important to remember that not using that plastic in the first place is far better than recycling.

Think through your day. You may be surprised by how much plastic you come into contact with. Thin strands of plastic woven together to create fabric make up many bed linens and clothing. Bathroom products from shampoo, body wash, toothpaste, and beauty product are largely packaged in plastic. Toothbrushes and razors are most often plastic. Did you purchase coffee in a plastic tub or do you use K-cups? You pack your lunch in a hard plastic container or a plastic sandwich bag. That’s a lot of plastic and you haven’t even made it out the door yet!

Plastic is not inherently evil–it’s use allows for many great things in the medical and technical fields. Many things that are made from plastic are very durable and will last a long time. The issue is with disposable, single use plastics. Only a small percentage of single use plastics are actually recycled. Most wind up in landfills or otherwise polluting the planet.

Reducing your plastic use isn’t difficult, but it does require a little forethought and effort. It’s too easy to over-use plastic because it is so common. It’s practically the default material used for packaging and containers. Here are some ways you can reduce your overall plastic consumption. Every little bit helps.

• Use a refillable (preferably glass or stainless steel) water bottle.

• Purchase a water filtration system for your home–a filter jug or a unit which can be mounted under the sink.

• Pay attention at the grocery store–choose items that are packaged in glass, cardboard, or aluminum. Opt for produce that isn’t wrapped in plastic. Switching brands to save the planet isn’t a huge sacrifice. Glass jars can be recycled or reused in the kitchen.

• Buy biodegradable trash bags (Yep! Available in most grocery stores right along with the traditional plastic ones.)

• Skip the plastic bags at checkout! Remember to bring your own reusable bags or request paper.

• Skip the plastic straw.

• Purchase or make beeswax wraps. Use these in place of plastic cling wrap and can be used to cover bowls or wrap up sandwiches and leftovers.

• Shop the farmers market or other local venues for handmade soaps, shampoos, and beauty products. Most people who make their own are skipping unnecessary packaging and using reusable containers.

• Switch to powdered detergents for laundry and dishwashers, which are typically packaged in cardboard.

• Buy toothpaste bites packaged in a reusable container rather than toothpaste. It takes a little bit of getting used to, but they work just as well without all of the plastic packaging. First time hearing about these? Google it. There are multiple brands, but Bite is a good one!

• Take your own reusable to-go cup to the coffee shop. Most places will fill it for you.

• Quit chewing gum–it’s chewy base product is actually a plastic. Try Simply Gum, available at health food stores and online with all natural ingredients.

• Shop at bulk stores which allow you to purchase products such as cereals and grains in reusable containers.

• Skip the plastic ware. Carry a set of bamboo cutlery with you so you can pass on the plastic at restaurants. When you place to-go order, specifically request that they not pack any plastic utensils. 

• Buy a razor with disposable blades. Reusing the handle cuts down on plastic consumption.

• Purchase a bamboo toothbrush.

• Make your own juice. Fresh squeezed is the best. If that’s too much work, go for the juice concentrate in the freezer section. The cardboard and aluminum packaging are easy to recycle than plastic jugs.

• Buy cardboard cartons of milk and creamer rather than plastic jugs.

• Avoid paper products that are needlessly packaged in plastic. Subscribe to a delivery service such as Who Gives a Crap that ships sustainably made toilet paper, paper towels, and tissues directly to your door.

Small changes add up a lot over time. Pick one or two items from the list to implement immediately. Gradually add in more. As more and more people make the switch to more sustainable options, we will see a shift in the market. Encourage others to implement changes as well.  Remember, there was life before plastic.

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