Let's talk plastic: it's everywhere, has seemingly a million uses and is just so convenient- the thought of doing without it can seem daunting, if not impossible! For this blog post, I wanted to pull together some of the easiest ways I've found to cut down on plastic waste in my own family's day-to-day life. While few of us may manage to go completely plastic-free, there's lots of little changes we all can make- and that can add up to huge improvements for the environment.
I hope you'll find inspiration in this list, and share your own ideas with us on our Facebook page!
This is an obvious one, but it's a biggie: Approximately 2.86 billion plastic bags are used each year in Canada (that’s about 200 for every one of us)![i] For a convenient alternative, try stashing your reusable cloth bags in the trunk of the car so you’ve always got them on hand for grocery shopping. And metal or glass reusable bottles easily replace plastic water bottles, which more often than not end up thrown away instead of recycled.
One great swap we’ve made at home is to use glass or stainless steel straws instead of plastic straws. (I know a lot of parents find that straws are a great way to get their kids to drink fresh veggie juice or made-at-home smoothies). We have a set of glass straws which have lasted for years and I’m sure we’ll continue to use them for years to come.
Try replacing disposable lunch packaging with a reusable lunch box that includes a thermos. We got our kids’ stainless steel lunch kits from Lunchbots, and there are lots of cute, reusable snack bags on Etsy.
This is a great way to reduce our use of plastic lids and/or plastic-lined cups. For our to-go needs, we use the totally ingenious Cuppow, which instantly turns any standard mason jar into a nifty to-go cup. Couldn’t be easier!
Some plastic, single-use items are so useful in the home, it can be hard to imagine removing them completely from our routines. Plastic wrap is one- it’s so convenient and we rely on it for lots of diverse food storage tasks. We were thrilled to recently discover a clever alternative called Abeego- it’s malleable food wrap made with beeswax and tree resin. It’s washable, reusable, and one sheet will last up to a year!
Okay, we all know about this one, but it's important! If everyone makes recycling a habit, our individual actions can add up to large scale results: In 2006, the US recycle rate of 32.5% saved the carbon emission equivalent of taking 39.4 million cars off the road, and the energy equivalent of 6.8 million households’ annual energy consumption, or 222 million barrels of oil.[i]
The Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup is one of the largest conservation programs in Canada, giving Canadians the opportunity to make a direct, positive impact on the environment. What started in 1994 with a small group of employees and volunteers at the Vancouver Aquarium has grown to become one of the largest people-powered cleanup programs in the world! In 2011, Canadians targeted 1,665 shoreline cleanup sites across Canada and a collective length of 3,144 km of shoreline were cleaned, bringing in roughly 144 metric tonnes of garbage.
The trend for refillable products has been growing in a big way- from cleaning products to personal care, and even beer! More and more retailers are offering local consumers a way to reduce their use of plastic by refilling their containers from bulk supplies in-store. In Vancouver, our favourite option is Second Nature Home Boutique. They refill our Coconut Deodorant as well as many other body and home use products. There are also others, including the Soap Dispensary, Basic Refill and many more. Here at Sola, we offer local refill options, sell our Cleansing Grains in refill packs, and are continually looking for ways to reduce waste.
Have you got an easy waste-reducing solution or a favorite reusable product that let you swap out the disposable version? Tell your friends about it! Share your eco-friendly hacks on social media, and let's help each other forward, one savvy tip at a time.
It never hurts to let big companies know that you’re looking for them to contribute in the effort to reduce plastic packaging. As I learned last month when I commented on Sobeys’ Facebook page about their packaging, there are a whole lot of folks out there who care about these things. Speaking out in greater numbers can help businesses to get the message that we’re looking for responsible practices, not just the cheapest products.
I hope you find some inspiration in this list, and please share your own go-to methods for reducing waste in your household! You can continue the conversation by leaving a comment on our Facebook page.[i] http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/toronto/the-battle-of-the-bag/article4241011/?page=all