Did you know that every single piece of plastic that ever was, is still on Earth somewhere?
Yep, the average time for a plastic bottle to degrade is about 450 years, and it can take up to 1000 years for certain bottles to decompose. But even while we know this, our world continues to spew out plastic despite its disastrous effects on human, animal, marine, and environmental health. So what do we do?
Science tells us that it takes 21 days of doing something consecutively to form a new habit–so how about putting this to the test?
So much of our dependence on plastic is rooted in convenience! Plastic bags, water bottles, take-out packaging, and coffee cups are all used to replace something that we could have brought with us. These items are typically used for a matter of minutes, and then take hundreds of years to breakdown.
So I challenge you to pick at least one of these tips, and try sticking to it for at least 21 days. If you decide to put this challenge to the test, you will likely experience the added bonus of saving some money! So what do you have to lose?
Forget plastic bags and embrace the tote bag.
I would definitely recommend this tip as being the most crucial as a first step in setting yourself up to live with less plastic. Find yourself a nice bag that you like enough to have on you when you leave the house. This bag becomes that bag that can house a water bottle, a coffee mug, or a packed lunch, so you don’t end up resorting to plastic later on in the day. I would also strongly recommend finding an easily compactable tote bag to slip inside of this bag in case you find yourself needing to pick up more than a few things during the day. Bye plastic bags!
Say goodbye to plastic bottles, and carry a reusable water bottle.
This is an excellent goal to achieve out of sheer effort in avoiding buying plastic water bottles. Not only will you be saving money, but tap water happens to be more heavily regulated than bottled water in most places in North America anyhow, so it’s a healthier option as well! I find a good stainless steel or glass bottle to be the easiest reusable bottles to clean, and never have a hard time finding places that are willing to fill my bottle up for me.
Stop using disposable coffee cups, and BYOM (Bring your own mug!).
This is a big one. Did you know that there is an estimated 1.5 billion coffee cups that are thrown out each year in Canada? Many coffee cups are lined with plastic on the inside, and therefore have a difficult time biodegrading–and only 1% of coffee cups are even recycled–sigh. On top of this, if you even need a third reason to stop using coffee cups, it will save you money! Buying coffee or tea in bulk and brewing your own at home is MUCH cheaper than having somebody do it for you. Sometimes you’ll even get a cheaper price on coffee when you go out and bring your own mug! When picking out a mug, I’d recommend choosing one that you can be sure has a good leak-proof lid, so that when you’re finished your drink, you don’t have leftover dribbles leaking all over your stuff.
Stop buying takeout, and pack your lunch in reusable containers.
People pack their own lunch to save a few bucks and to make healthier choices ahead of time. But one amazing, and often overlooked reason to pack your own lunch, is that by doing so, you are avoiding all of the plastic takeout packaging that you would have purchased along with your meal. Invest in a stainless steel bento style lunch box, and a few snack pots, and forego your usual plastic-laden routine.
Say no to disposable cutlery and plastic straws, and bring your own from home.
If you reduce the amount of takeout you consume throughout your week, then this will be less of an issue. But if you do find yourself needing to grab something, try to remember to keep a set of cutlery in your bag. The plastic cutlery and straws are used once, but remain in landfills, oceans, and in the bodies of animals for much, much longer.
Stop buying Tupperware, and store leftovers in glass containers.
I know that tupperware is convenient and reusable, which is a little redeeming, but it’s still plastic. Glass containers are a very safe option that avoids plastic leaching in storing leftovers. Glass containers or jars can also be repurposed to bring your lunch in!
Small changes for big impact
At this point, eliminating our reliance on plastic by planning ahead with non-plastic alternatives is the best strategy for reducing our consumption. I’ll be challenging myself to enjoy my coffee out of my own reusable mug for the next 21 days (at least), and would love to hear if you have success in adopting any of these other tips into your routine. Small habitual changes are the ones which have the potential to accumulate into something much larger.