5 Easy Ways to Reduce Plastic

Reduce your plastic consumption

image credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/sheasphotos/2833119425/

A lot of emphasis has been placed on recycling these days, which is a very good thing.  Unfortunately, not all recyclables are created equal.  Glass, most metals, and to some degree, paper are part of a ‘closed loop’ cycle in recycling- which is the good kind of recycling.  What this ‘closed loop’ means is glass can be used as glass again, metal as metal, and paper as paper (although most papers require some new content for strength).  Plastic, however, can rarely be recycled into the same plastic and instead is downgraded each time it is recycled, if companies are willing to use recycled plastic at all.  This ‘downgrading’ is why plastics have a little number inside their recycle sign- it indicates what ‘lower’ plastic it can be recycled into.  So while there should always be a push to recycle items, there is also a benefit to avoiding products that can’t be recycled, or are harder to recycle- such as plastic.

So how do you reduce the amount of plastic you use?  Here are some simple suggestions:

5.  Use cloth shopping bags:

We’ve all heard this one, right?  And we all accumulated several cloth bags, right?  The problem is actually remembering to use them.  If you already have several cloth bags, leave some in your car so you can run out and get them when shopping.  Try collapsible bags that you can carry in a purse.  Write “bring your bags” on the top of each grocery list. ‘Punish’ yourself when you forget your bags by not using bags and carrying the loose items out to your car- next time you might be more prone to remember your bags!  And most importantly, get cloth bags that you love and want to use and don’t buy more unless you need more.

4. Switch to bar soap:

I didn’t used to like bar soap.  I thought it left a slimy feeling on my skin that wouldn’t wash off.  Turns out, I just needed to try a few more brands to find one I liked.   It also turns out liquid body wash was not designed for our convenience- it was designed so we would use more product than is needed and, ultimately, buy more because we’re using more.  It also costs us more in the long run because you are paying for a bottle that contains roughly 90% water, and all the shipping costs associated with shipping the weight of that water.

3. Switch to a local milk delivery that reuses glass or plastic bottles:

Google makes this easier than ever before- just google ‘milk delivery’ and the name of your city.  I’m sure this service isn’t offered everywhere, but don’t assume it isn’t available in your area just because you haven’t heard of one- a little bit of research and you may be surprised.  As an added bonus, you’ll likely be supporting a smaller, local farmer, and most bottle places I’ve found offer hormone-free, grass-fed, humanely raised products- a win, win, win.

2. Drink (tap) water instead of Soda:

Do you really need another reason to give up soda?  Not only will this eliminate plastic waste but it will also save you money and possibly reduce your waistline.  And don’t use bottled water as a substitute.  Bottled water is not regulated and often comes from a tap anyway, just with an up-charge of bottling it and maybe filtering it.  Even if the water is filtered, that doesn’t mean it is an improvement.  Tap water is regulated and most places have things like fluoride added to drinking water meaning filtered water could prove to be more detrimental than using tap water.

1. Use glass or reusable packages for leftovers or packed lunches:

Saran wrap, aluminum foil, and styrofoam take-out packages do not keep food fresh.  The gaps left in these packaging techniques cause the food to dry out, not to mention saran wrap makes items hard to access, aluminum foil makes things hard to see, and do you really want your food sitting in styrofoam?  Instead use something like reusable glass containers– they seal tightly, the food can be seen, the food is easy to access, they are microwave and dishwasher safe, and they’re stackable.  They also make for easy packed lunches.  If you prefer plastic sandwich bags for lunch or midday snacks, consider these reusable alternatives.