10 Ways You Can Minimize Plastic Use

Photo by Erol Ahmed on Unsplash

Aloha~ Ellie here! Walkyria and I have been friends for 7 years now. We are like Phoebe and Phoebe from Friends I'd say~both on our own off-beat yet authentic paths :) To escape the demands of life, we used to write in coffee shops together over tea, and although we are oceans apart at the moment, she had the stellar idea to maintain some writing time together through blog collaboration. I am quite stoked on the opportunity to contribute! Walkyria and I are both really passionate about reducing our plastic consumption, so we are sharing a post I wrote over holiday break reflecting on my relationship with plastic with some tips on how to shrink your plastic print.

Shrinking Your Plastic Print:

Hello! I took a hiatus to focus on exams-- they're done!   To cut to the chase, I want to talk about sustainability, especially related to plastic. I grew up surrounded by plastic:

  • plastic grocery bags 

  • plastic water bottles at team soccer practice

  • ziplock bags

  • plastic cling wrap

  • plastic milk jugs

  • plastic shoes (remember jellies?)

  • plastic jars

  • plastic wrappers

  • plastic plates

  • plastic utensils

  • plastic garbage bags

  • plastic cups

  • plastic CD cases

  • plastic VCRs

  • plastic DVD cases

  • plastic toys... The plastic list is endless.

My town had a recycling program, but the size of the "blue bin" was disproportionately small to the "black bin" and anyone who composted was a "hippie." I never really thought twice about the garbage, except that we had to close the lid so our Labrador wouldn't turn into a blimp.  I never thought about where the garbage went after it left the curb until I visited the landfill and the beach...

Every person should go to the landfill and the beach.

Photo by Ayotunde Oguntoyinbo on Unsplash

At the landfill, you get exposed to the enormous amounts of waste even small communities generate. Some of this will rot (hence the landfill aroma) but much of it will sit there forever, bound by plastic bag. 

Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

At the beach, you see trash where it does not belong. I'll never forget the feeling of salty waves licking my toes, and then a slimy grocery sack wrapping its plastic tentacles around my ankles. The thought of it makes me shiver.  Imagine four-year-old me, standing on the shore, becoming entangled in plastic bag leg warmers. I was a measly speck along the coastline, and the water wasn't even a foot deep, yet plastic found my ankles. Now imagine what it's like to LIVE IN THE OCEAN, as a turtle, or a whale, or sea lion, seal, dolphin, or otter. Their home is infested with trash they didn't even create! Worse, many of them become entangled and perish a death by plastic. At 26, I visited a beached whale carcass in Marin, California to find plastic remnants spilling out of this majestic creature. It was one of the most tragic things I've ever seen and it broke my heart.

I am a bleeding heart nature lover and have always tried to respect the earth and its inhabitants. I am angry at fishing vessels (especially long-line vessels) that leave lines and nets in the ocean to entangle and drown by-catch. I could go on a rant about that for days, but I also know that my daily choices contribute to the problem too, and that I can always do better. I knew that I could take small steps in my daily life to clean up my act and reduce my impact on the ocean.  The following list are steps that I've taken that you can implement into your routine.

10 Ways You can shrink Your Plastic Print

1. Not buying items with plastic rings.

I don't buy items with plastic rings (ie soda cans, 6 pack beer cans etc). Often times, marine animals gets curious about these floating circles and explore. The next thing you know, they are bound by a plastic choker that imbeds into their skin as they grow. Ultimately, this can lead to suffocation and death.

Photo by Isabela Kronemberger on Unsplash

2. Using metal straws or no straws.

Include "no straw" in your drink order like you would say "no ice". You can get these on Amazon for really cheap, though I could have done better by finding somewhere in London that sold them in a store, so that my purchase didn't create unnecessary emissions. Plastic straws are entirely unnecessary and can get stuck in the nostrils of marine life, or ingested, creating bloat and intestinal blockages. Another alternative to plastic straws is not using a straw at all ;)

**BONUS: Use "Smile.Amazon" to support The Nature Conservancy through your regular purchases. The mission of The Nature Conservancy is to conserve the lands and waters on which all life depends. Our vision is a world where the diversity of life thrives, and people act to conserve nature for its own sake and its ability to fulfill our needs and enrich our lives.

Photo by Viktor Forgacs on Unsplash

3. Switching to bar soap.

There is no reason to purchase plastic soap dispensers or body wash dispensers when you can use bar soap. You can store your bar soap in a soap tin or recycled food container. Companies like Lush also make bar shampoo and conditioner. Check out Lush's shampoo, conditioner, massage bars, lotion, deodorant, and bar soaps.

4. Investing in (and carrying) reusable shopping bags. 

I invested in a canvas bag and love using it for groceries. You can purchase 1 or more canvas or cloth (durable) shopping bags and make sure to take them with you wherever you go. If size is an issue, many roll into a pouch with a carabiner for your purse or backpack. Even if you are a trendy business executive, you can store these in your laptop case ;). These bags are available at tons of stores, but I prefer to get mine from my favorite bookstores. If I had a sewing machine, I'd love to make my own from recycled clothes... which brings me to...

5. Recycling clothes.

Fast fashion is one of the absolute worst contributors to pollution, and many dyes, chemicals, and clothing fibers end up in the ocean. If you outgrow your clothes or decide they are not for you anymore, donate them at a local thrift or charity shop, gift them to a friend, go to a clothes swap, or use the fabric to make a reusable shopping bag!

6. Not buying clothes I won't ever wear.

I like earth tones, and I like basics. I also like comfy clothes. I have no business buying trendy uncomfortable items that I wish I liked, but I will honestly never wear. By purchasing these, I contribute to the problem, so I am working toward having a versatile closet of basic solid colors that go with everything. I have started exercising the "less is more" concept. 

7. Carrying a reusable mug/thermos:

There is no reason to get a to-go cup with a plastic lid every time you grab a tea or coffee. Admittedly, I do this still sometimes, but I am working to reduce it. I have a thermos and like to use it as much as possible. 

8. Buying glass jars and then reusing them.

If you like Nutella, or almond butter, or bolognese, or orange juice, or milk, or yogurt, or literally anything that comes in a jar, buy a glass jar and then reuse the jar. This not only limits the amount of plastic waste you produce, but also is really handy for packing your lunch in glass containers, or planting succulent friends in your room. 

9. Using bees wax paper instead of ziplock bags.

Beeswax paper is awesome, and you can wrap just about anything in it. As long as you wash it with cold water, you can reuse it many times!

10. Bringing you own utensils to lunch, or opting for metal utensils at restaurants.

There is no reason we should be using plasticware. I can improve upon this at to-go lunches during the school year, but I now carry a camping spork with my in my backpack. Sporks are not only really useful; they make you seem really cool. 

This list is not exhaustive, and there's so so much you can do to minimize your plastic waste production and contribute to healthier environments (especially the ocean)! It is amazing the difference even a single person can make.

What are steps that you take to minimize your plastic print? We would love to hear.

If this topic is not something on your radar day to day, you must check out this article.


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