Easy solutions for busy mom’s to cut down on single-Use Plastics
Reducing Single Use Plastic
There has been a lot of discussion lately about our overuse of single-use plastics and the harmful effects they are having on our environment. The recent coverage in the news has made me take a closer look at my own single plastic consumption in the home and thinking about practical ways that I can cut down, or cut back on the amount of plastic we throw out. For so long we thought we were recycling all the plastic that goes into the blue bags but as it turns out Canada only recycles about %10 of our plastics and what we are unable to recycle we’ve been shipping off to poorer Asian Countries. Those countries are now taking a stand against the rich world’s plastic waste signalling a change in the global recycling system. There is a growing movement against non- recyclable plastic.
While it may feel like an overwhelming issue to tackle, there are lots of small changes you can incorporate into your daily life. As a busy mom, I’ve come up with 11 easy ways to cut back on my personal plastic waste: and trust me these are EASY tips. I don’t want to overwhelm you with huge life changes, just a few things we can do on a regular basis that will help out the world as a whole.
1. Say NO to Grocery Bags!
One of the first changes that comes to mind when trying to reduce plastics is using reusable grocery bags instead of getting plastic at the store. This is becoming more common as we see grocery stores charge for plastic bags or cut them out all together. I figure cutting out those plastic bags from the grocery store is a great way to cut back on household plastic. If you don’t want to pay for a reusable bag every time you go grocery shopping, what my mom does is store your Costco bags and grocery bags in the trunk of the car. If you forget to bring the bags into the store, just reload your cart with the groceries- no bags- and pack your groceries in to the bags when you get to your vehicle. I’ve also been skipping the plastic produce bags as most of the time I unload my fruits into baskets of the fridge drawer without the bags anyway. If you require the occasional plastic bag, don’t feel guilty about it - just use the bag again for something else, the inside of a garbage can or for your sweaty gym clothes, and now it’s gone from single use to double use.
Make sure you remember your bags by storing them in your car or stashing a few foldable bags in your purse. You can even take it a step further by bringing reusable mesh produce bags for fruits and vegetables.
2. Give Ziplocs New Life
Every day I use a plethora of Ziploc bags- for Lennon’s lunch or storing leftovers. Ziploc bags are incredibly handy and you probably already have a box in your kitchen. I decided to help my mission in cutting down single use plastics that I would wash and reuse the ziplock bags. I ask Lennon to bring them home in her lunch bag so I can give them a second round. It’s easy to cut down on how often you buy them by washing and reusing bags you have already used.
About one trillion single-use plastic bags are used annually across the globe. That’s nearly 2 million every minute.
Keener Tip: Cut back on single use wrap on kids lunches by making your own portions of crackers and cookies. This will even save you money as pre portioned items cost more than buying in bulk.
3. Refuse Plastic Utensils
Refuse Plastic Utensils
Recently I went through a fast food drive through (yep, it happens, every mom has been roped into the drive through), I was getting a salad from a well known fast food chain and I was shocked by how much single use plastic came with it. The salad was in a plastic container, all the ingredients were in individual plastic bags, there were plastic utensils and it even came in a plastic bag. I was aghast and thought OMG I should have requested no bag. It got me thinking that this would be another practical way of cutting back on single plastic use. As it turns out takeout orders account for around 269,000 tons of plastic waste that has entered the oceans.
When getting take out or delivery, it’s easy to request to forego the plastic cutlery, straws and even plastic bags. Seems like a no brainer and pretty easy. I ate my salad with a fork from home when I got home. Simply refusing plastic straws is a great way to reduce harmful plastic waste. Use your own metal or wood straw, grab a cardboard straw when they’re offered or just sip from the cup! If I’m getting a coffee to go sometimes I just don’t need the lid.
Fact: More than half a billion plastic straws are used every day around the world.
Keener Tip: Bring your own containers or Tupperware to the restaurant and have your takeout or leftover food packed in those if they allow it!
4. Refill To Reduce
This is a new rule I have been implementing a lot in my Air BNB’s. Right across the street there is a Zero Waste shop (called the Tare Shop) and I’ve been running over with empty plastic laundry detergent bottles, dish soap, cleaning supplies and getting them refilled. You can take any container over and get them refilled. The coffee gets restocked, the sugar, even the toilet paper comes wrapped in craft paper not plastic. It’s been super cost effective and convenient. I’ve been really impressed by the selection of kitchen supplies and pantry staples. No more having to go to Costco for the jumbo detergent. I just take my jumbo container and get it filled. Try it the next time your run out and see for yourself how easy and affordable it is!
Keener Tip: Need more cleaning supplies? Make your own by refilling the store bought cleaning spray bottles with a water and vinegar solution.
Buy In Bulk
5. Be Picky About Packaging
How often to you stand in front of the milk fridge pondering which brand to buy? I often find myself looking at the expiry dates before picking out a carton of milk. Another easy way to cut out the plastic is to buy things like milk in glass or cardboard instead of plastic. Easy! Right? Now I am able to cut down my decision making time, knowing I am going to choose a carton of milk or a bottle of milk.
