Following the “recycle, reduce, reuse” mantra that we all learned in middle school can sometimes be harder than it seems—going green takes effort! But because this month is Earth Day and, well, there’s that whole climate change crisis going on, we could all take a few minutes to think critically about our own impact on the environment.
So let’s talk about single-use plastics (aka disposable plastics that you use once before throwing away straight into a landfill). Single-use plastics are awful for the Earth not only because most plastic isn’t biodegradable, but also because when it breaks down into smaller pieces over time, it releases toxic chemicals that seep into our food and water supply. And that’s not to mention all of the animals and ocean life that get seriously injured by or die from the plastic that overruns their habitats.
To cut down on the plastics that we’re putting into the environment (and to master that “reduce, reuse” part of the mantra) here are some simple swaps you can make in your everyday routine:
Change Out Your Old Food Storage System for Wax Wrap
We all have that awkward leftover fourth an avocado or a recently opened chocolate bar, and usually the easiest way to store them is to just throw them into a Ziploc and call it a day. But wax wraps are easily found at grocery stores and work just as well to keep your food fresh. Cover bowls with ‘em, wrap your leftover half tomatoes in ‘em, and when you’re done, just wipe the wrap down and use it for your next set of leftovers.
Upcycle Your Glass Containers
If you’re skeptical about the wax wraps—understandable!—you can also use the glass containers that your condiments, spreads, and other food items came in for food storage. And sure, it might feel weird to store your fourth an avocado (you still haven’t eaten that yet?) in an old salsa jar, but hey, it works!
Bring Along a Canvas Bag When You’re Shopping (Duh)
Many of us already know about the evils of plastic bags and bring our canvas ones to the grocery store, but why stop there? Toting around a reusable bag while running errands at the pharmacy or hardware store will also help cut down your plastic bag use. A folded-up canvas or cloth bag won’t take up too much space in your purse, and it’s much easier to carry around than a plastic one.
Skip the Utensils on Seamless
When you’re ordering food delivery there’s a ton of waste going on with the plastic containers and bags, but one way to at least cut down on the environmental impact of food delivery is to not waste the plastic cutlery. When you order Seamless or Postmates, you can make a note asking the restaurant not to include utensils or straws. And let’s be real: You’re probably eating at home—you don’t need plastic silverware!
Cut Down on Online Shopping
Look, I know that it’s way easier to order Zara from your couch while watching Netflix than to actually go to the Zara store that’s 25 minutes away, but when you order anything online a lot of times it comes with excessive and unnecessary packaging like bubble wrap. If you go to the store with your canvas bag you can eliminate all of that waste, plus you’ll even get to try on the item to see if you like it before purchasing—crazy, right?
Bring Your Own Garment Bag and Hanger to the Dry Cleaner
It’s bad enough having to pay $13 to get your sweater dry-cleaned, but ruining the environment while you’re at it is just too much yuck for one errand. Bring your own garment bag and hanger to the dry cleaners and ask if they can use them instead of their disposable ones. And as a bonus, your newly cleaned clothes will be so much easier to put away once you get home.
Invest in a Few Reusable Water Bottles
I’m sure you already know that plastic water bottles are a huge problem and that replacing them with reusable metal bottles is an easy fix, but to make sure that you spare as many plastic bottles as possible, you can also buy metal or glass bottles in multiple sizes: a standard one for everyday life/the gym, a mini one to stash in your purse when you’re heading to an event/the movie theater, and a large one for sneaking wine into the park. And yes, I know that that last one doesn’t really have to do with the environment, but it’s still a useful hack!
Use a Period Cup Instead of Single-Use Period Products
No good article is complete without mentioning menstruation (obviously), so let’s talk plastic and your period. In order to cut down on the plastic waste created by period products, a great environmental hack is opting for a period cup (and may we suggest our very own?). You can use the same cup over and over again, benefitting your body and the Earth at the same time.
Now go forth and save some plastic!