If you knew there was just one thing you could do to potentially save the lives of millions of animals, reduce the amount of poisonous gas in our atmosphere, save our groundwater from pollution, and collapse your carbon footprint, would you do it? You’ve probably already guessed what that one thing is, that one simple trick to doing better by your home planet, and it’s to reduce your reliance on plastic. If you don’t know where to start down the path to less plastic, we can help.
Step 1: Identify What You Use
The first step might seem a little daunting, but we promise it’s worth it: make a list of the plastic stuff you already use. You don’t have to do anything with the list at this stage--we’re just getting an idea of where we’re starting. We’ll be revisiting this list throughout every other step of the process. Not only that, it will be nice to be able to know where you started so you can appreciate how far you’ve gone.
Step 2: Decide What You Can Live Without
The next logical step after figuring out what you can stop using is to, well, stop using it! You can eliminate the plastic stuff you can easily and immediately live without. If you really analyze your own consumer habits, you’ll probably find that there are some plastic items you don’t actually need after all.
Step 3: Find Something Else
This step is where you will likely see the most change in your consumption. There is a nearly limitless number of things you can use instead of plastic items. One obvious place to start is in your shopping bags, which you’ll find is already in place in some states--as of 2020, California, Connecticut, Delaware, Hawaii, Maine, New York, Oregon, and Vermont have all banned single-use shopping bags. Also, imagine how many of those 38 billion water bottles we use every year can be replaced simply by using a refillable water bottle. Next time a restaurant asks you if you need plastic cutlery to go with your takeout order, say no and just use what you already have.
If you’re one of those businesses using plastic in your takeout offerings, you should acquaint yourself with some of the many alternatives. Packaging food to-go, for instance, is actually quite easy to do with plant-based molded fiber like the products made by Zume. You don’t need to use plastic, as we can happily demonstrate.
Step 4: Reuse What Makes Sense
Not all plastic is a problem--some plastic is made to be used over and over again. A Nalgene or other plastic water bottle is an obvious choice here if a classic steel water bottle isn’t really your style. If you find yourself with no other options, you can even reuse one of those “disposable” water bottles by topping it off yourself at whatever convenient water source you have, like the tap at home. As long as you can clean it safely and thoroughly, there’s no reason why you can’t use things more than once.
Step 5: What To Do With the Plastic You Have to Use
We get it--sometimes you just can’t avoid using plastic. This especially true in the era of COVID, where reusable items like masks and other PPE are largely (but not entirely) made of plastic. If you find yourself with no other options than plastic you can’t reuse, your local recycling center would probably love to take it off your hands. This is the option you should consider last, as not every plastic can be recycled, and not every locality has readily accessible recycling centers.