If you are like me, you might be overwhelmed and concerned about the consistent influx of news on the inevitable climate crisis. And if you are like me, maybe you care a lot, but often push it aside because there are so many things to take care of in your own life and starting to change your entire lifestyle to focus on helping the environment seems overwhelmingly impossible. And if you are like me, sometimes you wonder how you could even have an impact on any of it, correct?
I am right there with you. My goal in starting this blog is to come up with manageable steps that anyone, including myself, can do without feeling overwhelmed, to reduce plastic use in the home. It’s all about small steps, but if all of us start with just one step, a small step, I bet the impact could be huge. Our one and only planet Earth is worth any effort.
It all starts with awareness
Before we even begin to reduce plastic use in our home, we need to change our thinking and become aware. Plastic is truly all around us and we use it every day and a lot of it ends up in the trash every single day. We are used to having access to everything we want and our society is set up to be as convenient as possible. Start observing, start noticing, start thinking of one plastic item you can live without. Our lives are so full of stuff and we are made to believe we need it all. We easily fall into the trap of consumerism; easy, convenient and the least amount of effort. It’s appealing.
But to have an impact, it will take some effort and we might have to give up some conveniences. But what will start as effort and seem inconvenient at first, will ultimately simplify our life, I am convinced. More on that in future posts!
Refuse before you reduce
Something I have been trying to do for years and I have started getting better at, is refusing to use plastic bags. In most grocery stores here in the US, you will hear the all too familiar question “Paper or plastic?” every time you go to the cash register. In most other stores, it is an automatic, robot like step for any cashier to grab a plastic bag and immediately put all your purchases in it. Sometimes that means using one plastic bag for one single item or two, so, depending on how much you purchased, how big the bags are and so on, you might end up with several plastic bags.
The number one simple step to reducing plastic in your home is to refuse plastic in the first place and plastic bags can be avoided easily:
- Opt for the paper bag rather than the plastic bag.
- If you have canvas totes or other big bags at home, bring them to the grocery store, bag your items yourself or simply tell them that you brought your own bags.
- Leave the bags in the car, so you will not forget to bring them and you can even use them when you stop for a spontaneous grocery haul.
- Purchase reusable grocery bags. A lot of grocery stores sell them nowadays, often for less than a dollar. They will last you a long time.
- Purchase some inexpensive canvas bags that you can easily stick in your purse, so you always have some extra bags with you.
You don’t need plastic to quench your thirst
Everywhere we go, we see plastic and it is difficult to imagine how that could ever change. But what’s important is to start thinking about what else would be easy to let go of in our daily life and what else could we consider saying no to.
Here are two additional examples I am working on refusing regularly:
- Avoid plastic bottles of water.
Ask for a glass instead and drink tap water or carry around a refillable water bottle.
- Avoid plastic straws
I personally believe that most of the time straws are not necessary, but if you like to use them, there are plenty of metal straw options out there. They come with a cleaning brush and are easy to keep in your purse as well.
You don’t need to be perfect
I am going to share with you one of my personal struggles when it comes to pretty much anything in life. I set high standards for myself. And while that isn’t necessarily wrong, my struggles are that I feel crushed when I fail. But here is the thing: Nobody is perfect and we won’t be perfect. I may have accepted a plastic bag at a store the other day, I may have let my kids use straws at the coffee shop because they were begging me, I may have purchased a plastic water bottle, because I forgot mine and there was no water fountain in sight and so on. It takes time to change habits and we won’t be perfect at it, but what matters are our efforts. Every single time we choose to say no to plastic, it matters. Let’s take one step at a time in the right direction.
Here are 8 simple tips to start out your journey:
- It’s ok to say no and politely decline what has become such a norm in our society.
- Throw away less and think of ways to use things more than once or twice.
- Think of plastic items that you can live without, aka ditch the plastic bag.
- Research the recycling program in your area and find out exactly what can be recycled and where.
- Use glass containers for food storage.
- Start a compost.
- Stop using disposable plates.
- Cancel unnecessary mail.