5 Ways to Start Ditching Your Single-Use Lifestyle
First and foremost, this is not a process that happens overnight. Well, at least not all of it. There are some aspects of your lifestyle that will be harder to alter than others, requiring much self-motivation and dedication to make a habit. Additionally, for those on a budget (like myself) transitioning to reusable items can require more money initially than we want to cough up. This can be a turn-off for most, which is why you must do what you can...Start with small adjustments and purchases like a metal water bottle and rest assured that you won't need to buy bottled water again– and in the long run your wallet will thank you.
Above all, being mindful and conscience of your everyday actions will make the greatest change. By simply asking the questions like... where did this come from and how does this impact the environment, our small everyday choices will have a massive impact on protecting our planet. We have seemingly created a society that is driven by fast food style gratification... quick and easy. This ends up steering us away from our own curiosity and knowing what goes into our products. So, even if you can't commit to all the actions mentioned below, practicing mindfulness is the most important!
1. Purchase/DIY Reusable Bags.
The situation: You're checking out at the grocery store and it's time to pack up all your items. You think to yourself..."If I refuse plastic at the store, can I just ask for paper instead? But if I use paper, aren't I still harming the environment?"
The impact on our environment: Whether you're hitting the grocery store or lugging your books to school, bringing a reusable bag is simply the best solution when it comes to the plastic vs. paper debate. The average person goes through 350 to 500 plastic bags a year. Plastic bags are derived from petroleum and are incredibly difficult to biodegrade. They are at risk to photo degrade, which poses the exposure of toxic polymer particles entering our air. Not to mention, they make up a large portion of what our marine animals ingest as a consequence. Have you heard of the numerous whales dying from starvation after consuming dozens (or even HUNDREDS) of plastic bags?
The solution: Check out our favorites from Chico Bags (linked below) or check out this video tutorial on how to create your own out of an old t-shirt!
2. Purchase Your Own Reusable Utensils and #SKIPTHESTRAW.
The situation: Your legs are cramping at your desk and you're craving some ice cream! Time to head out a grab some soft serve from the shop down the block from the office! But wait, they only offer plastic utensils, and all the metal utensils in the office are dirty or lost!
The impact on our environment: We use more than 500 MILLION straws each day. They are too small to be easily recycled, and as a result, often end up in the ocean posing a huge threat to marine life, such as our beloved sea turtles. Having your own set of utensils in your purse or backpack will enormously decrease your use of single-use plastic cutlery. We all have those cravings for a bowl of ice cream, so make sure to have some of these in your back pocket when you're out and about!
The solution: Purchase your own reusable utensils online or at your local co-op. ToGo Ware is often for sale at Whole Foods, co-ops, or Amazon. When it comes to straws, you have the option of purchasing a stainless steel, bamboo, or glass straw!
PS: The stainless steel straws are the most durable and easy to clean!
3. Purchase Your Own Reusable Cup/Mug.
The situation: You're on your way to work and you stop at your local coffee shop for your cup of coffee. At this point, the morning barista knows your name and order by heart so there's no need to wait in line with a dozen other people. You see your autographed To-Go cup from the counter, pay the cashier, and in no time you're out the door! But did you stop to think how your styrofoam cup and the dozens of others used for the other patrons this morning are impacting our environment?
The impact on our environment: Americans throw away 25 BILLION styrofoam coffee cups every year. That's a lot considering it takes up to a million years to break down... According to a study conducted by Starbucks and the Alliance for the Environmental Innovation, each paper cup manufactured is responsible for 0.24 lbs of CO2 emissions.
Reusable mugs are our favorite because not only are you saving cups from entering the marine environment, you're also saving money in your pocke!! By making your coffee at home and transporting it in an insulated cup, you will have warm coffee for longer than coffee in a To-Go cup from your local coffee shop. If you're in a hurry and don't have time to brew a cup a'joe, many coffee shops offer discounts for bringing your own mug!
The solution: From tea to coffee and water to wine, Hydroflask and RevoMax bottles are perfect. And if you prefer something smaller for your daily tea or coffee Corkcicle, and Joco Cups are our go-to products!!
4. Change up your beauty products!
The situation: You've finally racked up enough vacation days to take a trip to Mexico! Flights are booked, hotel room is reserved, now it's time to load up on all your beauty products before you go! A quick (1 hour) run to the pharmacy and you find your: shampoo, conditioner, leave-in conditioner, detangling spray, face wash, face exfoliant, body exfoliant, body lotion, face lotion, deodorant, sunscreen, bug spray, and mini tooth paste. Good thing you have your membership card because all these things are sure to rack up a bunch of points.
The impact on our environment: Packaging and ingredients like micro-beads (banned in the US) generate an enormous amount of waste, with millions of tons ending up in landfills each year. Plus, many large beauty brands aren't cruelty free and try to hide that with eco-centric packaging and buzz words. Although some brands like Garnier Fructis are transitioning their packaging to be derived from recycled PET (polyethylene terephthalate), the idea is to eliminate waste all together!
The solution: Let's be honest, girls. We love our styling products! But do we need all of them? If you think you can get rid of them all together, then great! But if you have unruly hair that's constantly damaged by the environment and can only spare a few, explore alternatives to your go to products and search for the cruelty-free and recyclable sticker on product packaging!
When it comes to body wash, purchasing soap in bars is the best way to start. However, brands such as Dr. Bronner and Puracy provide you with a fresh and smooth lather with plant derived ingredients and sustainable packaging. Plus, both brands have plenty of other products like dish soap, hand soap, and moisturizers just to name a few!
Lush Cosmetics also offers many plastic-free alternatives when it comes to shampoo bars, deodorants, makeup, body lotion, and more! If you are ordering online, make sure to ask for plastic-free shipping. If you have a Lush location near you, you can re-use their tupperware for re-filling on all your favorite products. Not only is Lush plastic-free, their ingredients are also 100% vegetarian and cruelty free! While applying some of your beauty products, instead of using single-se cotton pads, opt for reusable ones that can be washed with your laundry!
Want to be an even bigger eco-warrior-check out this article on how to make your own soap!!
5. Shop for Plastic-Free Groceries
The situation: We love Trader Joe's, but c'mon. You're in the grocery store and you think, "I need this plastic bag to put my vegetables in since they were just rinsed and I don't want to get water everywhere!" We have no clue as to why our veggies (that have a protective skin for a reason) come wrapped in plastic! But by eating more actual whole foods and fresh produce, you're not only avoiding plastic, but you're providing your body with the real nutrients it really needs!
The impact on our environment: Less than 14% of plastic packaging is recyclable... aka MORE TRASH!
The solution: Chico Bags (linked above) make AMAZING reusable bags just for produce. Bring them to the Farmer's Market or grocery store and avoid those skinny plastic bags. When it comes to your grains, oats, nuts, etc. it's often much cheaper to buy in bulk, and this allows you to bring your own containers, like mason jars. This also helps you portion control and avoid waste by only buy what you need.
Rob Greenfield x Plastic Ocean Project initiative to spread awareness of food packaging waste. Photo: Jake Zlotnick
So now you've got some lifestyle changes, but this is only made easier when you're surrounded by like-minded people. Spread the word, and have some fun with it! You'd be surprised by the impact you can make on your friends, family, and local community! Thanks so much for reading, and we hope you retrieved some ideas as to how you can take some easy steps towards a more sustainable lifestyle!