While making every effort to honour our pledge this Plastic Free July, we have been surprised by the amount of times plastic sneaks into our daily routine. Avoiding all single use plastics is not as easy as you would think, but it becomes easier as your awareness and planning improve with the intention to reduce and reuse before you recycle.
Here are a few ideas on how to reduce your plastic consumption at home and in your life.
INVEST IN REUSABLE SHOPPING BAGS
Did you know that one reusable bag requires the same amount of energy as 28 plastic shopping bags? But “If each bag is used multiple times — at least once a week — four or five reusable bags can replace 520 plastic bags a year, says Nick Sterling, research director at Natural Capitalism Solutions, a nonprofit focused on corporate sustainability issues.” – An inconvenient bag (Wall Street Journal)
Reusable shopping bags can be purchased almost everywhere at affordable rates. We decided to get ours from Hemporium at R50 each. By using reusable shopping bags you are eliminating an enormous amount of waste that ends up in landfills and our oceans. Keep your bags in the car or somehow make them part of your shopping rituals – you and the environment will be very happy you did.
LOOK FOR DIFFERENT PACKAGING INSTEAD OF SINGLE-USE PLASTIC
Yup, a simple everyday-commodity like bread at the local supermarket is wrapped in single-use plastic, and the bread is not necessarily healthy either.
This awareness directed us to the weekly local farmers` market where we can buy artisan breads that is packaged in paper bags – better for the environment and it feels good supporting local small business.
FORGET ABOUT BOTTLED WATER
Invest in a water filter system at home. Carry a reusable water bottle (preferably glass) with you and refill it with tap water; this will reduce pollution and is much more cost effective. These two 500ml Consol glass bottles in the image costs only R29.99 each and saves you a pretty penny in the long run!
When dining out, don’t be caught out when asked ”sparking or still”; always remember that they are pushing sales. There is absolutely nothing wrong with replying “tap water please”. It does not mean you are a cheapskate – it means you care for the environment and are making responsible choices!
INVEST IN A FLASK OR REUSABLE COFFEE CUP
Keep your own flask on hand so you can still enjoy your take-away coffee without the plastic consequence. It takes some time to form this habit, but in no time it will be second nature and the thought of taking a disposable cup will seem alien.
SKIP THE STRAWS
This one is quite quick and easy. A simple “no thank you” the next time you are offered a straw with your beverage will do. There is nothing wrong with requesting a straw-less drink from the waitron when placing your order, and educate them while you`re at it.
Facts: Most ocean pollution comes from land which is transported by the wind and rain to the sea. The plastic is broken down by the ocean into ‘microplastics‘ (pieces less than 5mm long) which are then ingested by marine animals. Straws are in the top 10 of items picked up during ocean cleanups!
BRING YOUR OWN CONTAINERS
Noticed how over-packaged items can be? Individually vacuum-packed steaks, placed on a polystyrene container and then wrapped again – what an unbelievable waste! Take your reusable containers to the deli, to an ethical butchery and to your local take-out joint. Once again, a perfect opportunity to raise awareness.
This one may seem strange at first but makes a big difference; we get quite a kick out of it!
LEARN NEW RECIPES
Most processed food is wrapped in plastic. A beneficial spin-off of choosing more sustainably packaged items is healthier eating habits. For example, I was a sucker for a chocolate bar (comes in non-recyclable plastic), so I had to get creative and made delicious chocolate mousse with avocado, honey and carob as a substitute – totally satisfied the cravings.
Those of you with a salty-tooth; it`s hard to pass the chips isle, after all, it is such a quick and light fix. Rather make your own at home with potato and sweet potato purchased from the farmers` market. No added colourants, flavourants or any of that nasty stuff!