Even the most well-intentioned, environmentallyconscious person may find it difficult to eradicate plastic from their lives. After all, it’s ever-present in our everyday lives, from Coca-Cola’s annual 100 billion disposable bottles to Blue Apron’s 192,000 tons of annual freezer pack waste. There are some companies fighting the good fight against plastic and other threats to our environment: Starbucks plans to phase out plastic straws in each of its 28,000 locationsby 2020, Kroger will remove single-use plastic bags from its stores by 2025, and major waste solutions companies like Russell Reid employ environmental compliance specialists to ensure existing waste is disposed of ethically.So, what changes can you make to join them?
- Faux Plastic
Think of this as the veggie burger of the plastic world—it may not be exactly the same, but it’s close enough to satisfy. Plant-based bioplastics are made from naturallyoccurring and sustainable sources, like corn production waste products, that have been broken down into polylactic acid (PLA) and converted into drink bottles, food films and containers, and more. Alternatively, milk plastic is comprised of casein, the protein found in milk. While this plastic isn’t new, it has been reinforced with clay and glyceraldehyde to increase strength, while still retaining biodegradability.
It’s important to remember that plastic wasn’t always the de facto solution; glass used to be king. You once got your milk from glass carafes at the store or from reusable glass bottles delivered fresh by a milkman. That can of refreshing bubbly soda used to come in glass bottles. And why not? Glass is made from sand, not fossil fuels, is chemical-free, and easily recycled or repurposed. While plastic became the norm because it was more cost-efficient, you can’t put a price on sustainability.
- Reusable Shopping Bags
One of the easiest and most affordable ecofriendly lifestyle changes you can make, reusable shopping bags are quickly becoming the norm. In fact, they’re steadily becoming law. In 2014, California became the first U.S. state to deem it illegal for big retail stores to provide single-use plastic bags and areas of New York, Boston, Seattle, and Washington, D.C. have imposed taxes on the usage of these bags.
- Washable Produce Bags
Even in states where plastic bags are outlawed or taxed, you’ll still find those thick rolls in the produce section, inviting you to use individual bags to separate your apples, avocados, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Decrease your footprint by investing in a mesh alternate that will even allow you to wash your fruit and produce while they’re still in the bag.
- Metal Straws
Join Starbucks, McDonald’s, and other companies and cities in their efforts to eliminate the number of plastic straws, which is estimated to be as great as 500 million daily in America alone. If you really love to drink out of straws, pay for the steel ones: They’re less than $10 a pack and can be washed and reused for years to come. If you agree with how such a small change can make such a huge impact, join the Be Straw Free campaign, founded in 2011 by Milo Cress, who was then only nine years old.
- Reusable Coffee Cups
Worried about losing your 3pm pick-me-up to avoid plastic or Styrofoam coffee cups? Don’t skip your boost; bring your own reusable coffee cup with you instead. Many companies actually encourage this practice, including Starbucks, which offers a 10¢ discount, and Dunkin’ Donuts, which only charges 99¢cents for a hot or iced refill.
Eliminating plastic from your everyday life doesn’t have to be costly or inconvenient. Everybody wins when you make the effort to decrease your environmental footprint and increase Earth’s sustainability. After all, we only have one planet—join us in saving it.