Plastic waste is becoming a largely recognized problem. The European parliament has recently voted to ban single use plastic by 2021 and thankfully awareness for this growing issue is rising.
A shortsighted benefit
Plastic has become a favorite material in manufacturing because it is light, cheap and versatile. It is so popular because it provides many benefits to daily living, but it is a shortsighted benefit. Plastic can take hundreds if not thousands of years to biodegrate. This means plastic that gets thrown away will stick around for many generations and it will fill up landfills and pollute the environment. Plastic also contributes heavily to the pollution of our oceans and endangers many marine species.
Additionally, the production process of plastic is causing heavy carbon emissions thus contributing to global warming. It takes a lot of energy and resources to produce plastic. Creating water bottles takes 2000 times the energy than it does to produce tap water.
Small, sustainable changes
Admittedly, it can be difficult to completely stop using plastic as it happens to be in so many products we use every day. It can feel discouraging or even pointless to some, but if all of us start doing small, sustainable changes, we will notice a big improvement in the right direction.
There are a few things you can start doing today, that will make a positive impact. They don’t require a radical shift, and are a step towards the right direction. Once you start paying attention to these things you might notice that you are already making conscious choices when shopping or when opting for a plastic bag in the shop. These are all small steps towards a plastic-free lifestyle.
1. Bring along reusable or cotton shopping bags with you
This small change can make such a big impact. If you think about it, many of the plastic bags sold in shops are single-use plastic. You use them once and then you throw them away. Only they don’t just go away but fill our landfills and pollute our oceans. Make sure you always carry a recyclable or cotton bag with you when you shop. Here are the ones I like to use.
When shopping for fruits and vegetables make sure you select ones that are not wrapped in plastic and instead of putting them in plastic bags to weigh them, you can place them in these bags. Also you can stick the label on the skin of the fruits and veggies (like bananas, peppers or broccoli) when you weigh them.
2. Use stainless steel straws
If you like using straws or have children at home, then swap the plastic straws for stainless steel ones. Here is a good option. You can use them at home or take them with you when you go out. Also, refuse using plastic straws in coffee shops and restaurants.
3. Use what you already have
If you already have it, use it. It is more beneficial to the planet if you continue using the plastic containers you already have, rather than throwing them away and replace them for glass containers. So, if you have plastic containers, popsicle molds etc, do continue to use them. If you need new ones, then opt for a more environmentally friendly option, such as glass, stainless steel or bamboo.
4. Buy in bulk or shop at packaging-free stores
Again, if you shop for fruits and veggies avoid the ones wrapped in plastic. Choose products that are either packaging-free or are in an environmentally friendly packaging. This applies to literally everything. Our cosmetics, cleaning products, groceries and containers. Try to see how much plastic packaging you can avoid this way. If you are interested in this option, I can recommend checking out OUNI – the first packaging-free grocery store in Luxembourg, where you can also educate yourself more on how to shop sustainably.
5. Choose glass bottles
When it comes to water, invest in a good filter for your kitchen and shower, it will pay off in the long run. Another solution is to opt for glass bottles. They actually might even end up cheaper than plastic ones when you return the empty glass bottles. Carry a sustainable water bottle with you so you don’t end up buying water in plastic bottles when on the go.
Thinking that you can never live a zero-waste lifestyle should not be discouraging. The importance is that we all take actions, however small or big, towards preserving and caring for our Mother Earth. What we do today will influence the future of our beautiful planet.
“We don’t inherit the Earth from our ancestors; we borrow it from our children.”