10 tips to reduce plastic use.
Our everyday lives are inundated with plastic use—from bagging groceries at the market to grabbing disposable utensils when getting takeout, our frequent use of plastic almost always turns into problematic plastic waste. Of over 300 million tons of plastic produced globally each year, an astounding 50% of it is used for single-use purposes*. This amount of waste produced can take up to 1,000 years to decompose while littering our precious land and water, and polluting our environment.
Although recycling can help minimize the amount of plastics that end up in landfills, it’s best to reduce the amount of waste that gets there in the first place. With such a big problem, where can we begin to find a solution? It starts with our habits.
Conscious consumption is one of the easiest and greenest habits to adopt when fighting against the plastic pandemic. Characterized by making mindful decisions, looking beyond the label and embracing sustainability, conscious consumption can help you reduce plastic waste and lighten your carbon footprint.
Here are 10 ways to start reducing plastic use.
Tip #1: Say goodbye to plastic bags.
Believe it or not, plastic bags are not recyclable. Despite being one of the most common types of single-use plastic we encounter, plastic bags are not accepted at most recycling facilities or curbside recycling services. On top of that, plastic bags are usually not biodegradable. This means that once they end up in landfills or trapped in waterways, they stay there for centuries and pollute our water and soil.
Writing off plastic bags begins with planning ahead—whether you’re headed to the supermarket, coffee shop, or convenience store, having a tote bag or reusable grocery bag handy will nix the need for a plastic bag at checkout.
Pro-tip: Match your sustainable efforts with sustainable style by suiting up with a Rothy’s handbag. Crafted with ocean-bound marine plastic, The Reversible Tote, Bucket Bag and Essential Tote are the perfect companion for all of your bag-necessary outings.
Tip #2: Shop sustainably.
Between stocking up on produce to updating your business casual wardrobe, shopping is a regular part of life. However, with the ever-evolving state of fast fashion, the textile industry has become one of the top contributors to climate change.
The very basis of fast fashion aims to lower production costs by favoring cheap, non-biodegradable materials. To mitigate the environmental impacts of fast fashion, it’s important for us to make mindful choices.
Sustainable shopping means purchasing from companies and brands that are committed to eco-friendly practices and production. Typically, sustainable brands aim to minimize waste while using materials that are kind to the earth and all who inhabit it. Sustainable brands often use materials sourced from natural or recycled fabrics that require significantly less (or zero) chemical treatment, water, energy and zero fertilizers or pesticides to cultivate.
Rothy’s was built out of the passion to create beautiful, long-lasting wardrobe essentials with planet-friendly materials. From our shoes to our handbags, every piece we produce is the result of an innovative manufacturing process that turns post-consumer plastic water bottles into chic style staples.
Our one-of-a-kind 3D knitting process allows us to save more than 30% of material in the production process, and we're continually looking for more ways to minimize waste.
Tip #3: Create your own zero-waste kit.
One of the key ways to reduce plastic use is to think ahead. When you show up to a picnic without utensils or to the local market without a reusable bag, you’re essentially forced to resort to single-use plastic products. To avoid this type of last-resort situation, keep a zero-waste kit on you.
Building your own zero-waste kit is simple. All you need is:
- A reusable water bottle
- A cloth shoulder bag
- A stainless steel straw
- A set of travel utensils
- A reusable coffee cup (for the frequent coffee or tea drinkers)
With these five items, you can effectively eliminate any need for single-use plastics. Keep your zero-waste kit in your car, in your bike basket, or on your person to ensure it’s always handy whenever you may need it.
Tip #4: Start composting.
Composting has exploded onto the sustainability scene—and it’s undoubtedly one of the easiest ways to use less plastic and do the planet some good. You don’t have to be a seasoned green thumb or a professional farmer to get involved. Composting is easy to do inside of your own home with no experience necessary.
Compost refers to decomposed organic matter that can be saved from landfills and used to create nutrient-rich soil. Natural waste such as coffee grounds, vegetable peels, fruit pits, eggshells and other food scraps make up more than 28% of what we throw away, when they can be composted instead*.
You can create a compost pile outdoors or indoors. Properly maintained composts won’t attract unwelcome pests or give off any unwanted odors. All you’ll need to get started is a compost bin, which you can find at your local hardware store.
Tip #5: Choose cardboard over plastic.
If you want to reduce plastic use, it’s important to think about alternatives. Cardboard is an excellent substitute that is sturdy and more eco-friendly. Generally speaking, it’s easier to recycle cardboard than plastic. Given that paper products tend to biodegrade more easily, cardboard is a lot kinder to the earth post-recycle. Forgo the plastic packets and opt for boxed pasta or boxed laundry detergent to reduce the amount of plastic you purchase and have in your home.
Tip #6: Make your beauty routine earth-friendly.
Replace the disposable plastic containers used in your body washes and shampoos with refillable glasses and jars that will last over time. When picking your favorite beauty staples, it’s also a good idea to be thoughtful about what goes into each product—and support companies that promote natural, cruelty-free options. There’s a huge variety of beauty products out there, but just remember to favor the ones that are kinder to your skin and the world around you.
Tip #7: Use natural cleaning products.
There are thousands of different types of cleaning products out there that are not only chock-full of unrecognizable chemicals, but also packaged with non-biodegradable plastic. Rather than stocking up on a few bottles of all-purpose cleaner, stain remover and grout cleaner, create your own natural mixtures from household essentials like baking soda, vinegar and lemon juice.
Skip the regular sponge packs and opt for compressed natural cellulose sponges. These sustainably made alternatives are often sold without any plastic packaging for an added eco-friendly bonus. Natural fiber brushes are also great substitutes for plastic brushes that are tough to recycle. Use masks while cleaning? Rothy’s machine-washable face masks allow you to nip the single-use models in the bud.
Tip #8: Buy in bulk.
For many households across the globe, the majority of plastic waste is generated in the kitchen. Whether you’re a frequent food shopper with a hungry family or living single and buying based on need, the best ways to reduce plastic use is by cutting back on the amount of packaging you consume. Bags and boxes make quick waste, so it’s always better to buy in bulk where possible and appropriate.
Rather than buying foods that come in small, disposable containers, take a visit to the bulk bins at your local grocery store and see what you can stock up on. Versatile grains, pastas, nuts and granola are commonly found in bulk sizes and usually offer a better bang for your buck.
Pro-tip: Bring our own refillable containers so you can bypass the need for using little individual plastic bags.
Tip #9: Learn how to correctly recycle plastic.
You’ve likely seen the triangle-shaped recycling symbol on the bottom of cans or plastered on recyclable boxes, but have you noticed the numbers inside the recognizable triple-arrows?
Recyclables are rated using The ASTM International Resin Identification Coding System. The classifications range from 1 to 7, each number indicating the plastic resin out of which the labeled product is made. Most recycling centers will collect Nos. 1, 2 and 5 plastics such as water bottles, milk jugs and food containers. Plastics classified as Nos. 3, 4 and 6, such as PVC pipes, tubing and styrofoam, are moderately recyclable. Products categorized as No. 7, such as nylon, acrylic and polycarbonate, are virtually impossible to recycle. Avoid these products if possible.
Tip #10: Buy local.
Shopping at your local farmers market and small grocer is a win-win for everyone involved. You’re directly supporting business owners in your community, while likely reducing your plastic use by opting out of mass-produced goods. As always, when shopping, be sure to bring your own bag and container to avoid any need for a plastic bag.
Figuring out how to reduce plastic use is made easy with these ten tips. Though making lifestyle changes may seem daunting, a cleaner, greener earth awaits when we all do our part.