You may not be ready to remove single-use plastic from your life entirely, but there are loads of simple, small steps you can take to do your part to reduce plastic waste. Number 7 and 9 are no-brainers!
- Reduce food packaging
Reducing your food packaging may seem daunting, but there are many ways that this can be achieved – it’s easier than you think. Buying produce and bulk foods that don’t have any packaging is the easiest way to achieve this, but can often be difficult to find. A handy tip: I use a reusable produce bag when buying non-packaged bulk items such as dried fruit, nuts, beans and lentils. Another way to reduce your food packaging in your grocery shop is to go in prepared. Have your shopping list ready and don’t forget your reusable bags and/or containers. Plastic is convenient, so be mindful and it will be easier to avoid.
- Take your own shopping bag
Taking your own shopping bags is a simple enough idea, but remembering them is another altogether. I try to ensure I keep them in my car at all times: once you are finished with unpacking your food, place the bags beside the front door so you can pop them back in your car. It’s great knowing you’re doing part to reduce the 673 million plastic shopping bags used in New Zealand every year. They pose a hazard to wildlife in many ways. Not only is there entanglement danger but when plastic bags are in water they look exactly the same as jellyfish, which many animals, including turtles, feed on.
- Swap out your cling film
Another form of soft plastic that is easily avoided is cling film. There are so many alternatives available, you are sure to find one that suits your preferences. You can buy wax wraps to cover a bowl or serving dish, it is also suitable for putting in the fridge. There are even fabric sandwich wraps for school lunches and snack pouches for other small goodies.
- Reusable coffee cups and mugs
For the coffee drinkers, make sure you always have a reusable cup somewhere at hand, for when you are in need of a coffee to-go. You don’t have to buy an expensive reusable cup, just take a mug from the kitchen on the way out the door. Generally coffee baristas will be happy that you have your own cup and maybe even slightly amused if you have your favourite mug with you.
Photo credit One Green Planet
- Say no to plastic straws
If you are buying a drink at a bar or restaurant, ask for no straw. If you would prefer a straw, request an alternative option such as a paper or steel straw. Plastic straws have a short life-span as they are designed as a single-use product that can take up to 200 years to decompose. Good quality paper straws breakdown quickly in our oceans, and are compostable, making them a better alternative. Stainless steel straws are reusable and easy to clean, have a long-lifespan and are also dishwasher safe.
- Have your own drink bottle
When it comes to making small changes towards sustainable living, investing in a good drink bottle and other products that you like the look of, makes it more likely that you will actually use them. Reusing plastic drink bottles may seem like a good idea, but a recent study showed that 90 per cent of bottled water tested had plastic particles in them. That wasn’t just plastic particles from the plastic bottle, it was other plastic that was in the water source.
- Make the switch to bars of soap
A simple way to reduce your household’s plastic usage is to stop buying liquid soap and its refills, and go back to the classic bar of soap. A bar of soap can arguably last longer than liquid soap, and most brands avoid plastic packaging with it. The same can be done with shampoo, there is an amazing array of options when it comes to bar shampoo in New Zealand. Our advice to you is if you try one and don’t like it, just try another, because no two brands of soap or shampoo bars are the same. Depending on your skin and hair, you will need to shop around. For those with dry or coarse hair, you can also get conditioner bars.
- Biodegradable party supplies
Having people over to your house can be fun, but the cleaning up afterwards is often not. For the everyday person, throw-away plates, cups and cutlery have become a norm at children’s parties, BBQs and get-togethers for a quick clean-up convenience. Thankfully, as reducing plastic waste is on the rise around the world, supermarkets are now making biodegradable plates, cups and cutlery more accessible and fairly priced. Be sure to look out for them at your next party or planned get-together.
- One man’s trash
If you need a new item for your home, ask people in your family or community if they have it spare or for sale. You don’t need to buy everything new, so share, trade and giveaway where you can. There are some incredible Facebook groups, pages, websites, garage sale sites, community gardens and veggie co-ops dedicated to reusing everyday items that you can explore.
Photo credit Eco Oikos
- Make something
Have your eye on a new throw for your couch? Look into making it. I know this is easier if you are time-rich, but you will be surprised how simple it is to make certain things given the amount of how-to YouTube videos available. Each time I run out of something, I investigate how I could make it myself. The best example of this is vanilla extract - turns out all you need is just vanilla pods and vodka! I got some pods from the local organic store and a glass bottle of vodka from the shop, and now I have more vanilla extract than I will ever need.