Straws are having a major moment. Not only are national fast-food and restaurant chains looking at reducing or eliminating them entirely, but individuals across the country are saying ‘no’ to sipping from the wasteful plastic single-use item. While the straw ban will certainly help, it’s really just the beginning.
If you’re interested in other easy ways to cut back on plastic consumption, here are a few ideas. Recycling is great, but the best thing you can do for the environment is use less plastic to begin with. What’s great about reusing materials is that in most cases, you end up saving some cash for your efforts, too.
Here are 15 ways to cut out plastic from your life:
1. Stay away from straws.
Major corporations like McDonald’s and Starbucks have started to eliminate plastic drinking straws from their restaurants, while whole cities have put a ban on them as well. Only time will tell if the plastic straw ban will sweep the country, but it’s best to start now anyway. Straws might be small, but Americans use about 500 million straws per day and they repeatedly turn up in the top 10 most commonly collected items during the International Coastal Cleanup, according to nonprofit organization Sailors for the Sea.
2. Carry your own reusable shopping bags.
Use whatever works for you. Some people like canvas totes, while others prefer to use a messenger bag (for smaller orders). If you forget to bring your own, scoop up a few emergency alternatives and stash them in your car or your backpack. Baggu makes lightweight, synthetic bags that come in their own stuff sack, so they’re really convenient.
3. buy in bulk.
Think about the products you use most often and figure out a way to buy them in bulk. You’ll use less packaging and produce less waste. Furthermore, you’ll run out less meaning fewer trips to the store — another win for the environment.
4. juice at home.
All of those fruit and vegetable juice containers use a lot of plastic. Invest in a juicer and make your favorite juices at home. You’ll use less plastic, but you’ll also be eating healthier and saving money. A win/win/win!
5. get bakery bread.
Bakeries usually put their loaves inside of paper bags instead of plastic. You might also have the opportunity to put your bread in your own bag — a great option if you’re eating it soon.
6. ditch the disposable water bottles.
They’re convenient, but they’re also destructive. Americans alone used about 50 billion water bottles last year. With the average plastic recycling rate being only 23 percent, that means 38 billion water bottles went to waste. And even when we do recycle single water bottles, they still take a lot of resources and pollution to produce. Use a water pitcher and take about 300 bottles of water out of the equation per filter.
7. Carry your own take out containers.
If you’re a light eater and typically have leftovers at restaurants, consider coming prepared with your own stainless steel or reusable plastic lunchbox containers. Request that the restaurant use your takeout container instead of their disposable one, and fill your stomach without filling the landfill.
8. Carry your own utensils and straws.
Keep a set of reusable chopsticks, utensils and straws at your office, in your car, and anywhere they might come in handy and prevent you from wasting plastic.
9. Cone before cup.
It seems small, but if you ordered cones instead of cups, you would keep that plastic from hitting the landfill, and every little bit helps. Furthermore, if you go out for an occasional cone instead of stocking your fridge with plastic freezer containers, you’ll cut down your ice cream consumption as well as your plastic waste.
10. Return containers to the farmers market.
Even if you carry reusable grocery bags, you might wonder what to do with your berries, cherries or green beans, since they are loose and can get crushed. If you buy your produce at the farmers market each week, you can ask the local farmer to lend you the basket, which you can then refill the following week.
11. prepare for the deli and butcher.
You can usually bring your own container to the deli or the butcher and save the paper wrap or plastic bags they use to wrap up your items. They’ll weigh your container and deduct the weight, just as they do for bulk foods.
12. buy milk in returnable glass bottles.
The next time you’re at the store, take a peak up front, some modern grocers are stocking fresh milk in glass bottles for customers to use and return (and pick up another). If you’re lucky enough to live next to a local dairy, you might also be able to do this directly at the farm or farmers market.
13. give up gum.
Did you know that chewing gum is made of plastic? That’s why it can last so long stuck to the sidewalk or the bottom of your shoe. So give up the gum and spare the planet your plastic. Or do a little research because there are a few chewing gums that leave the plastics out of their ingredients list. However, formulas are always changing, so you’ll have to keep up -to-date. As of now, Glee-Gum is a plastic-free option.
14. Use natural beeswax coated cloth wraps.
You might not think about it, but cling wrap is just really thin plastic. Instead of this single use product, purchase a few beeswax-coated cloth wraps.
15. use that coffee cup.
Chances are, you already own a few reusable coffee cups, but you still get your caffeine fix in a paper and plastic to-go cup most mornings. Keep your reusable coffee mug on hand and actually make a point to use it. Lot’s of stores will only charge you for a small coffee when they fill it, so you could also end up with a small savings for your effort.
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