If you think about all the problems in the world and convince yourself that you need to be absolutely perfect in order to fix them, it will feel so overwhelming that you’ll likely quit before you even start trying. Anne Marie Bonneau once said, “We don’t need a handful of people doing zero waste perfectly. We need millions of people doing it imperfectly.” So, I’m here to tell you a few ways that you can have a beautifully imperfect impact on the world and it all starts with reducing your plastic waste. These are all teeny tiny changes that we can make in our lives that will add up to one huge positive change in the end.
DITCH THE SINGLE-USE PLASTICS
Say no to the plastic straw at the restaurant, skip the plastic utensils when ordering take-out and just use the ones you have at home, serve your friends beverages in glasses instead of plastic cups, etc. And if a straw is non-negotiable for you, you’re in luck because we happen to be living during a time where aesthetically pleasing reusable straws are in abundance.
SAY "YES" TO REUSABLE DRINKWARE
Buy a reusable water bottle and a reusable travel coffee cup. This way, when you go to your favorite coffee shop, you can avoid using their plastic cups and simply ask them to make your drink in your reusable cup instead. Some places even offer discounts if you bring your own cup (hint, hint, Starbucks).
And think of how much plastic you could save by using a reusable water bottle instead of depending on store-bought water packaged in loads of plastic. Did you know that Americans purchase about 50 billion plastic bottles each year? (1) If we all took 5 minutes of our day to go buy a reusable water bottle, think about what we’d bring that number down to. If you don’t have a refrigerator with a built-in water filter to fill that snazzy new water bottle of yours, you can snag one off of Amazon for as low as $15. All you do is attach it to your kitchen faucet and voila - crisp, clean drinking water at your disposal.
B.Y.O.B. (BRING YOUR OWN BAG)
Almost every grocery store sells reusable shopping bags. Whether it’s from your local grocery store or the one you got from Etsy that says “Girl Boss”, it’ll work just the same. More than one million plastic bags are used every minute (2). Not every day, not every week, not every month - every minute. Not only does this positively impact the environment, but it also protects you from those oh-no-I-have-a-hole-in-my-bag moments. We’ve all heard of runaway brides, but have you heard of runaway beans? If you switch to using reusable bags, that’ll never be your problem.
This same tip can be used for when you go to the mall. Instead of having the sales clerk put your new outfit in one of their bags (which is almost always plastic), just bring a cloth bag of your own and call it a day.
RETHINK YOUR TUPPERWARE
No, I’m not telling you to impulsively throw out all of your plastic tupperware and immediately replace them all with glass containers. What I am telling you to do, though, is to not continue buying plastic tupperware. If you already have a nice little inventory of plastic tupperware, get the full use out of them before you go out and buy replacements. But when you do go out to get replacements, make the decision to buy glass containers instead. This reduces plastic waste and it also saves you money in the long run because you won’t have to replace the glass containers the same way you’d need to replace the plastic. And who doesn’t love saving money?
Self-care Sunday’s are all fun and games until we see how much plastic waste comes from them. People love buying new products (myself included) that make us smell good, look good and feel good. Oftentimes, that means buying lots and lots of plastic packaging. Although there aren’t plastic-free alternatives for every self-care item you may want, it’s becoming increasingly more common to see places offering zero-waste shampoos, conditioners, exfoliants, bath bombs and even toothpaste tablets. If that option is available to you, it’s just another thing you can do to positively impact our environment and reduce your plastic waste.
SAVE WHILE YOU SHAVE
You know those plastic razors that come in those plastic packs? The ones you can use a couple times and then need to throw away? Yeah, you might want to stop buying those. Invest in a good quality razor that will last you several years. Some of them may seem pricey at first glance but it’s a one-time purchase versus the many purchases you will need to make if you stick to those disposable razors. They’re bad for the environment, bad for your wallet in the long-run and I doubt they’re doing your skin any favors.
FREE THE PRODUCE
We were all taught to put our produce in the produce bags that grocery stores provide for us. The idea of putting our food in direct contact with a shopping cart that thousands of people have touched is just not something we usually feel comfortable with. But think about it for a second....if you’re washing your produce when you get home, then what’s the harm in it? And if you’re not washing your produce when you get home, you may have bigger things to worry about. I personally put my produce directly in the cart and I just make sure I thoroughly wash them when I get home (which you should be doing anyway). If washing doesn’t put you at ease, there are inexpensive reusable mesh produce bags you can buy on Amazon.
BEFRIEND THE BULK SECTION
Things like cereals, nuts, seeds, flours and grains can be found in the bulk section of certain grocery stores and markets. Bring some mason jars and scoop what you need. This is yet another tip that is great for the environment and the wallet (see the theme here?)
FREEZ WHAT IS FRESH
Instead of buying frozen fruits and vegetables that come packaged in plastic, buy them fresh and store them in the freezer in a glass container.
DITCH THE PRE-CUT PRODUCE
There are a lot of fruits and vegetables that can be found pre-cut and packaged. Yes, these save you a little bit of time by not cutting them yourself, but they come in unnecessary plastic packaging and are ridiculously over-priced. Why would I buy a small container of pre-cut pineapple and hurt the planet in the process, when I can buy a whole pineapple for less than half the price without the environmental damage?
I could go on and on but these are just a few things to get you started. We all can make a difference if we commit to making small changes together, instead of thinking we need to make massive changes alone. Remember, we need millions of people taking imperfect action.
- “Earth Day 2018 End Plastic Pollution.” Earth Day. EDN Staff, March 29, 2018. https://www.earthday.org/fact-sheet-single-use-plastics/.
- “Facts . About Plastic . Help - Plastic Oceans Foundation.” Plastic Oceans International, October 20, 2020. https://plasticoceans.org/the-facts/.