Making simple changes can reduce your single-use plastic waste. You don’t need to go zero-waste to make a difference to the planet. Start with these 3 simple steps anyone can do!
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3 Simple Ways to Reduce Our Consumption of Single-Use Plastic
Are you someone who enjoys scary stories? I usually do, but recently I heard one that rocked me to the core, and made me make some serious changes in my life.
The story starts with the non-renewable resource of oil being pulled from the ground. Then this oil is transported (producing emissions) to make a product. Once the product is made it is shipped again to a warehouse to be packaged and distributed, producing even more emissions.
Then this product is sent to a business (more emissions). Next, you spend your hard earned money on this unnecessary product. Once you have this product you use it for about 10 minutes. When you are done with it, that product will then end up in a landfill or water way where it will pollute this earth for about 500 years!
That’s right, this product takes:
- a non-renewable resource to make
- causes lots of emissions being produced, packaged, and transported
- cost you money
- only used for mere minutes
- will pollute the planet for 500 years
What is this product?
A single-use straw.
A straw that for most of us without medical conditions is not necessary. And yet we are willing to pollute the earth in multiple ways to use this item for about 10 minutes.
What is Single-Use Plastic?
Single-use plastic or disposable plastics, refers to plastic products that are used once and then thrown away or recycled. Think about eating out at a fast-food restaurant. You might use a plastic straw and/or plastic utensil and then throw them out when your meal is done. You used the product once so it’s a single-use plastic.
Grocery and produce bags are considered single-use plastics as well are plastic water bottles. Food packaging and containers are also single-use plastics.
Why Should We Reduce Plastic?
When I heard the story of a straw told in this way, it made me ask myself some hard questions. I had always thought of myself as someone who cares about the environment. I had even written blog posts years ago about reducing waste in our children’s lunches, using reusable water bottle, and reusable shopping bags.
How had I not realized how wasteful it was to use things like plastic straws, plastic utensils, and produce bags? I was using products for minutes and sometimes even seconds that would last on earth way, way past my mortal existence. Personally, I am just not okay with that.
But besides just the general story of the straw there are some other problems with our plastic addiction. Only about 25% of plastic produced is recycled.
So even though you might be doing your part by dropping that plastic bottle in recycling, not everyone is. Also, unlike certain metals or glass that can be recycled over and over, plastic can only be recycled a certain number of times. Eventually that recycled bottle will be recycled into something that can not be recycled and will still pollute the earth.
Now, I will say that there are amazing things that justify the use of some plastics. Plastics have totally changed the medical field and even life expectancy. They make some products lighter and safer. They have made things more affordable and accessible to more people.
But single-use plastics, used by the general public, are mainly a waste of resources, money (15% of the cost of most product is in the packaging), and are doing major damage to our planet. 40% of plastic consumption is single-use. That’s right, 40% of plastic items made are used once and then tossed. That’s insane when you think about so many of these items lasting for 100-500 years as pollution.
This isn’t all our fault. Plastic is everywhere, and it is totally normalized. You can not walk into an average store anymore without seeing plastic in every department in some way or form. But, we will continue to get what we accept. We forget our power as consumers.
Simple Steps to Reduce Plastic Waste
So, now that we have heard the story of the straw, what can we do to do a little better? That’s what this post will cover. I want to start with the smallest, easiest changes and we will work our way to more advanced things as we continue this Eco Month here at We Three Shanes.
We want to start with the basics. I’m going to give you my top 3 list of things you can do pretty easily now, that can make the biggest impact in your personal single-use plastic consumption.
If you have been interested in environmental issues at all then you have probably heard of these switches being made by others before. But if you yourself have yet to make the switch, and you want to reduce your single-use plastic consumption at all, this is a great way to start.
Remember just doing one of these steps will help the environment! Starting small is better than not starting at all!
Reducing Single-Use Plastic Tip 1:
Get a reusable water bottle, and then remember to use it.
Why is this one #1 and SO IMPORTANT? We Americans send more than 38 BILLION water bottles to landfills every year. This is the equivalent of 912 million gallons of oil. No seriously, let’s read that one again. Americans (just us, not even the rest of the world) send more that 38 billion water bottles to landfills every year.
Plus plastic water bottles can leach toxins into the ground, our water ways, and right into the water stored inside the bottle, especially if they get warm (like in your hot car). They don’t keep your water cold either like a lot of reusable water bottles do now. Water bottles like mine can keep my water cold and toxin free all day, it’s awesome.
If you want to get one like it, you can check these out. Plus after the initial cost of the bottle, it saves money every time your not buying another case of water (or one incredibly expensive bottle in the refrigerated section of a store).
Reducing Single-Use Plastic Tip 2:
Take reusable shopping and produce bags to the store.
Here’s another crazy statistic for you. Americans use 100 BILLION plastic bags a year (again just in America, not world wide). That requires 12 million barrels of oil to manufacture.
And unfortunately bags are much harder and more costly to recycle. Plus in my humble opinion, they suck. I can get a whole cart full of groceries into 5 larger durable reusable bags, and I can get them into my house with less trips to and from the car. This would take about 10-15 plastic bags, and that’s if none of them ripped or had to be double bagged so they wouldn’t rip.
Plus, because plastic bags are harder to recycle, they are more likely to end up in landfills and water ways where they break down into micro-plastics that are often eaten by birds and aquatic animals. If you want to look into getting your own set of reusable bags, you can check these out HERE.
Reducing Single-Use Plastic Tip 3:
Make a kit of reusables for when you are going out to eat.
We use 182.5 BILLION plastic straws a year. That’s not adding in a single plastic fork, knife, or spoon. If you go out to eat often, then you are probably using a lot of single-use plastic.
So here is what I did:
When I ordered some reusable bags and wraps from Amazon they came inside another reusable bag. I use this extra bag to keep metal straws, spoons, forks, knives, and even cloth napkins in my purse, enough for my whole family.
The straws and napkins I got from Amazon, but for my silverware, I bought single pieces from Walmart. They do sell kits that include both straws and silverware on Amazon so if you want to look at a stainless steel set you can do that HERE or they have this cool bamboo one HERE. But for me, because I wanted to use my reusable bag and save a little money, the silverware from Walmart worked great to make my own kit.
It honestly doesn’t take much effort to switch from using single-use plastics. These 3 steps are an easy way to make a switch. When you need a little inspiration to stay on your journey of reducing your plastic consumption, I recommend these videos on Youtube.