I’m sure you’ve heard about the dangers of plastic, and how we as humans have a responsibility to reduce single-use plastic to help keep our planet inhabitable for current and future generations. Maybe you agree, maybe you think it’s ridiculous, or maybe you just don’t understand what all the fuss is about!
Here’s a quick rundown of what happens when you throw away plastic, and why you should care: When plastics end up in landfills or oceans (instead of being recycled), they break down into what’s called “microplastics.” These microplastics contaminate our soil, water, and air. On top of that, plastic ending up in the ocean is harming a lot of marine ecosystems and marine life, as the animals mistake the small pieces for food. If you need more convincing, check out these images of plastic in our oceans.
I know, it seems super overwhelming. After all, plastic is everywhere! But there are actually several cheap and easy things you can start doing right away that will help. EVERY little bit counts; no gesture is too small. One of the easiest ways to get started is to reduce single-use plastic.
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6 Cheap & Easy Ways to Reduce Single-Use Plastic
#1: Use Eco-Friendly Toothbrushes
Did you know that our toothbrushes outlive us? Just ONE toothbrush can take 400 years to decompose in a landfill. An average person will use over 150 toothbrushes in their lifetime, assuming you change toothbrushes every 3 months (which you should be doing!!)
I decided to make the switch to bamboo toothbrushes… they aren’t a perfect alternative. But they are still preferable to the all-plastic ones. I’ve been using these Terra Futura Bamboo Toothbrushes for almost a year now. You can get a year’s supply for $11.95 (that’s the price with Amazon Prime). I will say that there’s a slight wooden taste the first time you use them, but you get used to it. I don’t even notice it anymore.
#2: Use a Water Filter Instead of Plastic Water Bottles
I drink lots of water, which is great for my body… but not so great for the planet if I use plastic water bottles. I have been known to drink upwards of 70 ounces (approximately 2 liters) of water in just one day. That’s five plastic water bottles. In one day. I’m one of those people who notices a difference between tap water and bottled water, so just drinking tap water has never been an option for me.
I bought this 80-oz Brita pitcher so that I could stop using plastic water bottles. I’ll admit, I was hesitant to get one of these! The Brita water filtration pitcher was about $35 when I got it. I originally thought that I would have to get an expensive one for it to work well. That turned out to be not true at all!
The filter needs to be changed approximately every three months, and they’re about $10 each. That means the cost ends up being $75 for the first year, including the price of the pitcher itself. Most 24 packs of water in the United States range in price from $3-$6 depending on where you live, so if you’re going through one of those a week, that will cost you at least $156 a year. So you’re actually saving money AND reducing single-use plastic by getting a pitcher. Also, you can mail your filters to Brita for recycling!
#3: Use Reusable Straws & Utensils
How many times have you eaten at a fast food restaurant, gotten takeout, or gotten food delivered to work, and your only options are plastic utensils and plastic straws? Probably waaaaay too many times to count. Yikes.
My favorite reusable straw/utensil company, Mermaid Straw, sells gorgeous utensils, stainless steel and glass straws, beautiful mermaid-themed tumblers… they even sell CHOPSTICKS.
On top of that, Mermaid Straw is committed to helping people reduce single-use plastic. The company frequently hosts beach/lake cleanups and donates a profit of their earnings to ocean conservation efforts each month!
Use code thevibrantdreamer at checkout to save 10% off your order! You get a free straw with every purchase! And for even more savings, they also sell “oops” versions of their products, which are products that work perfectly fine, but came out of manufacturing with a cosmetic defect and aren’t sold at full price.
#4: Take Your Own Bags to the Store
Start taking your own reusable tote bags to the store, if you don’t already do so. Some stores have even started selling their own reusable bags that you can take with you every time you shop. Keep them in your car or your purse so you have them whenever you need to go to the store.
Not only will you be reducing single use plastic, you’ll also be making groceries easier to carry. I don’t know about you, but for me the worst part about grocery shopping is carrying all those heavy groceries into my house.
Most cashiers don’t mind bagging your groceries in bags you bring yourself! But they might forget when they start bagging, just out of habit; so be kind when you remind them. Sometimes there is even a small discount for bringing your own bags, so don’t forget to ask about it. If you live in a state that charges for plastic bag use, you already know that you’re saving money by bringing your own bags!
#5: Carry a Travel Mug with You
Most coffee shops and gas stations will allow you to fill up your own cup. So if you’re the kind of person who likes to grab a cup of coffee every so often or even every morning, this can help reduce a lot of styrofoam and plastic waste. Some places will even offer you a discount for bringing in your own mug or tumbler! Sometimes you have to bring in their specific mug, though.
I got this tumbler at Starbucks for about $20. It might seem like a lot, but it’s much less wasteful than getting the plastic cups and straws all the time!
#6: Share What You’re Doing with Others
As with most world issues, there are people who don’t know, understand, or even care about how important it is to reduce single-use plastic. I feel like it’s important to educate people in such a way that doesn’t come across as judging or trying to control their life choices; no one is going to do anything differently if they feel forced into it. Share your lifestyle with them!
Some people might roll their eyes when they see you with your own utensils or your reusable tote bags. There are still some places in the US that don’t have mandatory recycling (my state being one of them). But some people might not have ever been exposed to something like that! A lot of my coworkers think my Mermaid Straw is the cutest thing.
What are some of your favorite tips to reduce single-use plastic?
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