Eliminate Single-Use Plastics in Your Home With These Simple Tips
Plastic waste is a worldwide epidemic. Globally, less than one-fifth of plastic is recycled, and in the United States, it’s even worse. Only nine percent of the plastic people use gets recycled; the rest ends up in landfills and oceans, where it takes years to break down.
One of the biggest contributors to the plastic problem is single-use plastics: items that you use once and throw away, like water bottles and beauty products. To lower your plastic consumption and decrease your environmental impact, follow these tips.
Drink From the Tap and Buy a Reusable Water Bottle
As of 2017, a million plastic water bottles are purchased every minute around the world. Even so, only 30 percent of the ones used in the United States get recycled. At the same time, the majority of water bottle usage happens in the home.
Buy Everything in Bulk
When you start looking around your home for single-use plastics, you may be surprised to see just how many there are — especially in your kitchen cabinets. Packaging containers make up 23 percent of the materials found in landfills and much of the plastic in your home, too.
Bring Your Own Bag
Nearly 20 percent of global plastic waste consists of plastic shopping bags. While many cities and stores have begun to ban these single-use bags, they are still a scourge on the environment. Because of that, you should consider replacing your plastic shopping bags with reusable canvas ones. While such bags do need to be reused frequently to have a lower carbon footprint, keeping a few in your car or your purse can help you remember them when you’re out.
Clean Up Your Coffee Shop Act
Whether you’re running late for work or just can’t get enough orange mocha frappuccinos, your local coffee shop can feel like a godsend. That is, until you consider just how much waste you produce during every trip. Cups, lids, straws, stirrers and coffee cup sleeves all wind up in the trash after every visit.
Don’t Buy Foods in Plastic Packages
Have you ever walked around your grocery store’s produce section and noticed just how many fruits and veggies are unnecessarily wrapped in plastic? Most produce comes in its own natural packaging, so encasing it in plastic wrap is entirely needless.
Bring Your Own Toiletries When Traveling
Are you planning to go on a vacation any time soon? Many hotels provide miniature containers of shampoo, body wash and lotion for their guests. While this service may seem convenient, it’s also a terrible waste. Most of the time, people use complimentary toiletries once and throw out the rest.
Swap Out Disposable Diapers for Cloth Ones
Any new parent can tell you just how many diapers they go through in a month. Diapers are essential, and the disposable ones can make your life a whole lot easier. But, they also create a ton of waste.
Say No to Beauty Products in Plastic Containers
After the kitchen, the bathroom is the second-largest source of single-use plastics in the home. Most makeup, hair, and other beauty products come in plastic containers that you use once and then get rid of. Next time you’re out shopping, try to find products that are not in plastic packaging.
Use Eco-Friendly Food Storage Options
So many traditional food storage options are made of plastic: cling wrap, plastic baggies and even plastic food storage containers end up at the dump eventually. Swap out your plastic storage options for ones that won’t pollute the oceans.
Use Candles Instead of Aerosol Sprays
Who doesn’t want their home to smell nice? However, using aerosol air fresheners and plug-in fresheners in plastic holders only increases your use of plastics in the home. Luckily, there are plenty of alternatives that leave your home smelling fresh and better than ever.
Use a Glass Screen Protector on Your Phone
After spending hundreds of dollars on a new smartphone, it's only natural to want to protect it and keep it in the best condition possible. A lot of the screen protectors on the market, however, are made of plastic. Though it might not seem like a big deal, replacements can start to pile up.
Eat More Whole Foods
Most of the processed foods at the supermarket are also the ones that use the most packaging. You can all but eliminate your single-use plastic by switching to a diet composed mainly of whole foods. The landfill and your waistline will appreciate it.
Watch Out for Microfibers
At this point, it feels like there is plastic in everything, even the clothing that you wear. And there is. Synthetic materials like nylon, polyester and acrylics shed plastic microfibers every time you wash them.
Okay, you don’t have to stop with the body hair removal altogether, but you should be smarter about it. According to the EPA, an estimated two billion razor blades are thrown out every year. And these blades aren’t recyclable, either.
