I’m doing everything possible to kill single-use plastic water bottles since around 2010. During that time, I’ve used everything from the latest stainless-steel marvel to a gourd that I hollowed out myself during an Aboriginal Living Skills School course.
During that time — nearly 10 years — I’ve kept a considerable amount of stuff out of landfills. And I’d like to do even better. So I started thinking about ways to use fewer throwaway products.
Wait: Does this even matter?
Before I go any further, I’m going to address a point people bring up: Does using less single-use plastic do any good? Well, every item you keep out of a landfill is one less thing someone needs to order and buy in the supply chain. That is a statement of intent and a data point to decision makers that says "Hey, people are using fewer disposable items. What should we do about that?" As an individual, you aren’t doing much. Collectively, you’re changing society’s habits.
It’s exactly like in the early 80s when a few people decided they would wear seatbelts or quit smoking. And see where seatbelts and smoking are today? Anyone who argues this point just doesn’t want to change their habits to do something beneficial. End of story.
OK, moving on: I’ve mentioned reusable bottles, tumblers and the like here so I won’t go into more details about that even though bottles are a huge step. But let’s have a look at the rest.
Plastic bags are inevitable. Just do more with them.
I know many of us love re-usable cloth shopping bags. But once in awhile, you’re going to forget them. I’ve given plastic shopping bags a second life by using them to scoop cat litter, transport wet gym clothes and line small trash cans.
Some people even use them as packing material when they need to ship something – a good one for you eBay/Etsy types. Â
Reconsider the single-use plastic straw.
First, do you even need a straw? Probaby not. But if you do, skip the paper in addition to the single-use plastic. They get soggy in a hurry. So far, my favorite non-plastic straws have been made out of bamboo. If you want to try a bamboo straw, drop in at Peixoto Coffee in Chandler, Ariz. That’s where I saw one for the first time.
And seriously, is there anything bamboo can’t do? Straws, clothing, food for pandas, even bicycles!
Pack your own utensils.
As the dad of a 4-year-old, it’s never a bad idea for me to have a few utensils in my car. I’ve stashed a few items from REI in my backpack for spontaneous snacks and meals.
This is also a great habit for travel. You’ll get some good mileage from a titanium spork or even reusable plastic camp utensils. There are also plant-based alternatives out there made from corn and — of course — the wonder material that is bamboo.
Buy in bulk.
Hit the bulk foods aisle of your grocery store. Fill it up using the vessel of your choice — Tupperware, re-used shopping bags or a decent cloth bag. (NOTE: My wife is way better than this than I am, and I’m noting this to give proper credit.)
There’s a huge chunk of packing material you’ll keep out of the landfill. A helluva lot less plastic and paper. Â
Go easy on yourself in reducing single-use plastic.
These are just a few options. And give yourself permission not to be perfect. You’ll run into all sorts of situations where you fall short for one reason or another. But try to have more wins than losses and you break the single-use plastic habit.
What would you add to the list?