Our reliance on plastic is one of the most environmentally damaging trends to come out of the twentieth century. That’s why an increasing number of people are looking to reduce the amount of plastic waste they produce. If you want to reduce your plastic footprint, we’ll tell you how you can go about doing just that. But before we get into the subject at hand, let’s talk about why everyone has been so obsessed with waste in the first place.
Plastic Waste as a Key Focus of the Zero Waste Movement
Whether you follow zero-waste influencers online or not, you’ve probably heard of the philosophy behind the hashtag. Basically, the Zero Waste movement advocates for a more sustainable lifestyle, particularly regarding the waste we produce on individual, corporate, and societal levels.
Granted, that’s not a particularly original idea. Before the numerous industrial revolutions took place, humanity was, by all accounts, much less wasteful. But since the last century brought us into an era of hyperproduction, the thought of reducing our consumption seems revolutionary.
Nowadays, we seem to be stuck in a continuous cycle of making, selling, and discarding objects in favor of newer models. The accessibility of cheap yet durable plastic is something that allowed this system to thrive.
Unfortunately, the last few decades have shone a spotlight on the environmentally damaging effects of plastic. Even as we reach for cheap plastic products, we are all aware of the fact that a giant island of waste is floating around the Pacific Ocean. In fact, according to a 2016 report, the world’s oceans will contain more plastic than fish by 2050.
Remember, it takes decades, if not centuries, for a single piece of plastic to degrade. Even when it disappears more quickly, the process still pollutes our soil and water.
But all that waste didn’t come out of thin air. In the year 2020, we produced 900% more plastic than in the 1980s — a decade that we have since dubbed the era of excess. Doesn’t that make us even more wasteful than our predecessors?
Worse still, the vast majority of the plastic we produce isn’t getting recycled. In fact, the majority of plastic items aren’t very easy to recycle in the first place.
Luckily, you can always avoid plastic altogether.
How to Reduce Your Plastic Footprint and Push Society to Do the Same
There are several things we can do to change the way we interact with plastic. On the one hand, we can make a more concerted effort to avoid buying products that are partially made of plastic. Additionally, we can pressure corporations and governments to work on creating a more sustainable future. But really, there are many small steps we can take before fully committing to that kind of environmental activism.
The least you can do is setup trash cans to segment your waste,” comments Antonia Ko from EscapeWaste.com. “Going all the way down to a flat zero in using plastics is practically impossible, but getting there is! That’s why I encourage all my friends and followers to take on baby steps and that’s how we can all make an impact
Little Things You Can Do in Your Everyday Life
If you and your family are creatures of habit, switching to a plastic-free lifestyle may look like a daunting task. Here’s how you can make the transition easier for everyone.
It starts with opting out of plastic cutlery, straws, ear swabs, and other single-use plastics whenever possible. That’s why most people who get into sustainable living start by carrying around canvas tote bags to replace plastic shopping bags and reusable water bottles and travel mugs to replace countless single-use bottles and cups. Similarly, you can stop buying:
- Plastic wrap, and find reusable options like beeswax or silicone wraps
- Tea that comes in plastic bags and go for loose leaf instead
- Beverages that come in plastic packaging and start squeezing your own juice
- Regular chewing gum, which contains plastic, and opt for organic ones instead
In general, you’ll want to look for products that aren’t wrapped in unnecessary plastic packaging. Either get items that come in cardboard packaging or buy in bulk and bring your own containers.
If you must buy products that come in plastic packaging, at least check if it’s recyclable. Usually, plastics number one and two should be in the clear. But thin plastics like the ones used to make bags and wraps are another story altogether. So make sure to find a place that will recycle those for you if you really can’t stop buying them.
Vote With Your Wallet
Once you get the hang of bringing your own canvas bag and water bottle everywhere, you’ll be ready to expand your reach. With that
in mind, we challenge you to try switching to plastic-free cosmetics and cleaning supplies. And that goes for everything from buying wooden combs and brushes to avoiding cosmetics that contain microplastics.
Avoiding plastic packaging is easy. Now is the time to stop buying plastic products wherever possible. That means buying:
- Cloth diapers instead of disposable ones
- Reusable period products like absorbent underwear and menstrual cups
- Silk dental floss instead of plastic thread
- Toothpaste tablets and powder
- Chewable mouthwash
- A bamboo toothbrush instead of a plastic one
- Bar soap and shampoo instead of products that come in plastic bottles
- Soap or detergent tablets to avoid having to buy liquid cleaners that come in plastic packaging
- Safety razors instead of disposable ones
- Natural sponges or loofahs (you can even plant and dry them yourself!)
- Cotton towels instead of paper towels or wet wipes
And those are only some of the swaps you can make. Of course, your duty as a consumer doesn’t end there. You should also be vocal about the reason behind your preferences. Spreading the word by telling your friends and leaving online reviews will show companies where your priorities lie.
Pressure Your Government
Last but not least, one surefire way to get the ball rolling towards a future with no plastic is to vote environmentally friendly policies into law. Make an effort to support the politicians and organizations that are fighting for the changes you want to see.
At this point, it’s hard to imagine a time when plastic didn’t dominate our lives. But there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. Scientists have been working around the clock to find more sustainable alternatives to plastic. We just need to prop them up when they hit the market.