Going Green: Simple Ways to Reduce Plastic Use
Happy Sunday, readers! I just returned from my favorite thing to do on a Sunday morning: a trip to the farmer’s market. Today’s weather is absolutely gorgeous with blue skies overhead and just warm enough that I wasn’t melting in my overalls (yes, I wear overalls to the market—does that make me legit or a complete dork? I already know the answer lol) At first, I was hesitant to go this morning because Jake was working and I’m not a huge fan of going places by myself. I finally worked up the courage to go out and I’m so glad I did—sometimes going places by yourself isn’t as bad as you might think.
Getting out to the market today got me thinking about one of my favorite topics: the environment and ways we are helping or harming it (dun dun dunnnnn).
Did you know that one plastic bag takes up to 500 years to decompose? (GreenMatters) That’s a very long time. I mentioned this in a previous post, but I have often heard people say that they did not think that their reduction of plastic use would make much of a difference and I have to disagree. Think of the hundreds of plastic bags one person goes through by simply grocery shopping (not to mention take-out, clothes shopping, etc!) Those same plastic bags often end up on our beaches, our oceans and our beautiful landscapes. Not only are they ugly to look at, they’re also incredibly harmful to wildlife, our water supplies and our future. Maybe you think that the effects of plastic will not affect you in your lifetime—what about future generations? It’s definitely something to think about next time you go to grab a plastic bag.
You don’t have to go zero-waste (although hey, I’m not stopping you!) but making a couple of lifestyle changes can go a long way towards reducing your use of plastic. Here are some ways I try to reduce my use of plastic:
*Reusable coffee mugs: Until recently, I was 100% addicted to coffee. This meant that there was about a 75% chance I was going to buy a coffee every time I went to work, grocery shopping, just about anywhere. Because of this, I was going through an insane amount of coffee cups—it was embarrassing. I finally decided I had had enough of being so wasteful and made a resolution to only use reusable coffee cups. By doing this, I saved money and used a lot less plastic.
————> Transitioning to only using reusable cups was not as hard as I thought it would be. I often keep a mug in my bag or in my car. If I forgot my mug, I simply didn’t get coffee that day (funny concept, I know.)
————> Did you know that many coffee shops will give you a mug discount when you bring your own? At Starbucks, for example, you get a $.10 discount. At local coffee shops, I’ve gotten up to a $.50 discount. While it isn’t a lot, if you keep with it, that discount will add up!
————> It’s a conversation starter. I have had countless conversations begin with random strangers and baristas whenever I bring my own mug. It’s a great way to set an example for others to begin to do the same. People have often said to me, '“I didn’t know I could bring my own mug!” and it’s so fun to see their faces light up when they talk about how they will bring their own cup next time.
*Reusable straws: Many restaurants and cities have made great strides towards reducing straw use but Americans still go through about 500 million straws per day (Green Matters). I ordered this pack from Amazon and use them all the time. I’ve seen some people suggest just drinking from your cup without a straw but quite honestly, I’m far too mess-prone for that. I use this pack that I got from Amazon!
————> You know the little pink baggies that Glossier makeup comes in? I carry my reusable straws around in these! I carry two of these ziplock bags with me and keep my clean straws in one and keep an empty one for the straw I use.
*Reusable bags: Here’s the key to the #reusablebaglife: shop at Trader Joe’s. Trader Joe’s is my favorite because they always give you very sturdy, double bagged, reusable bags for your groceries. These bags rarely break for me and can carry so much. I keep a bunch of these bags in my car trunk and try my very best to bring them into the grocery store with me every time. You can also purchase reusable bags from Trader Joes or online that will last longer than a paper bag.
————> One brown paper bag from TJ’s is worth at least three plastic bags per trip. They are far less prone to breakage than a plastic bag and are much easier to carry. The first time you use one, you’ll probably think that the grocer is stuffing far too much into one bag and might worry that the bag will break on your way out of the store. You’ll find that the weight of your groceries distributes so much better in a paper bag than a plastic bag and there is very little cause for concern. You’ll be shocked at how much can fit in one of these bad boys — I know I was!
————> Tip: Life gets busy and you might be fitting in grocery runs after work. It’s suuuuuper easy to forget your reusable bags and just go with plastic. Try to collect enough bags to where you can keep a good supply in the trunk of your car. I keep the bags I have used in a place by my front door so that I remember to put them back in my car.
———> Grocery stores aren’t the only place we use plastic bags or single-use bags. When clothes shopping, try using a cute lil’ reusable bag like these baggu ones or simply ask to forgo the plastic bag.
*Reusable veggie/fruit bags: You know those super thin veggie bags that you put your greens in? Here’s a replacement for them. To be quite honest, I find this is my most difficult area to remember to bring with me to the grocery store but again, it is a matter of discipline and deciding that this is something that I will do, no excuses. I would recommend ordering at least two packs of these so that you have some you can use in case your other ones are dirty!
There are many more ways that we can take steps to reducing plastic use and I hope to continue updating this post as I come across new things that work for me! While I am passionate about protecting our environment, I don’t always succeed when it comes to reduced plastic use. I am not perfect and use plastic more often than I care to admit, especially when traveling or when life gets crazy. At the end of the day though, I am still trying my best and succeed more often than not. How are you reducing plastic use in your life? I would love to hear!