Of the 17 warmest years on record, 16 have been in the 21st century. As people are becoming more aware of the real threat posed by climate change, it’s important to focus on more than just fossil fuels and deforestation as the culprits. There are a variety of other causes to pay attention to, including single-use plastics.
The phrase single-use plastics refers to those types of plastics that are designed to be used only one time, often for only a few minutes. An estimated 50% of the 380 tons of plastic produced each year are single use. By 2050, researchers believe there will be more plastic than fish in our oceans!
What can you do to avoid contributing to the plastic problem and help protect our planet?
First, learn to identify the sources of single-use plastic in your life and then determine what alternatives are available instead.
Common Types of Single-Use Plastic
If you are like most people, you may be using these single-use plastics without knowing how harmful they can be:
- Drinking straws
- Coffee stirrers
- Coffee cups
- Plastic cutlery
- Plastic cups
- Water and soda bottles
- Food wrappers
- Plastic grocery bags
- Sandwich bags
- Produce bags
- Egg cartons
In honor of International Plastic Bag Free Day on July 3, we offer up a few suggestions for reducing the amount of single-use plastics in your life.
Ways to Reduce Reliance on Single-Use Plastics
- Invest in your own bottles and straws: Whether it’s your coffee-buying habit or grabbing a bottled water on the go, both contribute to the overconsumption of plastics throughout the world. You can help by investing in reusable water bottles and travel mugs. Most coffee houses will fill your mug for the same price, and some even offer a discount. Skip the plastic straws and stirrers and buy your own reusable versions instead.
- Create a travel lunch kit: If you often find yourself eating meals on the run, consider putting together your own supplies to keep in your car. Cutlery, cloth napkins, a metal straw, and a water bottle are basics to include. A non-breakable bowl and plate might help, too.
- Explore reusable plastic products: There are a variety of newer products on the market designed to be used more than once. Grocery store shopping bags are a must. They are inexpensive and much kinder on the environment. As are reusable food storage bags and reusable food wraps. Instead of short-lived plastic produce bags, purchase your own washable bags and take them to the grocery store when you shop.
- Rethink party decorations: While balloons, glitter, and confetti might be festive for a party, they are bad for the environment. They can also pose a hazard for animals, especially birds and other wildlife. Opt for bubbles, kites, and ribbon wands instead.
- Give up gum: This one is a surprise to most people, but gum actually contains plastic! (Technically, it’s a butadiene-based synthetic rubber.) That’s in addition to the plastic usually found in the packaging. If you can’t kick the chewing gum habit, opt for natural, plastic-free brands instead.
We hope these tips help you begin to reduce the amount of single-use plastic in your home, office, and life!
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