Last week’s discussion about reducing our reliance on single-use plastic was a great introduction to this week’s action – Choose Reusables. Decreasing (or eliminating) our use of plastic is a wonderful goal, but for it to be manageable, we need to find other options to use instead. And we have to remember that plastic isn’t the only item we throw away. Styrofoam leftover containers and to-go cups as well as paper plates and napkins are just a few examples of items we toss when there are reusable options out there.
The EPA collects data on how much trash (or as they refer to it, municipal solid waste) is generated each year and where it goes. Some is recycled, some is composted, some is turned into energy, and the rest is dumped in landfills. To get an idea of where we are today, in 1960 we (i.e. the United States) generated about 88.1 million tons of trash that year; in 2018 alone, we generated about 292.4 million tons.
Of the 292.4 million tons of trash generated in 2018, 146.1 million tons of that was landfilled. The rest was composted (42.6 million tons), turned into energy (34.6 million tons), and recycled (69.1 million tons).
Reusable options aren’t something new. In fact, 100-some-odd years ago, disposable items didn’t really exist. For example, milk was delivered in glass jugs which were returned, washed and sanitized, and reused (much like our local Homestead Creamery today). It wasn’t until plastic became widely used that our culture shifted toward a short-term gains, quick-convenience mindset. Plastic made items lighter, allowing for products to be shipped further and faster for less money. However, this shift in mindset has allowed us to become too focused on the here-and-now and we are failing to think about our own carbon footprint and the environmental impacts our actions are having.
So what are some alternatives to our take-and-toss way of living? We’re going to talk about different reusable options this week but I wanted to share this list I found of some quick and easy ways to get started.
Buy glass, stainless steel or bamboo straws instead of plastic. Of course, if you don’t have to use a straw, then all the better.
Use mason jars or other glass containers for drinks and to store leftovers rather than plastic cups and containers.
Opt for washable, reusable food wraps like etee instead of using plastic wrap to keep food fresh.
Pull out the traditional silverware and household cutlery and skip the plastic plates, cups and throw-away plasticware.
Long gone are the days where plastic and paper bags are your only school lunch choices. Instead, go for more eco-friendly containers like the plastic free and ocean friendly, ecolunchbox.
Get yourself a stainless steel, reusable water bottle. Not only is it better for the environment, it’ll cost you a lot less money in the long run.
Grab a few cotton, organic cloth or recycled mesh produce bags to bring to the grocery store or farmers’ market, so you can walk right on by the plastic alternatives.
Invest in some eco-friendly, reusable totes like these ECOBAGS made from recycled cotton. It’s a much better option than paying for one-use plastic bags at checkout.
Do yourself a favor and buy a traditional razor. No need to keep spending money on disposable razors time and time again.Tara, Bio-Friendly Planet
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