Plastics are having a devastating impact on the environment. More than 8 million tons of plastic enter the oceans every year, threatening the survival of animals on land and at sea.
Microscopic pieces of plastic are everywhere: in the fish we eat, the salt we put on our food, even in your favorite microbrew.
The plastic problem can seem insurmountable. What can you do to stop it?
It turns out: lots.
Here are five simple ways you can make a difference, starting at home.
1. Ditch the Plastic Straws
In just the U.S. alone, an estimated 500 million straws are used every single day. These straws are used for a matter of minutes and then trashed. They’re filling up landfills, floating in the ocean, and found on beaches.
Do you really need that straw?
Many cities and even corporations have decided you don’t. Cities like Seattle are banning plastic straws, and businesses like Starbucks have pledged to phase out plastic straws and stirrers.
Still want a straw?
Sometimes those smoothies, Thai iced teas, and milkshakes just need one. No judgments.
Reusable straws made from stainless steel, silicone, and glass are abundantly available. You can find them online and even on the shelves of your local grocery store. Pick up a few reusable straws for home and a few to keep with you on the go, so you can say “no straw for me” the next time you order something to sip.
2. Catch Up With Cardboard
Remember the cardboard boxes laundry detergent used to come in? It’s still made that way, and it’s a heck of a lot easier to recycle than plastics.
You’ll have to give up those pods the kids keep eating, but the pros outweigh the cons.
Laundry detergent isn’t the only product that comes in a box.
Companies are rethinking the way we consume plastic by offering refills for their products. Cleancult is selling laundry detergent refills in paper milk cartons. Seed sells shampoos and body lotions in biodegradable paper containers. Common Good offers refill stations in select states for their eco-friendly cleaning and laundry products.
3. Forget Plastic Food Containers & Plastic Wrap
What comes to mind when you think of plastic containers?
It’s probably BPA.
The arch-nemesis of the food storage world.
A lot of work has gone in over the past 5 years to reduce and eliminate BPA in our food-safe plastic containers.
Still, we heat, reheat, machine wash, dry, rinse, repeat over and over again. Eventually, the plastic will break down, and at the end of the day, the plastic that we store our food in can leach toxic chemicals into our food.
Tired of tossing your containers? Try these sustainable options:
- Glass containers
- Silicone bags
- Beeswax wraps
- Waxed cloth bags
Yes, these kinds of reusable containers and wraps are in investment. But, making the switch to sustainable food storage items will not only cut down your household plastic consumption it’ll also keep your trash can from filling up too quickly; and, let's be honest, they look better on your shelves
4. Face Up to Your Face Scrubs
Product Junkies raise your hands!
You may have heard that most face scrubs are filled with plastic microbeads.
Wastewater treatment facilities usually can’t filter polyethylene beads out. They head right back into our waterways and out to the ocean.
Is that masago or microbeads on your sushi?
Microbeads aren’t JUST in scrubs. They can also be found in toothpaste, nail polish, and anti-aging makeup.
Make the switch to eco-friendly personal care products made with natural ingredients and without microbeads.
Still feeling the need to scrub your skin? There are hundreds of companies out there that make natural scrubs using ingredients like nuts, nutshells, salt, sugar, or rice powder.
Make your own scrub, like this 3-ingredient sugar scrub recipe from Wellness Mama.
5. Baby Steps
This one’s for the newbies out there:
It’s completely possible to live in a plastic-free home; but the journey to eliminating plastics entirely is hard.
Especially if you’ve never tried it before.
No one expects you to banish all traces of plastic from your home all at once. Trying to overhaul your entire home could leave you feeling frustrated or defeated. Instead, take make changes one at a time.
Take baby steps.
- Start actively recycling
- Switch to plastic-free cleaning supplies
- Take reusable bags with you to the grocery store
- Learn about the numbers on the bottom of plastic containers and what they mean
Rome wasn’t built in a day. Cutting down on plastic consumption takes time and effort, and your effort may seem small. But, by making some easy changes, you’re contributing to a healthier future for our planet.
Change doesn’t happen overnight, but it does start at home.
One step at a time.