The current environmental crisis has reached epic proportions. Human beings are inundating the planet with the waste of our daily lives, and the biggest part of that waste is plastic. Sometimes it seems like plastic is in everything we use! And that plastic, which comes in so many different forms, is ending up in the ocean, wrapped around animals’ heads and piled up in landfills, where it will sit for hundreds of years. That’s the depressing news. But the good news is that there’s a lot we can do to cut back on our daily use of plastics and it goes far beyond foregoing plastic straws and shopping bags in favor of reusables and paper straws.
Here are some of our favorite simple hacks for reducing the amount of plastic waste in your home.
This may seem like an obvious one, but how many times have you left the house and ended up stopping at the grocery store, only to realize that your reusable shopping bags were at home? Reusable bags are great, but only if they get used! It’s a good idea to keep a few in your car at all times, so you won’t be caught off guard by a quick stop at the store.
Bonus points for using fabric bags, which are sturdier than the grocery store “reusable bags”, meaning it will last longer. Cloth grocery bags can also be washed and are easy to fold up and store.
Give those zip-lock bags the boot!
You are no doubt familiar with the plastic sandwich bag, and particularly so if you have kids. They are a super convenient way to store leftover foods and organize small items for travel. And, of course, they are a fixture in kid’s lunch boxes. But these bags are a huge contributor to the plastic wasteland.
Depending on your needs, there are a wide variety of sandwich bag substitutes, many of which are also more economical. Beeswax food wrap can be used to wrap up food like sandwiches, cookies or other relatively dry items. The beeswax sticks to itself for easy packing and is also a snap to wipe off and reuse a few times. And when you do have to throw it away, you can rest assured that it’s degradable.
Other great options include glass storage containers, reusable sandwich bags and paper lunch-size bags.
Ditch the takeout containers
If you eat out a lot, you’ve probably been confronted with the dreaded choice of wasting leftover food or taking home a Styrofoam leftover container. Of course, Styrofoam and plastic takeout containers are among the worst of plastics, with little to no chance of being recycled or re-used. But you can have your cake and eat it too by bringing your own “take-home container.”
Carry a small storage container to load your leftovers into and you can take home a guilt-free doggie bag. Don’t worry about feeling weird. This is becoming more and more common – and the more people that do things like this, the more it becomes the new norm and encourages other people to do the same.
Pay attention to your packaging
When you purchase a product at the store, how much attention do you actually pay to how it is packaged? Packaging accounts for the vast majority of our plastic waste, and in many cases, we could cut back on it. First of all, consider that packaging isn’t always necessary to begin with. For example, do you put each of your vegetables into a different plastic bag when you hit the produce department? Most people do this without even thinking about it. Consider, instead, getting reusable produce bags or simply putting the vegetables into your crisper drawer as-is.
Another way to cut back on packaging is to buy foods in bulk. When you buy in bulk, you are bypassing the middleman, who packages the food or product. Bulk foods will not only save you money, they are generally fresher than packaged foods and you can store the food in any container that you wish.
This is just a short list of things you can do to go beyond using paper straws and cut back on your plastic consumption, but there are so many more. As concern with our current environmental crisis looms large, more manufacturers are looking for ways to cut back on plastic packaging. As consumers, we can help push this move forward by making our voices heard – by speaking out about the desire for more eco-friendly products and by purchasing the ones that already exist.