Does anyone else feel overwhelmed when they think about the state of our environment and a little anxious when you realize all that is needed to be done to improve it? I often come across facts and figures about our earth, particularly how plastic is harming it, and I am floored – absolutely shocked really, by what I am reading. In case you haven’t come across any of these bits of disheartening information relating to single use plastic in particular, let me share a few of them with you.
500 billion disposable cups are consumed every year. Americans alone throw away 25 billion styrofoam coffee cups every year. Styrofoam cannot be completely recycled. Most of the Styrofoam disposed of today will still be present in landfills 500 years from now.
Humans buy about 1,000,000 plastic bottles per minute in total. Only about 23% of plastic bottles are recycled within the U.S.
It is estimated that 4 trillion plastic bags are used worldwide annually. Only 1% of plastic bags are returned for recycling.
Single-use-plastics frequently do not make it to a landfill or are recycled. A full 32% of the 78 million tons of plastic packaging produced annually is left to flow into our oceans; the equivalent of pouring one garbage truck of plastic into the ocean every minute. This is expected to increase to two per minute by 2030 and four per minute by 2050. By 2050, this could mean there will be more plastic than fish in the world’s oceans. [these facts & more can be found HERE]
Not to sound all doom and gloom, but these are just the facts that we are facing, and rather than getting down about it (I still do), we can and should take ACTION.
I have been trying to reduce my use of plastic in general for the last few years, in fact, switching from plastic food storage containers to glass was one of the first things I did on my green journey. But, when I stop to look around my house, I realize that there is a lot more plastic than I would like. Hand soap, laundry detergent, shampoo bottles, toothpaste tubes – you get the idea. It is everywhere and hard to avoid.
Enter Plastic Free July! I first learned about this last year through Instagram, but didn’t truly look into it, or choose to actively participate. This year I’m in! I actually learned about the website Plastic Free July that created this movement, and realized this is such a great way to spread awareness and also to push myself to use less plastic in our home.
How can you participate?
The short answer is any way you want! You can take this to the extreme or aim to swap out 1 or 2 plastic products – any amount makes a difference. I would recommend heading to the Plastic Free July website to look around to get an idea of where you may want to start.
Next I would evaluate where you are using plastic in your daily life, and where is it most prevalent. From there, choose 1 or 2 of those things and find a reusable, eco-friendly alternative. Simple right?
If this is a new venture for you, easy things to start with might be bringing a refillable water bottle (like THIS) out with you instead of buying plastic bottles, packing your sandwich or snacks in a reusable silicone bag (like THIS) instead of a single use plastic sandwich bag or picking up a reusable utensil set to bring with you to avoid single use plastic situations. There are so many options and places to start – choose one and see where it takes you!
What am I doing?
As I mentioned above, my family has already taken some steps to reduce our plastic footprint, but we could definitely step up our game! So, my husband and I agreed upon five items (mostly dental care!) that we would focus on this month, and beyond, and here is what we settled on:
1.Reducing plastic use in produce. I already avoid using plastic produce bags while grocery shopping, but there are some that are harder to avoid like berries or potatoes which are usually prepacked in plastic.
>>Our Plastic Free Solution: Make more frequent trips to our local farmers markets and bring our own bags for produce. Buying local and avoiding plastic – win, win.
2. Toothpaste. I was thinking how our family typically goes through about 1 tube of toothpaste per month. These are non-recyclable. In one year that’s 12 tubes of toothpaste going to the landfill. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but what about if everyone on my street uses the same amount. There are about 13 houses on my immediate street. Now we are at 156 tubes of toothpaste per year coming from just my little street. Multiply that by many years, and MANY more households across the world, and you can see how this becomes more problematic.
>>Our Plastic Free Solution: Bite Toothpaste Bits. This is a zero waste toothpaste product that comes in little chewable toothpaste bits that you pop in your mouth, add water and brush! They come in a glass container and you can subscribe for refills, which come in a compostable pouch. BONUS POINTS if you also switch from a plastic toothbrush to a more eco friendly bamboo option!
3. Mouthwash. If you use a natural toothpaste, you can probably agree that many do not leave your mouth feeling so fresh. It is because of this that we have become regular mouthwash users. The one we currently use comes in a plastic bottle, and although we recycle them, we wanted to find a zero waste option. Mouthwash tablets do exist and look interesting, but I wasn’t fully happy with the ingredients in the ones I found.
>>Our Plastic Free Solution: I decided a DIY was in order here. I will be making and using THIS one and storing it in an old glass lemon juice bottle that I cleaned and re=purposed.
4. Dental Floss. This will be a tough one for me, because I really enjoy the floss by Tom’s, BUT, sadly, it does come in a plastic package. Floss is an essential in our house, and we do use a lot of it!
>>Our Plastic Free Solution: I’m hoping this zero waste style floss will work as well as our current favorite! This option is packaged in a little glass container, is 100% compostable and offers refills!
5. Toilet Paper. This may seem an unlikely choice, because you may be thinking, Keri, toilet paper is paper, not plastic. But no, it’s the usually un-recyclable plastic outer wrapping that I am talking about here. This is something we buy often and wanted to find a better solution for.
>>Our Plastic Free Solution: The choice we made is not only more eco-friendly because it is not packaged in plastic, but it also helps out Mother Earth because it uses bamboo (a more sustainable option) instead of trees AND each roll is wrapped in paper, which is both recyclable and compostable. Where are we going to be shopping for our TP moving forward? Right HERE.
So there you have it! Plastic Free July is off and running – what are you doing this month and beyond to reduce your plastic use? Any change, big or small will make a difference. Our environment and oceans will thank you for your efforts.
Want to follow along with me? I’ll be sharing plastic free tips throughout the month as well as showing you ways my family reduces plastic use in our home over on my Instagram account! I’d love for you to join me there!
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