In 2018 the world woke up to the crisis of plastic pollution. Rapidly increasing production of dispensable plastic products and the lack of the world’s ability to deal with them, has become one of the most pressing environmental issues. Especially, that a big part of our plastic waste, ends up in the ocean killing fauna and destroying flora.
The facts about plastic usage are horrifying, the numbers of plastic waste are overwhelming and the images of marine wildlife dying because of plastic are heart-breaking.
If we don’t start to act now, soon our beautiful planet will become a real Planet Plastic.
You want more shocking details? Read my: “How humans are destroying the Earth” blog post.
And I know what you might think: “I don’t really use that much plastic. I’m not part of the problem!”
First of all, you do use THAT much plastic.
An average person in Western Europe or North America consumes around 100 kg (220 pounds) of plastic a year.
Second of all, even if you recycle your plastic and think that it’s not polluting the oceans, you’re wrong again. Read: Why the war on plastic isn’t working.
Even if complete elimination of plastic from our lives is not possible, there is something we can all do. We can start limiting our plastic usage.
Here are 13 easy ways to reduce plastic in your everyday life:
1. BYOB – bring your own bottle.
I probably shouldn’t even mention this one, because I’m sure you already have one. If not, get it! Get it now! One million plastic bottles are brought across the world every minute. This is one of the most alarming and compulsive ways we consume plastic, but making a change couldn’t be easier. With tap water being drinkable in many countries, with cafes, pubs, restaurants and work places having water stations, staying hydrated without damaging the environment was never easier. If you’re worried about the water germs, get a water bottle with a filter. And if you don’t have a choice and you have to buy a beverage, choose the one in a can or a glass bottle.
2. Carry a bag.
Yes, I know, you can say it: “Are you serious? Do you think I’m a loser and I don’t have a tote bag?” I know you’re not a loser without a tote bag, but those one million plastic bags that end up in the trash every minute have to come from somewhere. So I just wanted to send a quick reminder: get a tote bag, fold it and carry it everywhere you go.
3. And a reusable fruit and veggie bag.
So what if we take a shopping bag, since those 3 apples, 4 lemons and 2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes need to be packed in separate plastic bags? Well, they don’t! Buy the reusable food bags and take them when going shopping. The best option are the ones from organic cotton, but ones made from an old curtain or an old t-shirt will do as well.
4. Kick those disposable coffee cups.
Otherwise I’ll kick you. Just kidding! Even though most of the coffee shops are equipped with eco-friendly take away cups (not necessarily lids), it still makes no sense to get a new one every time you want to have a coffee to go. Plus, some say those paper coffee mugs are never fully recyclable anyway, because they contain plastic fibres so the cups don’t leak. Others say, that their cups are so safe for the environment, that you can even eat them. As with Man walking on the Moon, we’ll never know the truth. Better carry your own instead.
5. Straws suck.
Do you even need a straw? Are you 5?
You’d think that with all the negative press that straws received, bars, pubs and restaurants are not offering them anymore. Unfortunately, they still do. If you didn’t bring your own metal or bamboo straw with you, make sure to tell the waiter or bartender that you don’t want one. Your colourful cocktail will taste the same and you won’t be guilty of making the Earth “digest” it for 500 years.
6. Plastic cutlery suck too.
Apparently, we use plastic cutlery for only 3 min before throwing it away! By carrying a spork (spoon and fork) or normal metal cutlery in your bag, you could save 466 items of unnecessary plastic every year. Don’t let any unplanned meal ever surprise you again.
7. “B” like bar soap.
The bathroom is a kingdom of plastic. Buying a bar soap is the simplest thing to do to minimize usage of plastic in your bathroom. Nowadays, there are so many types, shapes and fragrances…you can get a special hand soap, body soap, shampoo soap, conditioner soap. You can mix and match and choose the one that suits you best. But if you are still not convinced and you have to have a liquid shower gel and shampoo…
8. Use refill stations.
For detergents, shower gels, shampoos, conditioners… But also for pasta, cereal, grains… . More and more supermarkets and stores offer the possibility to refill old bottles and containers. You can save so much plastic by just reusing the plastic you already have and storing your grains in glass jars. Not to mention how hygge/hipster/DIY it all looks.
9. Ditch the toothbrush.
Ditch the plastic toothbrush! I don’t want you to stop brushing your teeth. By changing our toothbrushes every 3 months (dentist recommended), we will use around 320 toothbrushes in our life. And this is pure plastic, non-recyclable plastic, which will just sit there for more than 500 years. A bamboo toothbrush is a great alternative. Bamboo is a sustainable material – it’s fast growing and it biodegrades. So it’s a clear win. It might be weird in the beginning, but you will get used to it.
10. Buy less clothes.
With chains producing everything on mass scale in developing countries, clothes are becoming cheaper and cheaper. That only makes us want to buy more of it. And clothes also contain plastic and Microplastics, which are released during laundry. So think again next time you want to buy the same cheap t-shirt only 3 months after you bought the previous one and which now looks like a kitchen cloth. It’s definitely better to invest in a good quality t-shirt and clothes in general. The “Less but better” rule applies in this case as well.
11. Say no to rubbing plastic into your skin.
Do you know that you probably rubbed kilograms of plastic into your skin already or swallowed it using your favourite lipstick? Until a few years ago no one heard about Microbeads, which our cosmetics were packed with. Every time you washed your face or brushed your teeth evil beads would go down the drain polluting the oceans. Many countries are banning Microbeads, but you want to still check the labels for such pleasantly sounding names like: Polyethylene (PE),
Polyethylene terephthalate (PET),
12. Give up gum.
Did you hear those stories when you were a child about chewing gum sticking to your guts when you swallow it? That’s because gum is made from plastic. Gum will not decompose. If not specially recycled, gum will stay in the environment for up to 500 years. Swap chewing gum for mints or refreshing candies or just brush your teeth.
And last but not least:
13. Harass your friends.
Now that you know how much we destroyed our planet with plastic waste and how easy it is to make a few incredibly important changes, spread the word. Talk to your family and friends, convince them to introduce those changes into their lives as well, gift them reusable cups, tote bags, soap bars.
It doesn’t sound that hard, does it?
With introducing those easy ways to reduce plastic in your everyday life, you can start making real changes in the long run.
Together we can change the world!
If you implemented any other plastic reducing solutions in your life, please share! Hit me up on Instagram.
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McCallum, W. (2018), How to give up plastic, Penguin Life