With conversations about pollution and climate change finally heating up (no pun intended), we’ve all been wondering how we can use less plastic in our homes. After all, 18 billion pounds of plastic waste flow into our oceans every year from coastal regions. And as a parent, you don’t want to be part of those statistics — for the sake of being a role model to your children, but also because you’re concerned about the kind of world we’ll all be leaving behind for them and future generations.
Still, it’s daunting, right? You want to use less plastic in your home, but plastic is everywhere you turn. Single-use plastics are particularly insidious when it comes to environmental damage, yet they’re so convenient that they’re hard to pass up.
It is possible to reduce the amount of plastic your family uses; it just requires committing to changes big and small in your everyday lives. And there’s no better time to turn your kids into stewards of the environment than right now.
Let’s start with the easiest way.
Say no to plastic straws
Listen, we get it — kids frickin’ love these things. But have you ever watched the viral video of the sick sea turtle having a plastic straw pulled out of its nasal cavity? Don’t worry, we won’t share it here but it’ll put you off plastic straws for good. If straws are a must-have for your kiddos, invest in reusable stainless steel, glass or copper versions.
Buy that reusable shopping bag (and use it!)
There’s really no excuse not to do this anymore since virtually every single checkout line of every single grocery store now offers reusable shopping bags. If you’re thinking, “but I always forget mine” and plastic” bags are just easier”, chew on this: It can take up to 1,000 years for a single plastic bag to decompose. Just one. Besides, many cities are now banning single-use plastic bags!
Be a proactive lunch packer
Few times prove that convenience is king more than packing lunch for little ones. We know this because it’s when we reach for whatever bag is nearby, and we toss in everything from fruit to crackers packaged in plastic cups and bags. Suffice it to say if this is the way you do lunch at your house, you’re creating a lot of plastic waste. You can curb this bad habit by using a reusable lunch bag, packing fresh fruits and veggies and, if you do need to package something, opt for a biodegradable/recyclable sandwich baggy.
Ditch the drive-thrus
OK, we’ll admit this might be harder said than done. So, here’s the compromise. If you can’t kick your fast food and/or take-out habit, at least carry your own eco-friendly containers along with you. Fast food establishments and other eateries often rely on single-use plastic and Styrofoam — and while it’s unknown precisely how long it takes for Styrofoam to biodegrade, experts estimate the decomposition could take in excess of 500 years.
Swap out your toothbrushes
When you brush your pearly whites at night before bed, you may not be thinking about the environment. You should be, though, because what that plastic toothbrush of yours can do to the environment is a nightmare. Per the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, “microplastics are small plastic pieces less than five millimeters long which can be harmful to our ocean and aquatic life.” You see, that’s exactly what your toothbrush becomes once it winds up in a landfill and starts to decompose. You can clear your conscience by buying eco-friendly toothbrushes made out of material like wood.
Stock up on matches
Did you know that birds and other marine animals are often found with plastic lighters in their stomachs after death? It’s tragic and totally preventable. Bonus? It’s one of the easiest changes you can make. All you have to do is stock up on old-fashioned matches in lieu of purchasing plastic lighters. Easy peasy.
Be a bulk buyer
The fewer items you buy that are packaged in plastic, the better. This isn’t necessarily the quickest or easiest way to shop, but it is the most environmentally ethical. So, how do you do it? One key to minimizing plastic waste when you shop is to head straight for the bulk bin section. If you bring your own (glass) containers and reusable bags, you can bypass products from other aisles of the grocery store that are wrapped in plastic. If you can’t avoid shopping on those other aisles, choose boxes over bottles — many items, like laundry detergent, come in both options with the box-version being recyclable.