Keener Tip: Fox Hill Cheese House on Robie Street in Halifax provides cute glass bottles with their milk that you can bring back when empty for a refill!
6. Make Bubbles
Raise your hand if you go through 12 plastic bottles of bubbly a week? My fiance never goes for the filtered water he always wants bubbly water, and our recycling bin is full of single use plastic bottles, that I have a sneaking suspicion are not getting recycled the way we once thought (cough, cough, Canada). Instead of buying fizzy water by the bottle, carbonate your own water with an at-home sparkling water machine. If keeping your counters looking pristine and Pinterest ready is a priority, You can get a great one like the Aarke Sparkling Water Carbonator at Big Erics in Dartmouth (comes in copper, white, stainless steel or black) or a Canadian-made sparkling water system like Bonne O at Canadian Tire. The carbonation cylinder cost $22 to exchange each time at Walmart and you can fill the equivalent of 30 Litres with one cylinder. What a great solution for those who are addicted to bubbly.
Keener tip: You can also add fresh fruit, juice or herbs for custom flavours!
7. Bring Water With You
More than 480 billion plastic bottles were sold worldwide in 2016. That is up from about 300 billion only a decade ago.
"I think in Canada it's absolutely disgusting that people are so uncertain about their water that we buy it, paying more for bottled water than we do for gasoline."...."It's nuts to be shipping water all the way across the planet, and us — because we're so bloody wealthy — we're willing to pay for that water because it comes from France, I don't believe for a minute that French water is better than Canadian water. I think that we've got to drink the water that comes out of our taps, and if we don't trust it, we ought to be raising hell about that."- David Suzuki
I am trying to drink more water on a daily basis. Sometimes I find myself thirsty when I am out and about and end up purchasing a bottle of water. Bottled water is one of the most privilege purchases we can make as a 1st world country. I’m doing my best to cut this purchasing habit out of my daily life by always having refillable bottles handy. I keep one in my car and one in my purse. You can find water refill stations in many public places and most cafés are happy to fill your bottle for you if you ask!
8. Filter Your Own
If you are concerned about what kind of water is coming out of your taps then it’s east to filter your own. When my mother developed lymphoma she turned me on to the Berkey Water Filtration System. The gravity and carbon filter system needs no bells and whistles, just fill it as needed and drink pure water. It also helps that the stainless steel unit is gorgeous and looks great on my kitchen counter.
9. That’s A Wrap!
Sometimes I don’t even think about how much saran wrap I use on a daily basis until I empty my trash and see all the crumpled up remnants. Plastic wrap hasn’t always been in our kitchen drawers, it was invented in the 1940’s so that leaves me wondering, what did we do before plastic wrap?
It can be difficult to completely avoid plastic wrap, especially when it comes to packing school lunches or storing leftovers in the fridge and when looking for alternatives to plastic wrap, the bees wax, silicon pouches and cotton covers, were pretty pricey. If you are willing to make the investment, than by all means do, but for those who are on a budget, how about switching to paper bags for school sandwiches, and keep a few bees wax covers for home use.
*It’s important to note plastic wrap can leach toxins into your food, and you should never microwave plastic.
Over half of the world’s plastic thrown out in 2015 was plastic packaging. That’s over 141 million metric tons.
10. Tampon Trade Out
It was that time of the month, and I rushed out to grab some tampons. I didn’t realize until I was home that I had purchased tampons with Plastic tampon inserts, which are another big source of single-use plastics that you might not consider. After I unwrapped the plastic and threw the plastic applicator in the waste bin, it got me thinking about how easy it is to avoid single plastics with tampons. But until the day they are banned I just decided to purchase cardboard applicators from now on. Cardboard inserts are generally less expensive and most organic tampon brands come with cardboard inserts or no insert at all. Bigger brands like Tampax and o.b. have cardboard options or no insert options. Just double check the box before you buy.
11. WaterPik Wonder
Half of All Plastic That Has Ever Existed Was Made in the Past 13 Years. Plastic production is rapidly accelerating—but only 9 percent of it gets recycled. Think about it: when did you start using plastic picks? This is a relatively new product on the market and is become a going concern. I admit I have large bag sprawled out in a drawer in my vanity. They are causing clogs in city plumbing because for some reason people flush them, but are also rapidly growing in popularity and thus filling up our landfills. I recently made the switch to a WaterPik (For my fiance’s birthday this year I bought him a Waterpik…. and we’ve both been using it).
Waterpiks have a lot of benefits for your teeth and gums that I won’t get into right here and now, but it could be just the thing you need to avoid more single use plastics in your home and it might encourage you or your kids to be more consistent and effective flossers as well!
Pro Tip: Add a splash of mouth wash and warm water to your Waterpik for extra fresh breath.
These are a just a few of the many ways you can decrease your use of single-use plastics in your daily life. I hope you found my suggestions for cutting out some of the single plastic use in your home easy to follow and practical for the whole family. In Canada we live in such privilege that I strongly believe this is something we can easily do to help ease the burden of plastic waste on our environment and the rest of the world.
Let me know in the comments if you have any other great plastic reduction tips!
Sources websites where I found some of my facts and quotes.