Plastic does not budge.
We all know deep down in our hearts that the great majority of the plastic we’ve used in our lifetimes is still sitting around somewhere, but we keep buying it and buying it and throwing it out and throwing it out, and because it’s out of sight, it’s also out of mind, leaving us free to want more plastic.
Let’s leave landfills out of it for now (although new evidence says that America’s could be full in 13 years, great!), and talk about the ocean.
A plastic bag was just found in the Mariana Trench, aka the deepest point in the world. Millions of us could literally assemble on the giant islands of water bottles and drinking straws that float upon the sea—and I assume once we assemble there we would just…stand around and cry?
Sure, you can (and should) recycle some kinds of plastic but what about the other stuff that you can’t recycle? And the plastic you use at restaurants? Stores? Packaging? And how much plastic actually turns into useful things?
If you simply bring less plastic into your world, you don’t have to worry about it ending up in the stomach of a doomed dolphin. And as cute as dolphins are, it’s not just about them. Destroying marine eco-systems affects us like crazy.
Here’s my list of ways I’ve reduced plastic in and out of my home. I didn’t do it overnight, but after every step, it felt easier and easier.
- Drinking straws are almost always unnecessary. Ask for no straw with your water, and use the magic of your elbow and wrist joints to put the drink to your mouth. Or, carry a stainless steel straw around with you if you must. A growing tide of people refusing straws not only means that a restaurant will have to order straws a lot less, but also they’re hearing a powerful message.
- Carry a reusable water bottle with you and avoid idly accepting plastic water bottles at parties, meetings, and other functions.
- Swear off plastic wrap. This one actually was tough for me because I cook and bake incessantly, but I found Bees Wrap and so far, so good
- Swear off Ziploc bags. But before you do, wash and reuse the ones you have—the big gallon freezer ones can be used like a thousand times before they bite the dust. Use glass, not plastic, storage containers and you’ll never look back.
- Think hard about packaging. It takes extra work to find alternatives to products that come in plastic packaging, but the internet is a wonderful place. Here’s a shop that gave me some good ideas, and a lot of the brands they carry are available in other places, too.
- Get a fountain pen. Bear with me, but they make you write beautifully and I’ve had the same one for 30 years, because I was a strange child and enjoyed things like this.
- Make a no plastic bag vow. My partner and I did this a couple years ago and it was way easier than we thought. Buying things at CVS? No bag, please. Here for groceries? Got my own bag, thanks. It becomes second nature, and hopefully it’ll stop cashiers from automatically putting the one greeting card you just bought into a useless bag.
- Buy the right fabrics. Synthetic fabric is basically plastic (not to mention bad for your skin and the environment, it’s uncomfortable and often super ugly). Spring for organic, natural fibers like cotton, take care of your clothes, and watch your sartorial world change.
- Get used anything whenever possible. The best way to get a new thing without being wasteful is to get a thing that already existed for someone else. It saves you money, feels super satisfying, and keeps them from throwing it away. Learn the ways of eBay, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace (a new goldmine), and the like. Sell your own stuff on there, too.
- Do research. There are so many non-plastic or reusable alternatives that more often than not, work ten times better than the cheap stuff you’re used to and in the long run, cost you less money. I found the following just from asking around: These sponges, compostable dental floss (yes!), and, a thing we should not be afraid to talk about, products for healthy, happy female bodies.
- Regarding kids, just…do your best. This is the toughest one for me, as my child’s extended family loves to shower him with items. I try to get used when possible, drag him to scary exhibits about plastic in oceans (thanks, Science Museum of Virginia! That one that time really made an actual impression), and talk a TON about the environment in my house. Sometimes it still feels like I’m fighting a tidal wave of colorful plastic from the world outside my immediate environs, but I hope I’m setting an example of someone who buys quality things only when they need them and lives a life without tiny tchotchkes, stocking stuffers, and party favors.
If you’re looking around your house with dismay, do not panic. Doing these things one at a time is the way to go, and soon it’ll be second nature. Use up the stuff you have, dispose of it as best you can, and try to keep that dolphin—or, you know, future generations of humans—in mind.