Five Easy Steps toward Ditching Plastic

A few sad facts about plastic:

  • Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the Earth four times.

  • Fifty percent of the plastic we use is used once and thrown away.

  • More than 60 million plastic bottles end up in landfills and incinerators every day.

  • It takes 500 - 1,000 years for plastic to degrade.

  • Approximately 500 billion plastic bags are used worldwide each year, and more than one million bags are used every minute.

  • The Great Pacific Garbage Patch is located in the North Pacific Gyre off the coast of California and is the largest ocean garbage site in the world. This floating mass of plastic is twice the size of Texas, with plastic pieces outnumbering sea life six to one.

  • Plastic constitutes approximately 90 percent of all trash floating on the ocean's surface, with 46,000 pieces of plastic per square mile.

  • One million sea birds and 100,000 marine mammals are killed annually from plastic in our oceans.

Sources: EcoWatch, Container Recycling Institute.

So, here's the important question - what can you do about it?

The answer: A LOT. I know it can be overwhelming to think in terms of "plastic-free," so how about starting with plastic-light? Here are just a few ways to move away from plastic and toward a more sustainable lifestyle. The planet and all of her inhabitants will thank you!

1. Buy in bulk - using your own containers. Bulk foods are often cheaper than packaged counterparts, and you can take your own container - you don't have to use the plastic bags found in the bulk aisle. And you don't have to buy new spices when you run out of something - many co-ops and specialty grocers have spice departments. A tip, though: be sure to weigh your containers at customer service before you fill them!

2. Fall in love with a Yeti mug. Yeah, I take mine everywhere. (And yes, I do wash it sometimes, lol.) There are other brands out there, of course, but I only have experience with the Yeti, and I dig it. Best $40 I ever spent!

3. Buy water, not water bottles. This one is easy, and it only applies if your tap water isn't up to snuff. If you must buy water, refill glass jugs; refill BPA free plastic containers; even refill a gallon plastic jug if you happen to have one on hand. Water is inexpensive at a refill station, and the quality may be better than what you're paying for in those plastic bottles anyway! I have two one-gallon glass jugs, and I refill them at Whole Foods or my local co-op.

4. Ditch plastic flatware and straws. I carry a set of bamboo flatware and a glass straw in my purse, and I use a slim stainless steel straw with my Yeti mug. When dining out, note that servers sometimes automatically put a straw in a beverage - so now I'm quick to say "no straw, please."

5. Carry your own to-go containers to restaurants. I have a couple of glass to-go containers that stay in my car so I don't have to take plastic or paper containers from restaurants. Also, even if I want take-out, I often sit at the bar and order as if I am going to dine in, have a few bites, and pack the rest for home, in my own containers. I just can't bring myself to get take-out in plastic containers these days!

Together, we can make a difference.

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