Let’s be real here. No one likes products that are wrapped in three layers of plastic, or are plastic themselves and meant to be disposed of after 15 minutes of use. But plastic is EVERYWHERE, and so darn convenient.
It’s so prevalent and in some cases hazardous (I assume I don’t have to bring up those awful sea life pictures) that there is a small group of people who are striving to publicize a movement called “zero waste”.
While you can never be truly zero waste in this day and age, I believe it is important that we understand the magnitude of the problem and take small steps to reduce our usage in whatever way is feasible to us.
While I am striving to reduce my waste significantly, I know that to truly achieve “zero waste” it would be nearly impossible. Living zero waste essentially means that you create no trash, to the point where you can cancel your trash pickup service.
Some hardcore ZWers have a “trash jar” where they collect all of the little items that were unavoidable (stickers on produce, plastic tags on clothing from a thrift store, etc).
Living zero waste is an incredibly dramatic mindset shift, and one that takes a really long time to approach correctly. It is certainly not for most people, which is why I would never suggest it to anyone. I believe it is something that someone needs to decide for themselves in their own time.
With that being said, I do believe the average person can make some very minor changes to their daily routines in order to reduce their environmental impact. Here are five amazingly simple ways to reduce your plastic use on a daily basis that require only a few small changes to your habits.
- Reusable grocery bags and reusable produce bags – This should be the one that comes to mind first, and hopefully one that you are already doing. If you aren’t already, I would suggest picking up a few reusable grocery bags the next time you check out at your grocery store. They are usually located at the checkout line, and cost just a few dollars. I picked up some over 10 years ago, and they are still going strong. I can’t even fathom all of the bags I’ve saved from the landfill over those 10 years! I’m also lumping reusable produce bags in here. These are simply mesh or cloth bags that you use instead of those thin plastic bags on a roll in the store. I recommend something along the lines of this. You can see my previous blog post on reusable produce bags here.
- Choose fresh whenever possible – Frozen or canned food is guaranteed to always have packaging. There’s just no way around it. When you choose fresh food whenever you can, not only are you doing a service to your health, but you are also reducing your plastic waste, when practiced in combination with Tip #1.
- Look for recyclable packaging – While recycling is by no means a fantastic practice, it does prevent waste from sitting in landfills, which is certainly a step in the right direction. It is definitely better to choose the spinach in that recyclable container than the one in the plastic film that will go straight into the trash.
- Ditch the bottled water – Bring a reusable water bottle wherever you go. Most businesses will let you refill your water bottle for free at their soda fountains if you ask. Plus water fountains are all over the place if you look for them! It will also save you money. Win win!
- Bring a reusable coffee cup to your favorite coffee shop! – Most of them are more than willing to fill it up for you. If you have trouble at a chain coffee place such as Starbucks, try out your local mom-and-pop cafe, they are usually more willing to do so. Don’t forget to skip the straw or plastic stirrer as well!
- Bonus tip! For those who want to get a little more serious about reducing your waste, I recommend looking into the bulk section of your local Whole Foods or natural grocery store. This is a super awesome way to significantly reduce your packaging. They often carry many basic staples such as rice, beans, pasta, flour and even certain liquids! You can usually bring your own jars and have the tare weight measured, so they subtract the weight of the jar from your purchase.
Let me know if you guys enjoy this type of post. I really like to write about my passions, and plastic waste reduction is most definitely one of them.