Guest Blog: Shannon Bergstrom brings you inspiration and advice to help you reduce your single-use plastic consumption – vital in helping our oceans.
Every year we produce over 381 million tons of plastic waste. Plastic waste pollutes the environment, endangers wildlife and contributes to global warming. Despite increased calls to reduce our reliance on plastic, it is expected that we will producing over 700,000,000 tons of plastic waste every year, by 2034.
Check out our Top 4 Tips that will help you reduce your plastic use this year, a resolution that will, beyond a shadow of a doubt, benefit the entire world.
Tip #1: Non-Plastic Item Use
Our waterways are full of single-use plastic items, e.g., plastic bags and non-recyclable microplastic containers. By utilising eco-friendly alternatives and non-plastic items in your everyday life, plastic pollution could be greatly reduced. Check out some of our favourite swaps below!
- Reusable Bags: By ensuring you always carry a reusable bag you eliminate the need for plastic alternatives. In addition, a tote bag is far more durable than its plastic counterpart. Special reusable produce bags are an excellent choice for keeping your fresh produce in good condition whilst shopping
- Reusable Containers: Avoid purchasing one-off transparent containers where possible. Not only are they incredibly flimsy, but they are often short-lived, and when thrown away pollute the environment in a similar way to that of an average plastic bag or bottle. Instead, opt for a container you can re-use many times, even after washing. Metal containers can be a good choice, as can glass or thick plastic e.g., Tupperware.
- Reusable Water Bottles: Just like plastic bags, single-use bottles are incredibly problematic to our environment. By choosing a reusable bottle, suitable for storing various types of liquid, you can easily reduce the amount of plastic piling up at your local landfill and enjoy fresh liquids for longer!
- Non-Plastic Utensils: When eating out (or more commonly undertaken during COVID-19, ordering take-away services), your meal may come with single-use cutlery. If this is true for your local establishment, why not try asking them to stock alternatives, such as bamboo, or asking them not to supply them with your order.
Tip #2: Non-Plastic Shopping
Eco-friendly shopping means going to your local store prepared. Bringing reusable shopping bags is a must, but there are other aspects to consider also. For instance, by buying produce from local markets / independent retailers, you not only support the local economy but receive fresher products, that have not travelled a long way to end up being purchased by yourself. Many towns now stock zero waste products, which are great to promote a healthier consumer lifestyle and can replace many everyday items. For items that cannot be sourced local, or in eco-friendly non-plastic packages, look carefully for products that contain minimal plastic packaging and remember to use eco-friendly produce bags / reusable containers where possible.
Did you know clothes shopping can also be eco-friendly? Visit local charity stores to find pre-loved items, often made of more natural materials. During the global pandemic, many have moved to selling online, and therefore you can still update your wardrobe with ‘new’ items!
Tip #3: Education and Awareness
Share your amazing eco-friendly finds with family, friends and even strangers! By sharing useful links and genuine reviews, more people are likely to try alternatives to items in their everyday routines and join the plastic-free revolution.
Tip #4: Plan for a Plastic-free Christmas
Christmas holidays would not be the same with the tree, decorations, gifts, and food! Unfortunately, lots of these are made from, or incorporate, plastic. For example, most artificial Christmas trees are made from non-recyclable PVC. Whilst those of us do reuse these types of tree for several years, their negative environmental impact often still outweighs the benefit. Instead, why not try buying a real potted tree, that can be kept in the garden and brought into the home every December? Or trying new rent-a-tree services where you rent large, real Christmas trees from local farms for a designated period before returning for safe-keeping!
Similarly, plastic decorations should be avoided at all costs. Instead, why not purchase natural decorations made from wood, bamboo, and other biodegradable materials. For more craftier individuals, you can even make them yourselves!
Gift wrap containing any foil / glitter does cannot be 100% recycled. As such, try utilising kraft brown paper or making use of newspapers / magazines. Twine is an excellent way to wrap (instead of Sellotape) and tags can be made from old cards!
Some Final Thoughts
Whilst 2021 is set to be another difficult year, we can take comfort in the increased coverage regarding the difficulties our environment currently faces, and will face, if we do not change our habits. If we all follow these tips, and make small changes, we will be doing our part in helping to make Earth a safe, clean, and hospitable planet for all that call it home. So, start making green choices today, and encourage those around you to do the same!
Shannon Bergstrom is a LEED Green Associate, TRUE waste advisor, currently working at RTS, a technology-driven waste and recycling management company. Shannon consults with clients cross-industry and writes for several companies across the globe including Zero Waste.