Well, actually, yes there is:
|"Plastic Ocean" by Kevin Krejci on Flickr|
Plastic waste and other trash is surely as great a threat to the health of our planet as global warming. Both the making and discarding of disposable consumer goods takes a toll on our environment. Even recycling uses resources and causes pollution, but alarmingly, the vast majority of plastic is never recycled. Much of it enters our waterways, choking marine life and creating a sort of plastic soup in gigantic areas of the ocean. It may be used for only a few hours (or even a few minutes!), but it takes thousands of years to decompose.
Please, reduce waste as much as you can, especially of single-use plastics. Work toward eliminating disposable products from your household.
- Instead of plastic shopping bags, bring your own reusable tote. Do this not only at the grocery store, but everywhere. I keep a handy Chico bag in my purse for clothing and other small purchases, and larger grocery-size bags in my car. I thank my kids for nagging me until using those bags became a habit.
- Instead of plastic wrap or bags, pack your lunch in a bento box or reusable snack and sandwich bags.
- Instead of plastic produce bags, bring reusable bags to the farmers' market or grocery store.
- Instead of using a plastic straw, carry a stainless steel straw in your purse, or simply do without. If you go through the drive-thru, remember to tell them you don't need a straw.
- Instead of using plastic drink lids, avoid the drive-thru unless you are traveling. You don't need the lid if you're not drinking in your car.
- Instead of using disposable cups, lids, and sleeves at your coffee shop, ask the barista to prepare and serve your latte in a mug. Enjoy the foam art! I'm always sorry to see the predominance of takeaway cups used by people who chat or work for hours in the store.
- Instead of plastic utensils, use the real thing, even on picnics.
- Instead of making coffee with single-use pods, use a drip machine or a pour-over setup. Use a stainless steel filter instead of paper.
- Instead of drinking water from single-use bottles, fill a reusable bottle from the tap.
- Instead of accepting Styrofoam or other plastic takeout containers, bring some of your own Tupperware to the restaurant for leftovers. Again, my kids nagged me until this became a habit.
- Instead of a throwaway razor, shave with an electric razor or a reusable one with replaceable blades.
- Use refilled ink cartridges in your printer, and only print when absolutely necessary.
- Use refillable pens and mechanical pencils.
- Opt for items with minimal packaging. Avoid snack packs and products that are individually wrapped (they're more expensive anyway). Buy pantry items from the bulk bins when you can, and be sure to bring your own reusable storage containers. Support brands that don't package their goods in excessive amounts of plastic.
- Consolidate online orders and request that they be shipped in a single box.
- Consider using disposable diapers and wipes only when traveling, while using cloth diapers and wipes at home. I know it's a big commitment, but my mom (and everyone of her generation and before) did it with three kids in diapers at the same time.
- Consider using a menstrual cup or cloth pads instead of disposable feminine hygiene products.
- Instead of paper towels, use cloth to wipe up spills.
- Instead of paper napkins, use cloth napkins.
- Instead of paper baking cups, use ones made from silicone.
- Instead of dryer sheets, use wool dryer balls.
- Instead of tea bags, try a stainless steel tea ball and loose leaf tea packed in a tin.
- Consider using facial tissues only when you're sick, and a handkerchief the rest of the time.
- Reuse paper gift wrap, or present your gift in a small cloth tote.
- Buy food more consciously to avoid waste. Each year we discard millions of tons of expired food while millions of people go hungry. Avoid buying economy sizes if you're unlikely to use them, and shop daily or every few days for immediate needs, rather than stockpiling. Serve smaller portions that will actually be consumed, and compost as many of your food scraps as possible.
I do not practice all of these suggestions, but I'm working toward that goal. Why not pick a disposable item you use regularly and replace it with a reusable version? Practice for several weeks until it becomes a habit. Then choose another item and go on from there.
Francine Jay (aka Miss Minimalist) author of Lightly, suggests that one key to generating less waste is awareness. To that end, make your kitchen trash can your only trash can. You'll begin to see exactly how much you throw away. Challenge yourself to extend the time it takes to fill a trash bag to a week or more. Such a goal will inspire you to reduce your purchases while reusing, recycling, and composting as much as possible.