With the weather shifting into a new season we may feel compelled to do a little bit of spring cleaning in our homes, our diets and our daily habits. Earth Day is fast approaching (April 22nd) and you may be wondering how you can shift some of those daily habits that help leave a smaller environmental impact.
Plastic has had a tremendously negative effect on our planet. We are finding it washing up on shores, in our tap water, in the bellies of seabirds, turtles, whales and even in our own bodies. Plastic remains toxic even after it breaks down. It does not biodegrade it photo-degrades. It breaks down into smaller toxic bits which bleeds and contaminates the environment along with all living creatures. What can you do to help?
Here are 6 easy ways that you can start to reduce your plastic waste:
1. Reusable shopping and produce bags:
This is usually the first step someone takes to reduce waste. Bringing your own bags to the grocery store or farmers market really does make a large impact, think of all of the plastic bags you would go through in just one year of buying groceries. That’s a lot of unnecessary waste! To really step this up I would encourage using fabric produce bags instead of using the clear plastic bags that are offered at grocery stores to bag up things like apples, potatoes, greens and even bulk dry goods. Consider supporting companies like Credo Bags which are Canadian made using recycled or organic cotton blend fabrics and are easy to wash and care for. To take it a step further you can even make your own produce bags from old bedding or clothing even if you have very basic sewing skills. A great tutorial can be found here.
2. To-go mug or jar for travel drinks:
For those that love to grab drinks on the go, this is a must. My personal favourite to go cup is by Kinto. The design and function of this cup is excellent. It is double wall insulated that keeps drinks hot or cold for hours (to the point that it needs some time to cool down with the lid off before drinking). Don’t want to buy something new? A good old jar will do. You can even make your own sleeve by trimming a fuzzy sock and slipping it over the jar. Another great reason to carry around your own to-go cup or jar is that it doubles as another container for things like bulk items at the grocery or pack it with leftovers if you happen to want to take some food home after a meal out.
3. Bamboo toothbrush:
1 billion plastic toothbrushes are thrown away every year in the US alone, that equals to 50 million pounds of plastic toothbrushes in a landfill. Luckily several great brands are utilizing bamboo for manufacturing toothbrush handles. Bamboo is an extremely sustainable resource; it is known to be the fastest growing plant on the planet, releases 30% more oxygen and absorbs more carbon dioxide than other plants and has many applications from toothbrushes to food to textiles. Some great toothbrush brands include Brush With Bamboo and Brush Naked.
4. Safety razor:
Another plastic disposable item that is easily replaced with something better looking, less expensive and virtually creates no waste because metal can be recycled again and again (unlike plastic). It is estimated that 2 billion disposable razors end up in the landfill every year. Did I mention it is much less expensive than plastic disposables? Replacement blades usually run at about $5 for ten blades (5 double-sided). There is a bit of a learning curve with using a safety razor like adjusting the angle and pressure but you will quickly see that they feel much sharper and create less irritation. There are many brands to choose from like the $20 Rockwell razor or you can choose something more luxurious such as the $75 Oui Razor.
5. Bar Soap:
Bar soap uses 10x less water in comparison to liquid soaps, not to mention a much smaller carbon footprint if you think about transportation of liquid soaps (think liquid hand soap, body wash, dish soap, laundry soap) the main ingredient is water which needs larger packaging and takes up much more space when transporting and also packed in plastic! Bar soaps generally contain cleaner ingredients than packaged liquid soaps. You can use bar soaps to wash your hands, body, hair, face, dishes, to shave and even do laundry. For washing dishes, a pure olive oil soap works best and lasts a very long time. A personal favourite is the Leaves of Trees Eucalyptus Mint with clay which is lovely for face and body.
6. To-Go Cutlery Kit:
A lot of plastic waste comes from food-related conveniences; this includes plastic cutlery that you may use at a fast food restaurant, on an airplane, in an office, etc. You can avoid this plastic pollution by carrying a cutlery set. If you’d like to use what you already have all you need is a napkin, cutlery and a rubber band that you can up-cycle from produce like the ones that come on broccoli. Wrap the cutlery in the napkin, band it together and throw it in your bag!
It is always helpful to keep a stocked bag at the door so that you don’t forget to bring these items with you. I like to keep a cotton canvas shopping tote at the front door that contains a few different sized jars, produce bags, cutlery kit and to-go cup. Once you get the hang of grabbing it on your way out of the door, it becomes second nature.