When you start to think about living a more ethical and sustainable lifestyle, one fact seems to begin to haunt you: plastic is everywhere and all around us. Once you are aware of plastic and its detrimental toll on the environment, you being to realize just how much of our daily lives have been invaded by it. The scariest thing about plastic is the fact that it can take anywhere from 20 – 1000 years for plastic to completely biodegrade. In 2050, it is estimated that there will be more plastic in the ocean than fish, and if you don’t think that that’s messed up, there’s something wrong with you. If you are like me and the whole thought of plastic pollution in our oceans and water supplies disturbs you, then here on some tips on how to cut your plastic pollution.
Tip #1: Refuse plastic and buy sustainably packaged alternatives.
One of the biggest ways that you can cut your plastic consumption right out of the gate is to just refuse to buy things that are packaged in plastic. One of the easier categories to do this with is your groceries. Opt for foods packaged in glass, tins, cans, or wrapped in paper instead of the plastic wrapped alternatives. For hygiene products, go for products in bar form or liquids that are packaged in glass instead of plastic.
Tip #2: Conduct a No-Buy for anything other than your essentials for living.
This is one of the harder tips that I’m giving out, but to be honest, if you are even thinking on limiting your consumption and helping out the planet, then conducting a no-buy is essential. A no-buy is exactly what it sounds like. You pick a period of time, whether it’s a week, a month, or a year, where you don’t buy a single thing that you don’t absolutely need, and say that you do need a new pair of shoes or pair of jeans, then you go and look for them secondhand.
I’m currently doing a no-buy for new clothes and am only allowing myself to shop secondhand whenever I actually need something I don’t already have for a specific occasion. And I’m going to be starting a new no-buy for myself as soon as classes start back up because to be honest, after I get through the first week of school, there’s isn’t really a reason for me to be buying frivolous things that I don’t need. However, instead of living in a dorm this year, I have an apartment with my roommate, so I’ve been going out and getting some stuff that we didn’t have a need for before this year. Of course, I am always looking to get these things secondhand if I am able to, but with COVID-19, my options have been pretty slim.
Tip #3: Don’t repurchase products or groceries that you don’t absolutely need.
The best example that I have to explain this tip comes from my own personal experience. I have a love for Black Forest brand gummy worms. They are my guilty pleasure to have after a long day at work or after classes, but they come in plastic packaging, and there isn’t a ton of gummy worms per pack unless you go out and get the 5lb pack of gummy worms. So after I finished the last package of gummy worms that I had in my stash, I decided that unless somebody else got them for me, I wasn’t going to repurchase them. They were a little unhealthy snack that I didn’t absolutely need in my life, so now, even though it breaks my heart, I don’t buy them anymore.
This tip takes some willpower because you might have trained yourself that you need certain products or foods in your life that you really don’t. Now, I’m not saying that you should only buy foods to be able to make breakfast lunch and dinner, but I know that everyone has a little snack food that they just love to love but that perhaps isn’t very necessary for them. I also know that there are those people who have 6 different brands of one kind of product in their bathrooms. Instead of rebuying all of those brands, find the one that you like the most, and just rebuy that one, but also make sure to use up all the other product that you have and don’t just throw them away.
Tip #4: Look for plastic free alternatives online.
This tip can be a little controversial in the zero waste community, but I know that for some people, the only way for them to get a plastic free item is to go online. Shopping online can be a beast of its own to tackle, due to the carbon footprint that it takes to get the products that you buy to your door, so I offer this tip as mostly a last resort. It really is a bit of a double edged sword, because yes, you are getting a more sustainable product, but is that really worth the cost on the environment that it took to get it to you?
Tip #5: Research recycling options in your area.
A lot of cities around the world are starting to implement citywide recycling programs in their areas, which is amazing stuff. So if you can’t cut your plastic consumption completely, then you can at least do your due diligence and try to recycle the plastic that you do end up bringing home.
There are also a lot of free drop off recycling places where you can take your recycling for free, and big box stores like Walmart and Target are even getting into the conversation, opening stations to recycle plastic bags and electronics. The best way to find out what it is possible for you is to open up your search engine (Ecosia is a great one if you don’t already use it), and research the options in your area.