Tips To Reduce Your Plastic Footprint

By , On , In Lifestyle

More plastic than fish by 2050?! 

By 2050, plastic in the oceans will outweigh fish, predicts a report from the Ellen MacArthur Foundation, in partnership with the World Economic Forum.

How does this happen?

It’s due to the rapid rate of single plastic pollution in today’s world. According to a report, worldwide use of plastic has increased 20-fold in the past 50 years! Furthermore, it is expected to double again in the next 20 years.

Examples of single-use plastic include:

  • plastic forks and knives
  • plastic shopping bags
  • plastic coffee cup lids
  • plastic water bottles
  • Styrofoam and plastic take out containers
  • and, of course, plastic straws

According to the U.N. Environment, the most common single-use plastics found in the environment (in order of magnitude) are:

  • cigarette butts
  • plastic drinking bottles
  • plastic bottle caps
  • food wrappers
  • plastic grocery bags
  • plastic lids
  • straws and stirrers
  • other types of plastic bags
  • foam take-away containers

But what about recycling? Doesn’t that solve the issue? 

The U.N. Environment reports just nine percent of the world’s nine billion tonnes of plastic has been recycled. Most of our plastic ends up in landfills, our oceans and waterways, and the environment. Plastics do not biodegrade. Instead, they slowly break down into smaller pieces of plastic called microplastics.

So, what’s the big deal and why should you care? 

Research shows the effects plastic has on the Earth as well as on humans. It can take up to thousands of years for plastic bags and styrofoam containers to decompose. In the meantime, it contaminates our soil and water. The toxic chemicals used to manufacture plastic gets transferred to animal tissue, eventually entering the human food chain. Styrofoam products are toxic if ingested and can damage nervous systems, lungs and reproductive organs.

For many animal species, plastic waste is simply a nightmare. You might have seen the video that went viral of a sea turtle with a plastic straw stuck in its nostril; it was upsetting to watch and it may have even led to the plastic straw bans. Plastic items like bags and straws choke wildlife and block animals’ stomachs. Turtles and dolphins, for example, often mistake plastic bags for food.

Need more convincing? 

About 150 million tons of plastic is currently floating in our oceans. You may be aware of the gigantic garbage patch floating between California and Hawaii. It contains an estimated 1.8 trillion pieces of plastics. If this doesn’t sound bad enough already, the problem is getting worse. The Government of Canada reports that each year, about eight million tons of plastic waste enters our oceans. That is like dumping a garbage truck full of plastic into the ocean every minute. If this continues, plastics could outweigh fish in our oceans by 2050.

That is – unless we do something about it TODAY!

What can we do about it?

Every day every one of us can make a conscious choice that will have a positive impact on the planet. Many of you are already doing so by choosing a plant-based lifestyle. Similar to the food choices you make, the products you buy are also a vote for the kind of world you want to live in. Take, for instance, the previously mentioned ban of “plastic straws” in some cities. From this movement alone, there is a higher demand for reusable straws and less waste of single-use plastic. 

“Unless someone like you cares a whole awful lot, Nothing is going to get better. It’s not.” — Dr. Seuss

Make a difference by practicing these five R’s:

  • Refuse what you do not need
  • Reduce what you do need
  • Reuse what you consume
  • Recycle what you cannot Refuse
  • Reduce or Reuse, and Rot(Compost) the rest

Here is a great article explaining these five R’s in more detail. 

Put it into everyday practice: 

GROCERY STORES:

If you don’t have access to a local farmer’s market, we encourage you to at least take some “zero-waste” action steps in your local grocery stores. Some things to consider: 

  • When buying your fruits & veggies – opt for reusable produce bags.
  • If you forget or don’t have reusable bags, use the paper or compostable bags provided and reuse them at home for composting. 
  • Avoid buying single-serve (individually) packaged items – sure it is convenient but, it is also more plastic. Need an example? Like these apple slices
  • For the olive bar, salad bar, or hot food bar – bring your own containers (ask to have it weighed by an employee beforehand).
  • Bring your own bags to take your groceries home in. 

BULK STORES:

When we suggest buying in bulk, we don’t mean filling your storage with excess amounts of toilet paper or canned goods because it’s on sale!

We are talking about buying everyday pantry items like flours, nuts & seeds, etc. in bulk. Popular grocery stores like Whole Foods allows customers to use their bags/jars in the bulk section. And for our fellow Canadian friends, Bulk Barn now gives customers the option of bringing their own containers

Bulk-Barn2-active-vegetarian-900x1024.jpg
  • Bring your own jars to fill with different dry goods, nut butter etc. 
  • Use mesh produce bags for beans, nuts, etc.

If there are products that you use regularly but can’t find it in bulk – buy a more substantial portion of it. We do this with items like the Spirulina Tabs from Giddy YoYo (enter the code ACTIVEVEG for 20% Off), or with various products from Upaya Naturals (enter the code ACTIVEVEG and receive $20 off a purchase of $100 or more). 

bulk-barn-active-vegetarian-1-900x1024.jpg

Here are some other ideas:

  • Bring your own coffee mugs, and avoid shops that don’t offer non-plastic options. Or opt for “for here” options or regular mugs, dishes and cutlery
  • Avoid non-recycled plastic bottles and plastic straws
  • Bring your own non-plastic take-out containers, cutlery, straws and support local places that promote reusable options
  • Be informed—get to know what is and isn’t recyclable in your town/city/area

There are so many solutions right in front of us for avoiding the majority of single-use packaging, and still living happy, creative, and healthy lives. We don’t need to wait for governments to act – in fact, there is really not enough time to avoid catastrophe if we just sit and wait.

With the right information and access to less-harmful resources, we can create societies that future generations will appreciate. 

Share this article, leave us a comment and tell us about your experience with “zero waste” living. 

Dedicated to your health and wellbeing,

P.S. If you are ready to dive deeper into the “zero-waste” lifestyle check out our podcast/post: AV 043 – Beginners Guide To Zero-Waste Living 

 

2 responses to “Tips To Reduce Your Plastic Footprint”

  1. I bring my own bags for produce, but the apples and oranges (as many other items) are already in bags. How do I handle this? If I tear open the bag and use mine the store will be upset and I still have plastic going to waste.

    • Hello Debbie!

      Great question! It is a shame we have to deal with this. As for now the best suggestion I can offer is to sign a petition to ban the use of plastic packaging on produce. Change.org offers one: http://chng.it/kpKzsrrVGp There are also organizations like the Environmental Working Group that are shedding more light on issues like this: https://www.ewg.org/news-and-analysis/2019/08/it-s-time-ban-pfas-food-packaging

      The only other suggestion I can offer would be buying from a farmers market where produce is not pre-packaged (tip: if they wrap greens in a twist tie or use the cardboard boxes for tomatoes, peaches etc. – give it back to them so that they can reuse it) or buy apples/oranges that are not bagged and use your own. Unfortunately, that is likely more expensive. We as consumers have a voice with what and how we choose to buy things. Debbie, by you already bringing your own bags for produce, you are not only setting an example but making a statement. So thank-you for your awareness and positive impact!

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