Whether or not you want to reduce your plastic footprint for the sake of your own health, it’s hard to argue against reducing plastic use for the sake of the environment. We know for a fact that plastic is harming fish and birds and is increasingly polluting every body of water on the planet. And once it’s there, it never goes away. Unfortunately, we can’t count on the chemical and manufacturing companies that make plastic to reduce its use. In fact, they would love to sell more and more of it. It’s a very profitable industry. But that doesn’t mean we have to lose this battle.
As we are finding with the organic and non-GMO food market, the public’s spending and consumption can steer a market in a positive direction despite greedy corporations’ best efforts to thwart it. And while “voting with your dollars” is a little more abstract when it comes to plastic consumption, I am confident that with some minor but steadfast behavior changes, we can help clean things up quite a bit and maybe hurt a few of these psychopathic corporations in the pocketbook while we’re at it.
Below are 14 super-easy ways to reduce your plastic use. This is hardly a complete list, as the avalanche of plastic coming at us everyday is quite overwhelming. If you’ve got a suggestion that I didn’t cover, please leave it in the comments section. Ok, here’s the list:
- Stop using bottled water. Filter your own water and bring it with you everywhere you go in a glass or stainless steel water bottle.
- No more doggie bags or styrofoam containers. Sure, take home the leftovers, just not the doggy bag. Bring a glass container or a couple mason jars when you go out to your favorite restaurant.
- Stop using paper plates, especially at home where you are in charge of the food service. What most don’t realize is that many have a plastic coating on them. And although this goes without saying, styrofoam and plastic plates are off the table too, so to speak.
- Stop using plastic utensils at work for lunch. Use a handy set of reusable wood or stainless steel travel utensils.
- Bring reusable shopping bags with you to the grocery store. This is such and easy one. Give it a shot if you haven’t. It really won’t kill you. And if you’ve already mastered this one, kick it up a notch by bringing your own cloth bags for your fruits and veggies.
- Try to buy things in bulk. Although I don’t recommend eating processed food, if you are going to buy it, buy the larger price club sizes when possible. They usually have less packaging for a given quantity. Better yet, start buying things from companies and retailers that consciously use less plastic packaging.
- Try to combine your online shopping purchases into as few shipments as possible. There are usually little plastic inflatable bags in every box. Reducing the number of boxes and the amount of space in each box reduces the number of those bags they’ll put in.
- Reuse shipping supplies. Bubblewrap, peanuts, mailer envelopes, etc. If you do any kind of shipping at all, hold onto that stuff from the packages you receive and reuse it. (Although I love the convenience of doing business online, the excessive waste involved in shipping online purchases is a very sad side effect.)
- Bring your own coffee cup to work and/or your favorite coffee shop. Just tell them how many ounces it is and they’ll know how to charge you.
- Store your refrigerated food in mason jars. It’s actually a very effective way to see what food you have at a glance. Here’s a really great article that goes in depth about the subject with detailed instructions for each type of food you want to store.
- Eat out less, especially fast food. You’ll be healthier for it and if you shop right, it will generate much less waste.
- Make a recommendation to the companies that you buy from regularly, that they should consider changing their packaging options to include plastic-free options. You’d be surprised how responsive some companies can be to their best customer’s requests.
- Never use any product with plastic microbeads! I made this number 13 for a reason because this is truly a sinister problem. These tiny plastic particles are a menace to nature and we need to send a loud message right now to corporations to stop putting them in their products. And in addition to the plastic, most of the products that have plastic microbeads also contain many petrochemicals which are generally toxic to your body.
- Be an example to others. Not really a tip for reducing your own plastic consumption but an extremely worthwhile endeavor. Not surprisingly, I have found that many people will mirror lifestyle changes they see in people that they consider to be happy and healthy. Maybe you can be the one to get them excited about avoiding poison. It really shouldn’t be hard.