Cover photo from India Today article World Environment Day: Let’s beat plastic pollution with all our might
Many hooray-ed when Starbucks announced it was eliminating plastic straws, but the anti-plastic activists out there continued to see Starbucks for what it is: another conglomerate built on the profits of single use plastic. The problem is that as long as a consumer is willing to pay, there will be a company willing to sell; that is, as long as people want Frappuccinos on the go, Starbucks will continue to providing them in single-use plastic cups.
Does this mean we shouldn’t celebrate Starbucks and its straw ban? Not at all – celebrate this small win but don’t lose sight of the bigger picture. As consumers, we ALL (myself included) need to cut down on our plastic use if we stand any shot at cleaning up our oceans.
Recommended: Plastic Oceans is a fantastic documentary on the harmful consequences of plastic. It’s available on Netflix in most countries.
But small wins still have their place – they build confidence and encouragement to keep us going, they acknowledge an issue rather than sweeping it under the rug. By making just a few small and easy changes to your consumption patterns now, you set yourself up for bigger changes later and show others that plastic pollution is a problem worth recognizing. Reducing your plastic consumption doesn’t mean sacrificing comfort or aesthetics – actually the opposite! Here are seven easy ideas for reducing your plastic consumption in beautifully sustainable ways.
1. Shampoo Bars
Look at the ingredients on a bottle of shampoo or conditioner. The first ingredient is aqua (water). Now, if I’m already IN the shower (an environment inherently abundant in water), why do I need my shampoo to have any water at all, let alone be the top ingredient? Enter in: shampoo bars! Besides being straight up practical, they don’t need to be stored in a plastic bottle so they’re good for the environment too! I’m currently using this one from Lush cosmetics – I’ll be honest, it took a little getting used to, but after two weeks it felt natural.
2. Stainless Steel or Glass Water Bottles
I have this glass water bottle from lululemon that I carry around with me everywhere. It’s only 600mL so it isn’t too large or heavy for my bag. I went to their website and it looks like it’s been discontinued! Buuut, you can find good water bottles all over the place. Thinking of splurging? Swell is obviously a fun (and stylish) option, but any non-plastic water bottle will do. Plus, constantly carrying a water bottle with you means you’ll drink more water, which is good for you!
3. Stainless Steel Thermos
This one is tough for me. There was a Starbucks right next to the main entrance of my school and it became a daily ritual for me. I genuinely thought it tasted better coming from a paper-y-plastic cup. I also wasted a stupid amount of money, but this post isn’t about money, it’s about plastic. My boyfriend identified this stupid habit of mine and gave me a Camelbak thermos – and I have seen the light! No more plastic waste and more money saved because I can fill it up at home. Sometimes I even cave and get my thermos filled at Starbucks (and it stays hotter longer than those plastic cups ever could). Since it was a gift, this one is on the pricier side, but there are plenty of options available.
4. Glass Jars
Rather than storing food in plastic containers or purchasing new metals tins, wash out pasta or salsa jars to keep things in. You’ll save money, help the environment, and reduce the risk of spills! I was always terrified one of those flimsy plastic container would explore all over my bag (it did, many times). Glass jars are more trustworthy.
5. Clothing from Natural Fibres
Next time you need new clothing, opt for something made of natural fibres. Much of our everyday clothing is actually plastic (polyester, nylon, spandex all come from petroleum), so you can reduce your plastic consumption by purchasing clothing made from natural fibres. TenTree is one company I like a lot – they have tons of comfy clothing all made from organic cotton, hemp, recycled polyester and other sustainable materials – plus your purchase goes to supporting tree planting initiatives around the world
Encircled, based in Toronto, is also a great choice for beautifully sustainable clothing. You can read about their fabrics here (plus, all of their products are sewn in Toronto – yay, local!). There are tons and tons and tons are clothing companies using sustainable materials and ethical sourcing – it just takes a little searching.
6. Metal Utensils
Keep a set of metal utensils in your purse/backpack to use on the go. Plastic utensils are incredibly harmful to ocean wildlife because they get mistaken for food. Rinse them off where you are or wrap them in a paper napkin to keep your bag clean.
7. Reusable Shopping Bags
This is one of the most talked about ways to reduce your plastic use (aside from water bottles perhaps). I actually find it much more useful to shop with my own reusable bags because they tend to be larger and hold more food, so I can hold two big reusable bags rather than four small plastic ones.
BONUS: I carry a backpack around everywhere, that way I can carry my thermos/water bottle/utensils easily, but I can also avoid shopping bags by putting things in my backpack. There are a lot of eco-friendly options available – like the one to the right by Fjallraven, made of recycled polyester and organic cotton.
If we resolve to apathy or hopelessness, then the battle to save the planet is already lost. These seven ideas may not seem like much, or it may add a little inconvenience at first. But here’s something really inconvenient: not having a safe planet to live on.
We have a beautiful planet. Let’s not ruin it with plastic pollution.