7 easy steps for a plastic-free July

Reducing your plastic use can be a challenge, but with a few small changes sustainable living can be a breeze.  Here is a quick instruction guide on how to reduce your plastic use today.  If you’re already doing these, keep up the good work!  Remember that even one small change can make a big difference.

Ditch the bottled water. 

Approximately 38 billion plastic water bottles end up in US landfills every year.  That’s 2 million tons!  Getting into the habit or carrying a refillable water bottle is better for the environment, better for your wallet, and better for your health.

Reusable water bottle are typically stainless steal or glass.  For metal water bottles, look for one with BPA-free plastic lining.  I love these Simple Modern Wave water bottles because they don’t sweat, they fit in a cup holder, they can keep hot or cold liquids, they come is fun colors or patters AND Simply Modern will also donate 10% of their earnings to supplying water for natural disaster relief.  For glass water bottles, check out these by Sand Cloud, who donates 10% of their proceeds to marine conservation.

Regardless of which reusable water bottle you chose, cutting the water bottle habit is an important first step in decreasing your daily plastic use.

Stop using single-use plastic utensils. 

When your great-great-great-great grandchildren walk the Earth. the plastic forks you just used at lunch will still be here, probably in the same condition as it is in now.    Bring your own utensils with you and specify to the restaurant you’re ordering from that you don’t need plastic utensils.

Recent ad seen in Dublin, Ireland.

Don’t be Dick. 

Is is estimated that about 6 billion Starbucks cups end up in the landfill annually.  Sadly, Starbucks cups only constitute 1% of the burden, with estimates that about 600 billion paper and plastic cups are distributed globally per year.  If we gained this waste on our waist, I think we’d be much more concerned.

My personal favorite is the Contigo reusable thermos, which is virtually un-spillable!  If you’re hooked on the Starbucks brand, you can buy reusable versions of their Starbucks’ paper mug for hot drinks or Starbucks’ plastic cup.  Bring in a mug from home instead of using the supplied reusable coffee cups to cut down at work.

I’ll admit I sometimes forget my thermos – if this happens order your drink with no lid or wasteful coffee stirrer.  Remember anything we can do to decrease resource use will make a difference!

Say no to straws. 

It is estimated that by 2050 there will be more plastic in the sea than fish.  with over 500,000,000 straws used annually in the US, straws are among the worst culprits for ocean plastics.  Say no to straws or bring your own reusable straw.

Reusable straws come in glass, stainless steal, or paper.  Paper straws are one use, while the glass and stainless steal ones can be reused and will need to be cleaned.  Please visit the Plastic Pollution Coalition or the Stop Sucking for a Strawless Ocean for more information.

Purchase reusable bags – then remember to bring them. 

Only 1% of the  100 billion plastic bags used per year by Americans are returned for recycling.  Plastic bags are one of the largest contributes to marine plastic pollution, with an estimated 100,000 marine animals killed per year from plastic bags alone.   Sea turtles, which feed primary on jellyfish, are particularly affected with one in three Leatherback sea turtles having plastic in their stomachs.  Furthermore, the American consumption of plastic bags requires 12 million barrels of oil annually.

You can purchase reusable grocery bags in store or online.  My main issue is not the lack of reusable bags, but remembering to bring them every time.  I’ve found that placing a sign as you leave the house, setting a note on your phone, or getting in the habit of leaving my reusable bags in the car helps me to remember them.

Stay away from those pesky plastic produce bags. 

One of my pet-peeves is remembering my reusable grocery bag, then having to break down and use plastic to put my produce in.  I’d forego plastic on fruits or vegetables with peels that were not going to be eaten, but I couldn’t bare the thought of my fresh apple coming in contact with whatever had been on the scanner previously.  Plastic produce bags were the bane of my existence for a while….till I discovered these!  These produce bags are lightweight, breathable, colorful, and best if all….reusable!  They come in various sizes and are easily cleaned.  I store mine in my reusable bags…so I don’t forget them 😉

Buy bar soap. 

Using bar soap, bar shampoo, or bar conditioner cuts down on the 80 billion plastic bottles used for these products alone.  I absolutely love the products by Ethique.  They’re made from all natural products but still tame my wild frizz!

Reduce, reuse, and recycle.

Buy only what you need.  Consider how environmentally friendly a product is when making purchasing decisions.  If a product will be only used once and it will take a long time to break down (i.e. plastic soda bottle) it is probably better to go with out or to reduce consumption of said product.  Chose products with less packaging and stay away from single-serving or single-wrapped items.  Reuse what you can to reduce consumption.  Repair a broken button or zipper, patch up a hole, or get your vacuum fixed instead of buying a new one.  Reuse produce scraps as fertilizer through the production of compost.  Re-purpose old items or donate what you no longer need.  Take old electronics to the proper disposal location and recycle what you can.

Last but certainly not least: be the change!  Tell your friends and family about your sustainable living and encourage them to join you 🙂

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