When you think of ways to help the environment, you may think of the common phrase, “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” This popular saying first came about in the 1970s. Americans became cautious of the negative impacts that they, and the Vietnam War, were having on the environment, and called for something to be done about it. In response, the senator of Wisconsin, Gaylord Nelson brought people together for the first Earth Day, which also led to the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) (1).
The “reduce” part of the phrase focuses on cutting back on how much waste you create altogether. Reuse, on the other hand, urges you to use something as many times as you can before throwing it away. This might mean repurposing a plastic bag from the grocery store as a lunch bag for work. Recycling something means that the material is being used to create something brand new. Think of Rareform, which produces bags made from old billboards (2).
Let’s tackle the first of the three R’s: Reduce
Here are five ways you can avoid single-use plastics:
Don’t use single-use water bottles
Most of us already know this one. In 2021, there is no excuse for using a single-use water bottle. There are plenty of reusable bottles on the market, including Vitapod’s (3) which is made specifically to go with the machine. Plus, this water bottle is double-insulated, so it’ll stay cold far longer than a single-use bottle.
When bringing your lunch to work, not all containers are made equal. Many people use Ziploc bags to keep their sandwiches or chips separate. However, there are plenty of great reusable sandwich bags on the market (4), like bags from Stasher (5). Plus, you’ll end up saving money in the long run.
Bring your own coffee mug
Most cups and lids you get from your local coffee shop can’t be recycled, so all of your morning coffee runs may be going straight to the landfill (6). Luckily, there are some ways around this. You can bring your own travel coffee mug to your local coffee shop and ask them to use it for your order. Brumate (7) has some great travel coffee mugs, plus they help keep your drink’s temperature better than their plastic counterpart. As an added benefit, many coffee shops give a small discount if you bring your own cup.
Rethink your toothbrush
How many toothbrushes do you go through a year? The average person goes through one every three months. Most of them are made of plastic, resulting in billions of them being thrown away each year (8). Opt for a biodegradable toothbrush instead, like one made from bamboo. You can get them sent straight to your door in a pack of four from Amazon (9).
When you go to the grocery store and pick out some fresh produce, you might be too focused on the great, healthy choice you’re making to consider the environmental repercussions. While most produce doesn’t come in any packaging, you end up using plastic once you drop it in one of the bags that are seen throughout the aisle. Start bringing your own produce bags (10) with you when you get your groceries. This small switch will help keep plastic out of oceans and landfills, plus these bags are stronger than the plastic bags available at the store.