Reuse Your Old Plastics
You know the old slogan: reduce, reuse, recycle. While most of us put the emphasis on recycling, it’s key to first reduce consumption and reuse materials first. And since your home is already full of single-use plastics, it’s time to get creative with them.
Ditch the Plastic Straws
Scientists estimate that there are nearly 7.5 million plastic straws along US shorelines, and even more wash up on shore globally. Though straws only make up a small portion of the total plastic in our oceans, many restaurants, stores and cities have committed to eliminating plastic straws.
Skip the Produce Bags
As mentioned previously, buying unpackaged produce and eating more whole foods in general is a fantastic way to eliminate plastic use in the home. But there’s still one more step: getting rid of plastic produce bags. There’s no reason why all of your fruits and veggies need to be separated from each other.
Revamp Your Morning Caffeine Routine
Yes, it’s more environmentally-friendly to make your own coffee or tea than it is to buy it at a coffee shop. However, there’s even more you can do to trim your plastic waste. If you’re a tea drinker, purchase loose-leaf tea instead of tea bags, which are often sealed with plastic. Otherwise, use a plastic-free brand.
Say Goodbye to Spandex
Sadly, spandex is a type of plastic. And though your trendy work-out shorts will (hopefully) get used more than once, they do wear out eventually, and in most cases, they wind up in a landfill. Not only that, but they also shed microfibers when washed that end up in our oceans and rivers.
Skip the grocery store entirely and buy your food from local retailers. Head to the farmers’ market for fresh fruits, vegetables and eggs. Get your meat from a local butcher and your bread from a neighborhood bakery. Typically, these businesses use less packaging than big grocery store chains do.
Make Your Period Eco-Friendly
On average, Americans use around seven billion plastic tampon applicators every year. Unfortunately, many of them wind up polluting the ocean. While there’s not much you can do about your period, you can try to prioritize sustainability when your time of the month rolls around.
Drink From Cans Whenever Possible
Of course, it’s always better to drink from a reusable cup or water bottle. Sometimes, however, you can’t avoid disposable containers. When that time arrives, always choose canned beverages over ones in plastic bottles.
Cut Out Take-Out
We know: cutting out take-out seems nearly impossible, even if it’s to help the environment. But all of that delicious food is often served with a huge helping of single-use plastic. If you’re really committed to lowering your environmental impact, then the takeout has got to go.
Watch Out for Microbeads
Some skin products and other cosmetics contain microbeads. These are tiny plastic beads that are often used as an exfoliating agent in beauty products, and though they may be small, they can still cause huge environmental problems when they travel down the drain and into rivers.
Use Homemade Household Cleaners
The majority of household cleaning products are sold in single-use plastic containers. No, you can’t use eliminating plastic waste as an excuse to stop cleaning your house. But you can use it as an opportunity to create your own natural cleaners.
Be Careful When Purchasing Pet Toys
Before ordering a new toy for your pet, you should identify the materials it is made out of. Some plastics can contain BPAs, phthalates and other chemicals that can be dangerous to both your children and pets.
Use Bamboo or Porcelain Plates
Paper and plastic plates might seem like an ideal product to use to avoid a long cleanup after eating, but there are better alternatives that are low-cost and have minimal impact on the environment. Tossing out paper and plastic plates might not seem like a big deal to you, but they drastically affect the planet.
Refuse Plastic Utensils at Restaurants
If you want to give your stove a break and go out to eat at a restaurant, you might end up with several pairs of plastic utensils after your meal. Once you’re home, you’ll likely stash these in your house until you have an overflowing drawer of plasticware and ultimately toss them out to avoid the clutter.
Avoid Eating Frozen Dinners
Not everyone has the time to cook delicious homemade meals every day. That makes frozen food the next best thing — until it isn't. These dinners might be cheap and easy to make, but their impact on your wallet and the environment might make you reconsider the purchase.
Switch From Plastic to Ceramic Pet Food Bowls
Plastic pet food bowls can save you a lot of time and effort if you have busy mornings and evenings, since you can toss out the bowl as soon as your pet is done eating. However, these plastic bowls can end up costing you a lot of money in the long-run and aren’t exactly environmentally responsible.