So much of the plastic we use is completely unnecessary; give up these items and you won't even miss them.
Plastic is so pervasive in our lives that it can hard to understand just what a problem it presents. Without belaboring the point in too many words, consider this:
We make nearly a billion tons of plastic every three years. Which is a less painful way of saying we make nearly 2,000,000,000,000 pounds of plastic every three years. In the first 10 years of this century we have manufactured more plastic than in all of the 20th century.
Plastic is one of the most enduring materials we make; it takes an estimated 500 to 1,000 years for it to degrade, but 50 percent of the plastic we produce is used once and then thrown away. Eight million tons of plastic ends up in the ocean every year.
Facts like this are plentiful, but you get the idea. So, a call to arms. Here are some very easy things to give up in order to curb your contribution to the problem.
1. Coffee cup lidsGiving up take-out coffee cups all together is ideal, but at the very least, give up the lid (and the sleeve and stir stick while you’re at it). A reusable coffee cup is the way to go, but if you’re getting coffee without one, skip the wasteful accessories.
2. Things in plastic when there’s a paper optionThink eggs in a paper carton instead of ones in clamshell packaging, toilet paper wrapped in paper rather than plastic, anything in a box instead of a bag.
3. StrawsWell we are now in Peak War On Straws, which is a great thing! (Even if some people are loving to hate it.) Over 500,000,000 plastic straws are used each day in the United States. Why? Are we too lazy or uncoordinated to lift a drink to our mouth and tilt our head back? Some people may have physical issues that require the use of a straw, that’s fine, but for the rest of us, drop the single-use straws already.
4. Packaged produceSelect produce that doesn’t come encased in plastic. Read this if you need convincing: 7 reasons to ditch packaged salads
5. Plastic produce bagsBring reusable produce bags to the market, use paper bags, bring your own jars, or skip a bag all together and just put loose produce in your basket.
6. Plastic shopping bagsFortunately, god-awful planet-smothering animal-killing plastic bags are under increasing scrutiny, but there’s been pushback too with some places actually banning plastic bag bans. Reusable shopping totes are easy, just get in the habit of using them. If you shop by car or cart, do like Katherine does and use shopping boxes.
7. Plastic wrapInstead opt for glass jars, glass food containers, aluminum foil (not the best, but which can be used over and over and recycled), oilcloth, parchment paper, fabric bowl covers (think shower caps), stainless steel food containers, a bowl with a plate on top.
8. Ziploc bagsSee #7
9. Party plasticInstead of buying plastic cups, plates and silverware for every party you have, consider investing in a “party set” of second-hand glasses, ceramic plates and silverware that you can keep in a milk crate in a closet and bring out when entertaining.
10. Water bottlesPlastic water bottles have been the bad poster children for plastic waste for ages, but still we persist in the nonsensical practice of buying water in plastic bottles. Americans buy more bottled water than do the inhabitants of any other country in the world, to the tune of 29 billion water bottles a year. We need to just stop. And the solution (a reusable water bottle) couldn't be easier.
So that's a start. This list is by no means exhaustive; if you have suggestions for other easy-to-give-up items, add them in the comments.
This updated story was originally published in 2017.