Here at Ultimate Paleo Guide, we’re committed to bringing you information that makes your life better…simpler…richer…more delicious, even. And while we love talking all things food and nutrition, we also like to branch off into other topics that we think are important. One of those, for me, is sustainability and the health of our environment.
Taking care of Mama Earth is something we should all proactively try our best to do. The situation here on Earth is getting dire. According to NASA, the current warming trend is happening at a rate never seen before and is extremely likely that it is caused by human activity. Which means, we have to take steps, no matter how small they may seem, to reduce the harm we’re doing.
And one way we can do that is by reducing the amount of plastics we use in our daily life.
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What are single use plastics?
Single use plastics are plastics that are only used once before they are discarded. Plastics, in general, are inexpensively produced – which means they can be produced in mass amounts and discarded without much thought or consequence to the producer. While you may not be able to stop the production of all single use plastics, you can make the choice to reduce the single use plastics you use in your daily life.
Plastics and the environment
“What’s the big deal with plastics?” you may be asking yourself. For starters, most plastics come from petroleum – but there’s a specific step in the manufacturing process that turns that petroleum into polypropylene with these specific carbon-carbon bonds. This chemical structure is basically unrecognizable by microorganisms in our environment – which means they have no way to naturally break down the plastics via their metabolic pathways.
This means that the one plastic water bottle you threw away will stay in a landfill for years beyond your lifespan. Essentially, every piece of plastic that you’ve ever used still exists somewhere on this planet. Let that fact sink in…
It’s not hard to find some astonishing facts about our reliance on single use plastics worldwide. For example, it’s been estimated that 1,000,000 plastic bottles are bought every MINUTE. Plastic bottles are actually recyclable, but it’s a well-known fact that over 90% of the plastics produced don’t get recycled. They either end up in landfills or in the ocean.
Don’t google “plastic in the ocean” if you don’t want your heart broken. The state of our oceans are pretty sad thanks to the amount of plastics we use. This is not only affecting the health of our oceans, but also the creatures that live in it. According to Ocean Conservancy, 60% of seabirds have been found to have ingested plastic and 100% (!!!) of sea turtles. If something doesn’t change, there could be as much as 250 metric tons of plastic in the oceans in less than 10 years.
If that fact doesn’t make you want to do all you can to reduce your plastic use, then I’m not sure what will.
What can you do?
So – I want to give you some options for reducing the single use plastics in your life. This is in no way a comprehensive list – and you shouldn’t feel as if you need to do ALL of these to make a difference. Just choosing one and committing to it can make a difference.
I would definitely encourage you to start to notice just how prevalent plastics are in your life. When we start to pay attention, we can start to make better choices.
Buy a reusable water bottle
This one seems like a no-brainer. The math works out that, in the US, the average person buys 13 water bottles per month. Buy a reusable water bottle and you could save 156 plastic bottles/year. That’s significant.
It’s also worth noting that chemicals added to plastics can be absorbed by our body and have a negative impact on our hormones and other health processes. So buying a water bottle is a win-win for us and the Earth and the species we share it with.
This is my favorite water bottle of all time – highly resistant to all the times I drop it on the ground or throw it in my backpack with a million other things.
Get a reusable straw
Back to the stats – half a million plastic straws are used PER DAY. Just recently, Starbucks announced that it would phase out its use of plastic straws globally by 2020. In my own city of Portland, there are many restaurants that only use paper straws or offer no straws at all.
And let’s face it, do we even really need to use a straw at all? I’m perfectly happy to drink right out of the cup, thank you. BUT – if you can only drink your cold brew or cocktail with a straw, don’t fear. You can buy your own reusable metal straw and cut down on that unnecessary plastic that just ends up in the stomach of a sea turtle.
BYOB (Bring Your Own Bag)
Ok, this is an easy one. If you choose to do ONE thing from this list, this is going to be the one. Get yourself a reusable grocery bag and forgo all those plastic bags that the cashier wants to load your groceries into. Four trillion plastic bags are used per year. That’s insane. And even though you can recycle them, most of them (like 99%) don’t get recycled.
Opt for canvas tote bags instead. Pro tip – keep them in your car so you always have them when you run to the store.
Most grocery stores carry them in the store, so if you don’t already have some bags at home you can use, you can pick a few up there. They’re super cheap and will really make a difference.
Reusable Sandwich Bags
Say goodbye to plastic Ziploc bags and opt for silicone reusable ones instead. I know that most of the Ziploc bags I’ve used in my life definitely ended up right in the trash.
And – again – we want to avoid ingesting foods or drinks that have had contact with plastic. So these reusable storage bags are definitely worth the investment.
Skip the plastic produce bags
You know when you’re cruising the produce aisle, and you see some fruit that you just neeeeed to take home? Chances are you reach for one of those plastic bags on the roll to throw that fruit into.
Well, next time skip the bag. I’ve definitely just kept the fruit or veggies free in my cart. No one – not even the cashier – has ever had an issue with that. If that feels a little weird to you, you can also find reusable produce storage bags as well.
These are usually made of nylon and can be washed so they’ll stay clean and last for years.
Say “No Thanks” To Plastic Silverware
I know, sometimes you just can’t resist to grab some easy takeout for dinner. Totally understandable. But one easy way you can decrease your plastic footprint is to invest in your own set of reusable silverware.
When I went to Hawaii last year, I can’t tell you how many times I saw plastic silverware remnants on the beach. Discarded forks or spoons that had washed up on shore. After that, I immediately ordered my own set off Amazon.
I carry it in my bag so I always have it on hand. And when I make takeout orders or grab to-go food from a restaurant, I request that they leave the plastic silverware out of the bag.
Buy In Bulk
This is my last tip for you. When you can, try to buy in bulk – especially when it comes to things such as grains, legumes, dried fruits, nuts, spices, etc. When you buy an individual package of a product, chances are it’s wrapped in an unnecessary amount of plastic. When you choose to buy in bulk, you can buy a greater amount without all the packaging.
This action requires a bit of planning. Be sure that your kitchen or pantry has the space to store the food you’re buying in bulk. You’ll also need containers to store it in. You can bring these to the store OR choose paper bags when you’re choosing what you need from the bulk section.
On top of the plastic you’re saving, you’ll also save yourself the gasoline required to make multiple store runs when you buy in bulk.
I’ll be honest with you…sometimes, the plastic issue we’re facing globally seems so overwhelming that I start to question if we can even do anything to help. But then I’m reminded that every great thing was achieved through a series of smaller acts.
The single use plastic issue is something that we can take small steps to improve. With just a few small investments, we can truly decrease our single use plastic footprint.
So I want to know…what are YOU going to do? Drop a comment and let us know. And, if you have other ways that you reduce your plastic use that I didn’t mention, I want to know that too. Collectively, we can make a difference!
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