Going green is the way to go.
While it was a boon when plastic materials were invented in the 1900’s, now, it is more of a bane to human existence with millions and millions of plastic waste discarded every year, especially when we reached the new millennium.
UC Santa Barbara industrial ecologist, Professor Roland Geyer in his article, “Production, use, and fate of all plastics ever made” revealed that around 8.3 billion metric tons of plastic materials have been produced and as of 2015, approximately 6.3 billion metric tons of plastic waste had been generated, which means only 9% of which had been recycled.
He also predicted that by 2050, around 12,000 metric tons of plastic waste will be in landfills or in the natural environment if the current trends continue.
You may think that a humble lolly wrapper can do no harm to the environment but think about this, what if there are a billion “Yous” thinking the same thing? So the billion “Yous” throw your lolly wrapper on the ground or out a car window… and the result? A billion lolly wrappers piling up in the natural environment waiting to rot, which takes centuries or longer, killing living creatures along the way! And what did a lolly wrapper give you? Satisfaction. But what did it do to the environment? Suffering.
Not that we’re being naggy but you see, no matter how small, each effort to preserve our environment can have a huge impact in this one world that we live in. (*cue melodramatic sound)…
Okay, cut! But seriously, we know you want to make your contribution to preserve the environment, so here are some suggestions for you to use less plastic and it’s not even costing you so much. Well, at first it will, but eventually, you’ll realise you actually saved heaps just by reusing it. So, try doing these now and hopefully, the billion “Yous” would do the same.
1. Do not use straws when drinking.
Straws are nice and cute, they’re colourful, they’re handy, they make drinking look cool…but they’re plastic! Well, there are paper straws but you don’t find them around much anymore. It’s always the plastic ones that are being offered in restaurants or cafes or wherever. If you still want to use straw, use those silicone or stainless steel or glass ones that you can reuse.
2. Avoid using plastic cutlery.
Much like plastic straws, using plastic cutlery also does the same thing…harm the environment. So if you have hygiene concerns when in restaurants, just bring your own cutlery. Plastic spoon and fork are so annoying to eat with anyway.
3. Use your own shopping bag.
If you’ve got a lot of groceries that can’t fit inside one paper bag, don’t let the store give you a plastic bag. Instead, use your own shopping bag. And for me, it’s a lot cooler, with different styles, shapes and colours! There are even trendy ones that are so cute you would want to strut down the grocery aisles with it. Lol!
But, you don’t have to buy one. If you’ve got a bag, just any huge bag you would want to use for your groceries, like backpacks or messenger bags, just any will do. If you already have plastic bags with you, use it instead of asking for a new one.
4. No more earbuds.
I’ve always thought all cottons are organic and biodegradable, but lo and behold, most are not. Most earbuds are non-biodegradable, from the non-organic cotton used and the plastic sticks that hold it.
So stop using earbuds, and besides poking the insides of your ear is actually not good.
If you really want to use earbuds, opt for those using natural cotton placed on bamboo sticks.
5. Use reusable menstrual pads or those silicone menstrual cups.
Before disposable versions of these were made, our grandparents or those before them actually use layers and layers of cloth pads or rags when the monthly visitor arrives. So, why not bring back the olden times? They survived, right? Bet we will too! It’s even more convenient now with more eco-friendly sellers selling reusable menstrual pads…and in colourful, trendy versions! If you’re using menstrual cups, choose those made of silicone that you can wash clean and reuse.
6. Stop buying plastic bottled water.
The water inside plastic bottles is just plain filtered tap water…which you probably have at home. So why buy plastic bottled water at all? Just bring your reusable stainless steel or glass bottle or travel mug, fill it up with tap water and you’re good to go. Don’t use plastic water bottles as plastic may leach chemicals into the water. If you don’t feel like bringing your own water bottle, just grab a glass at the nearest tap.
7. Use your own stainless steel or glass container for take away food or leftovers.
Whenever you’re in a restaurant or fast food, you can avoid using more disposable containers if you offer to use your own stainless steel or glass container for your take away or leftover food.
8. Choose milk in glass bottles.
If you think milk placed in cartons are better off because cartons are biodegradable, think again. These cartons are actually plastic-coated and the caps used are plastic. So it’s not sustainable after all. There are local dairies and eco-friendly grocery stores that sell milk in returnable glass bottles. Buy from these stores instead.
9. Use beeswax cloth wrap instead of plastic cling wrap.
Using beeswax cloth to store food has been an old technique and up to now, it never fails in keeping food fresh (just place them in airtight glass containers though) just as well as plastic cling wrap.
10. Do not use non-stick cookware.
Have you been convinced that non-stick cookwares are healthier to use than ordinary cookware because you only need less or no oil at all when cooking food? Well, think twice when planning to buy these Teflon-coated cookware because these resins give off toxic perfluorochemicals when heated, which is far worse than eating food cooked in oil. Use stainless steel or cast iron cookware instead.
11. Find ways to wrap your gifts without using plastic tape, just go green in giving gifts.
In giving gifts, they say it’s the thought that counts. Apparently, this saying is environment-friendly. Why? You don’t need fancy plastic gift wrappers to hide your gifts…”it’s the thought that counts.” But, if you must wrap your gifts, be creative and do away with plastic gift wrappers. You can use coloured newspapers and glossy magazines wrapped without tape. Plus it’s cheap! You can also use nice reusable cloth bags. If you’re given gift bags or plastic gift wrappers, reuse them.
You can also choose gifts of experiences or services like gift certificates, restaurant meals, tickets to their favourite events and so on.
12. Buy wooden toys.
If you have toddlers or kids, it’s better to purchase wooden toys. They last longer than plastic ones and can be reused. If your kids damage their wooden toys, you can repurpose it or just recycle it.
13. Avoid chewing gums.
If you love chewing gum, you may want to look away now, but get this — chewing gums are made of plastic. Yep, you read that right, you’re chewing on plastic! But before you spit that gum, check if it’s plastic-free because there are some plastic-free chewing gums that can be bought.
14. Freeze food in glass or stainless steel containers instead of resealable plastic bags.
If you have glass or stainless steel containers, use them to freeze food instead of resealable plastic bags. There are stackable ones that are perfect for storage and consume less space. Just don’t fill it too much since the food will expand inside the container when frozen. If you thaw it, let it thaw in room temperature and do not heat the glass immediately to avoid breaking it.
15. Reuse any plastic that you already have in your home.
As much as possible, reuse plastic over and over again (until it’s torn to pieces perhaps) and avoid getting new ones. What I do is I always carry with me plastic bags that I can use for anything (groceries, clothes, etc.) that I have to carry and fold it again once I unload things inside it.
We only have one earth and it’s definitely worth preserving, so let’s all make a conscious effort to protect it and guard it with our lives.
Can you think of other ways to use less plastic? Share it with us!