How to Reduce Your Plastic Footprint

Updated: Apr 26, 2019




Every piece of plastic ever made still exists.


50% of plastic is used once and thrown away.


Only 5% of all plastic used is recycled.


Where does the 95% of plastic that isn’t recycled go?

Landfills.

Oceans.

Everywhere.

The facts speak for themselves:

  • Enough plastic is thrown away each year to circle the earth four times.

  • In the LA area alone, 10 metric tons of plastic fragments (grocery bags, straws, water bottles) are carried into the Pacific Ocean EVERY DAY.

  • Giant garbage patches can now be found floating around in the oceans - including “The Great Pacific Garbage Patch” off the coast of California that is twice the size of Texas.

  • Out of all this debris, 90% of the trash floating on the ocean surface is plastic, with nearly 50,000 pieces of plastic per square mile.

  • Plastic breaks down into small pieces that resemble plankton and are consumed by nearly all members of the food chain.

  • Millions of sea birds and marine mammals are killed annually – contributing to a growing list of fish, seabird, turtle, and crustacean species have been documented with plastic in or around their bodies.

  • It is predicted that the oceans will contain more plastic than fish by 2050.

It takes 700-1000 years for plastic to degrade. Even if we were to cease the production of plastic today, the pollution we have inset on our Earth will remain for decades to come.



What can WE do? We, the “little” people?

We can’t change the world, but we can change ourselves.


The best part of working to reduce plastic is that anyone can do it – and it’s not an “all or nothing” practice – it’s a “do what you can” practice.

Here are some suggestions on how you can minimize your plastic footprint. Pick a few from each section; find the ones that speak to you – those that seem doable for you. Start small, add new challenges as you begin to get the hang of living a plastic-reduced lifestyle, and most importantly: remember that with each step you are actively showing love and respect for our planet Earth.

Personal Changes

1. No bottled water!

  • Adopt a refillable canteen or thermos to use instead

More than 60 million plastic water bottles are discarded worldwide every day, and only 1/6 are recycled.


2. Repurpose the plastic you already have

  • Pinterest shares a lot of great ideas of how to re-purpose a variety of plastic items

3. Use paper tape instead of Scotch

4. Burn candles instead of buying air fresheners in plastic bottles

5. Use matches or a refillable metal lighter

6. Avoid plastics in your clothes by wearing natural, organic textiles like cotton, wool, help, or linen, instead of synthetic ones such as nylon, acrylic or polyester

  • In an average wash, nearly 2,000 fibers can come off a single synthetic article of clothing and make for one of the most common types of plastic pollution in our oceans

7. Buy used DVDs/CDs – or go digital

8. Use rechargeable batteries

9. Use crumpled paper as packaging materials instead of bubble wrap


In the Bathroom

1. Avoid cosmetic products with microbeads

2. Use a razor with replaceable blades instead of a disposable one

3. Eliminate the use of feminine products with plastic wrappers and applicators

4. Look for lotions, soaps, shampoos, and hair and skin products that come in glass or metal containers

  • Use bar soap instead of hand soap

5. Save some money and use cloth diapers

6. Use a wooden hairbrush

7. Make your own cleaning products

  • Common nontoxic home ingredients such as baking soda, vinegar, and lemon juice can do the trick

In the Kitchen

1. Stop using Ziploc sandwich bags

  • Use reusable containers, jars, aluminum foil, wax paper, or paper bags instead

2. Use real silver and dishware when you eat at home or at social events

  • Use cloth napkins

3. Stop using single-use plastic straws, stirrers, and lids

4. Snack on non-packaged foods instead of products that come prepackaged

5. Line your garbage can with paper or biodegradable bags instead of plastic

6. Give up gum

  • Gum is made of a synthetic rubber


At Work

1. Pack your lunch in reusable containers and use a lunchbox

2. Keep a spare set of silver and dishware at work for parties or emergencies

3. Say no to one-time-use cups made from plastic or Styrofoam

  • Have a water station at work? Bring your own mug to refill instead of using the provided cups

4. Avoid disposable plastic pens


Out and About

1. Bring your canteen with you

  • Use a thermos at the coffee shop or when purchasing beverages away from home

2. Bring your own container to use as a doggy-bag at restaurants since many use Styrofoam or plastic to package up meals


Shopping

1. Say no to plastic grocery bags!

  • Keep reusable cloth bags in your car trunk to bring along with you when you go shopping.

A single plastic bag is used for an average of 25 minutes but can take 1,000 years to degrade naturally.


Only 1% of plastic bags are recycled worldwide; in one week 10 billion plastic bags are used.Say no to single serving packaging.


2. Purchase foods like cereals, pastas, nuts, and rice that are packaged in boxes or can be gathered from bulk bins

3. Buy fresh bread from the bakery in paper bags

4. Purchase meats from the deli

Ask the butcher to wrap your purchase in paper, or bring your own containers from home

5. Choose fresh fruits and veggies that are not pre-packaged, and bring them home in a reusable bag

  • Try your local farmer's market

6. Avoid buying frozen foods when fresh options are available

  • Frozen food packaging are mostly plastic; even cardboard boxes are coated

7. Give up products that come in plastic bottles and opt for glass or paper cartons

  • Many products like laundry detergent have cardboard packaging alternatives

8. If you have to buy plastics, avoid those that aren’t readily recyclable

  • Check plastics for a recycle symbol before buying and dispose appropriately




Plastic production grows at a rate of about 9% each year; next year over 300 million tons will be produced worldwide.

In many ways we are helpless against the production of plastic - but we are far from powerless when it comes to our use of plastic. Take a stand; even the smallest of changes are still changes.

Be the movement you want to see in the world.


Thanks for reading!

Have more suggestions for reducing your plastic footprint? I’d love to hear from you; please leave them in the comments!

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