Your time is valuable, so let’s cut to the chase! Here are some quick and approachable ways you can reduce your everyday single-use plastic.
- Refuse plastic cutlery! It is estimated that the U.S. disposes of 40 billion plastic cutlery pieces annually (https://www.plasticstoday.com/packaging/eating-our-way-out-plastic-waste-dilemma/25470102124494). The energy in extracting raw materials, manufacturing, packaging, marketing, shipping, and disposal can all totally be avoided! If you’re honest with yourself, plastic cutlery isn’t a very pleasant experience, anyway.
- Tip: Spork with washable pouch. My Etsy shop, Carbon Neutral Goods, sells these pouches for your cutlery. I carry a spork because it’s so convenient for 90% of my meals, and weighs less in my purse than a whole cutlery set. If you purchase a spork pouch from my shop, the energy used in the production and shipping of the product are offset, minimizing your carbon footprint!
- Own your straw! This one is very much en vogue right now. It was the powerfully tragic video of the turtle with a straw blocking its nasal passageway that really propelled this movement forward (watch here if you’d like: Removing a plastic straw from a sea turtle’s nostril). It’s a fun conversation starter to bring your own straw to a restaurant! In case you aren’t doing this already, I encourage you to try, and notice how your clients, co-workers, and peers look at you differently. It shows an inherent appreciation and respect for our environment by denying what may be considered the most superfluous of luxuries.
- Tip: Check out Adrian Grenier’s PSA!
- Tip: If you want to keep your straw clean and your purse non-sticky, consider purchasing a straw sleeve!
3. Sheet plastic is its own beast. I let out an exasperated and slightly pretentious sigh while opening my apartment complex’s plastic recycling bin and see plastic bags of refuse. I don’t know what’s inside, but I know those bags do not belong! Sheet plastic is recycled differently than the numbered plastics. I collect my plastic bags and dump at my local grocery recycling bins that are specific to plastic bags.
- Tip: Find your local sheet plastic recycling here: https://www.plasticfilmrecycling.org/recycling-bags-and-wraps/find-drop-off-location/
4. Know what you can recycle. Though recycling and environmentalism is not a priority among the populus of Atlanta, where I live, there is a movement by passionate individuals for recycling all products. I also have a handful of co-workers that are local experts (I’ve brought in styrofoam from packaging to pass along to a friend who lives closer and frequents CHaRM, the Center for Hard to Recycle Materials – I’m thankful for the help!).
- Tip: All municipalities are different in what you can recycle, so be sure you’re only recycling what you can – a simple Google search should bring up your municipalities’ recycling standards.
5. Ditch the glitter. I love glitter. It was a momentous day the first time I had edible glitter in a cocktail. I would have had a glitter party in college if my roommate didn’t give me death eyes when I suggested it. What I’ve come to learn, however, is how detrimental glitter is to the environment. Glitter is considered a microplastic, and the problem with microplastics is that they are very hard to control, and therefore get into the soil and bodies of water (other microplastics include cleansing beads, which have been banned in the US in 2015, and the degradation of synthetic clothing that gets washed away into the water treatment system. While there is no hard evidence of the negative effect microplastics have on the environment and human health, scientists are studying this to know the extent, as these plastics are everywhere around us now (https://www.cnn.com/2018/04/22/health/microplastics-land-and-air-pollution-intl/index.html).
- Tip: Eliminate purchasing products with glitter! If you love makeup that shines, consider a company that uses naturally shimmering materials, like LUSH.