How to Reduce Plastic Use
To my delight something I’ve been doing quietly for years has grown into a trendy movement and I along with the world welcome Plastic Free July with open arms.
I’ve been carrying my water bottle and reusable grocery bags for as long as I can remember. When I studied abroad to Germany in highschool I was pushed into a culture that had already embraced the eco-movement. Coming from the United States where recycling had only just came to my hometown seeing the nation wide separation system that even removed organic kitchen scraps from other trash, literally blew me away.
In the years that came after, I learned to compost organic waste, reduce my packaging consumption through home cooking and carry my reusable bags and bottles with me everywhere I went. Today I see people jumping on the plastic bus hoping to stop the landslide that is polluting even the bottoms of our oceans with products that take hundreds and thousands of years to decompose.
Trash is a problem and while recycling is one solution,
reduction in our consumption must be the number one priority.
Remember, you don’t have to be perfect but you have to start. You should start by becoming aware of how much plastic you are using. Plastic Free July is only one way to focus your energy into cutting plastic and making lasting habit changes that protect water and the earth we share.
Likely you won’t be able to cut out all plastic at once, or even in 1 month.
However, slow and steady change is lasting change do you best and always keep trying.
Where are some places to focus
1. Bring your own stainless steel bottle of water.
2. Buy a reusable coffee mug (you may even get coffee discounts this way).
3. Switch to cloth grocery bags and use mesh produce bags instead of the thin plastic ones (or better yet skip the bag)
4. Start to compost.
5. Take a tupper with you (or leave one in the car for takeout or left overs).
6. Switch to a menstrual cup.
7. Check your beauty routine and switch to unpackaged soaps and solid shampoos.
8 Make or use natural household cleaners.
9. Grow your own herbs and dry them instead of buying small spice bottles.
10. LEARN TO COOK
How to Start
Bottles and Cups – The easiest switch is to a reusable bottle of water.
The second easiest is taking your own coffee mug with you. This is something you should do TODAY.
Cloth bags- Budget is a huge consideration, buying one cloth grocery bag at a time is a good way to start.
Soon you will see if your family needs 3 or 5 to carry all the groceries.
If you know how to sew a muslin bag is cheap and easy to make in less than an hour.
Buying bags from cloth meant to last is the best investment, I’ve had a lot of the cheaper version rip on the bottoms.
Produce bags – This tiny thin clear plastic used to carry your apples from the store to your fridge is one of the most annoying plastics because we all grab it without even thinking. Even for me this bag was a hard switch. I started by piling vegetables into my cart without bags at all. At the time of checkout bag-less produce goes into big cloth bags without any problems. The bagless method works best if you are only buying 3-4 of each type of produce. When you need 10 oranges or 20 potatoes it’s difficult to go bag free, but mesh bags (like what you used for wet or smelly gym clothing) are a lifesaver. Mesh bags can be found many places and you may even be able to rescue some from your children’s purchased sports equipment. If not they are becoming easy to find in many stores.
Buy in bulk – You can take plastic containers you already have around the house or again cloth bags are great for beans and rice. Usually buying in bulk is more cost effective as well. Focus on adding one bulk product a week. You can start with the first empty jar you have and get your rice, then when you have another container ready buy oatmeal, then your almonds, soon your black beans and so forth. Before long you will know how many containers you need to keep your pantry stocked.
Take a tupper – It may seem silly at first but if you like take out you should start to consider how much single use disposables you are tossing out each time you buy. Taking a tupper with you for carry out isn’t that inconvenient once you get into habit.
Learn to cook – Even better for everyone is learning how to cook some good basics and staples. You will be surprised how much waste you reduce by cooking from scratch. Everything from your own pasta sauce to steaming beans instead of buying them frozen. It may not be feasible for you to cook daily but you can meal plan and cook in bulk. Make big soups and freeze portions for later meals or cook two meals on a Sunday for use during busy weekdays. Sitting down and looking at your schedule and planning what meals you will eat each week make day to day cooking much easier. When you have to decide at the moment what to make you are less likely to cook.
Consider your beauty routine – once your pantry and groceries are sorted you can look into bulk or bar shampoo. You can start making your own scrubs and buy unpackaged bar soap instead of body wash. There are plenty of products that are gentle and good for the skin that also smell great. Shop around until you find the shampoos and soaps that work for you.
Period hygiene- Another easy step for women to make is switching to a silicone menstrual cup. Tampons and pads are a large contributor to water use and pollution during production and waste pile up after use. One menstrual cup can last 5 years or more, saving the women money as well as reducing countless pounds of waste each year.