Today, April 22nd, is Earth Day. It is a day to interact with the Earth and environmentalism and it is there to remind us that we must protect Mother Earth. The focus of this year’s Earth Day is plastic; specifically, the theme is called End Plastic Pollution. Our plastic consumption, especially single-use plastic, is immense and has a detrimental effect on our planet. Single-use plastic is everywhere. From the plastic bag holding your new pair of shoes to the lining of the coffee cup you drink out of each morning. If we all used a little less plastic, the positive impact on our planet would be great.
Minimising my plastic usage has been something I’ve been passionate about for a while now. I used the Earth Day plastic pollution calculator and was shocked by the yearly total of plastic items I use: 525. This is after making a conscious effort to reduce my plastic consumption and it made me realise that I still have a long way to go. However, I have also picked up some useful tips along the way that significantly helped me decrease my plastic consumption. You might already know some of these, but that doesn’t make them any less effective!
Bring Your Own Bag
You’ve probably heard this so many times already, but bring your own bags with you when you go grocery shopping! I am so glad that the UK introduced the 5p bag charge for all single use plastic carrier bags. I think it motivated many people to start bringing their own bags, and I hope it inspired people to be more conscious of their single use plastic usage. I always have at least one carrier bag with me, because you never know when it will come in handy. I prefer to use canvas bags, as I find them to be very sturdy, and I have a bunch of them with cute designs (these ones from Uncaptive Co. are my favourite!). You can also get handy carrier bags that fold up really small, like this one, which is great for small handbags. There really is no excuse anymore to use single use plastic carrier bags.
Skip the Plastic Cutlery
This was a tip I picked up whilst I was travelling. Plastic cutlery is very standard in a lot of cultures, but it is such a waste of plastic. You use it once and then throw it away, and it probably ends up in a landfill somewhere. On my trip to Thailand and Bali, I took my own cutlery with me, as well as a Tupperware box. I was travelling for a long period of time, and so was eating a lot of ‘supermarket meals’ to save money. I’d buy some simple ingredients, such as grains and veggies, mix them in my Tupperware and eat the meal with my bamboo utensils. It was a great way to minimise my plastic consumption on the road.
Ditch Plastic Straws
Want to hear a heartbreaking fact? Americans use 500 million plastic straws a day. 500 MILLION. That number seems insane to me, and it makes me so sad. Because those plastic straws end up in our oceans and impact Mother Earth is such negative ways. And there is such a simple solution to this problem; just stop using them. There are so many better alternatives out there. I use bamboo straws, but stainless steel or glass straws are also great options. These items are so small, and if you’re someone who uses plastic straws regularly, carrying this alternative with you is such an easy change. When you order a beverage at a restaurant, just ask for it without a straw, and whip out your cool eco-friendly straw instead.
Get a Reusable Cup
I love coffee, and getting a coffee out is often a treat for me. Whilst I usually enjoy my coffee in cafe’s, and always ask for a mug when I do so, I sometimes am in a rush and will get coffee to go. Admittedly, it took me a while to start using a reusable cup. I used to think that they were cumbersome: they were bulky, I would have to clean them and I’d always have to remember to take it with me. I soon realised that these excuses were ridiculous though, because you get into the habit of bringing your reusable cup with you so quickly. Plus, a lot of coffee chains now offer a discount when you bring your own cup, which is a great added bonus!
Use Less Packaging
Once I started to notice how much of our food is packaged in plastic, it was hard to ignore it. It took me a while to find a balance between producing less waste by shopping and still shopping on a budget. I’ve gotten a lot better, but don’t get me wrong, I’m nowhere near where I want to be with it yet. Once change I quickly made was ditching the plastic produce bags. Personally, I don’t use any produce bags at all anymore and just weight the produce loosely whilst checking out (I always use the self-checkout). If you don’t like this, you can buy some reusable produce bags, which are a great alternative. Based on the amount of fruit and veg I buy on a weekly basis, I think I have cut down 20 single-use plastic bags a month. I now also just pay more attention to the food packaging I buy, and always try to go for the less waste option.
There are so many ways you can use less plastic in your everyday life. I know that cutting out plastic is close to impossible for most of us, including myself, because the material has been so ingrained into our society. However, cutting down already has such a big impact, and if we all do a little more of it, we can make a big change. So apply some of these tips to your life and start using plastic alternatives; Mother Earth will love you for it.