So you’ve seen enough photos of all the garbage floating in the ocean or news coverage of sea mammals whose stomachs are filled with discarded plastic, and you’re ready to make a change. Good for you! It’s time.
Today, you’re joining legions of people who have resolved to do the same. The trouble is, it can be hard in today’s world, but it can be done. Seemingly everything these days comes in products that cannot be recycled and produces waste at a rate that is not sustainable. Alternative packaging materials are few, but many items can be found in your local health food store, and manufacturers are listening. Many products now come in eco-friendly containers, so the first step is to look at your shopping habits to see how many items you buy are packaged in non-recyclable packaging. Remember, just because you see a recycle emblem on the bottom of the container, does not mean it can be recycled in your area. Find out what numbers can be recycled in your hometown. Many recycling centres do not recycle all the numbers you can buy at the grocery store, so it can be deceiving, and you might wonder if it’s even possible to ban all the junk from your daily life. Well, you can, but it will be challenging for you and will require some research.
While you prepare to reduce waste in your home, start with baby steps:
Immediately forgo single-use plastic. Many cities are banning this type of plastic. This category includes takeout or convenience food containers. Support restaurants who DON’T use Styrofoam or hard plastic containers. Styrofoam is made with liquid chemicals that solidify when cold and release chemicals when you fill them with hot food. Never store or heat food in Styrofoam. Next are produce plastic bags, also known as the seven-second bag. On average, consumers only use these bags for seven seconds, and then most are thrown away and end up in the landfill. Buy cotton reusable vegetable bags. You can find them in most health stores or look online. These cotton bags last for years, and you can wash them over and over again. Try buying items from the deli and ask for brown paper or to-go containers that biodegrade over time, or bring your own container. Go back to buying cold cuts and cheese from the deli section in butcher paper. But when it looks like accepting plastic is the only feasible option, ask if there is any other option? Do they have wax paper or maybe aluminum foil? Aluminum foil is just as recyclable as an aluminum can. Unfortunately, many recycling programs don’t accept foil, but some do. We hope that this situation will change soon as more people start making changes in their daily life.
Carry your own containers. Adopt the use of a stainless steel to-go cup for any coffee drinks or smoothies. Quit using plastic straws and if you must have a straw, buy a reusable one. There are many dedicated souls who also carry non-plastic plates, cutlery, and cloth napkins to be ready for anything. Maybe you’ll get there, but remember, we’re allowing ourselves to start somewhere. And we think that’s the point. You must think about the waste you and your family produce every single day, or nothing will ever change. How often do we have to see all the horrible pictures to be reminded of the immense amount of garbage we each produce every day before we take action? The time is now!
Reward manufacturers trying to address the garbage problem. Rewarding businesses and those companies who care about the environment is critical. Show your support and buy environmentally friendly packaging even when it’s a tad more expensive. If delivery services in your area offer to pick up and refill jugs and containers, patronize these services. In these ways, you’re encouraging more businesses to address the problem at the source, instead of requiring you to take responsibility as the consumer. If change will happen soon, we must all adopt a lifestyle that produces less waste, and that may mean buying less stuff! An attitude of “yes I can” means you’ll face challenges, but honestly, it can be done.
Choose your next steps both with an eye on making a difference and making personal changes sustain-able in your daily life. If everyone reduced waste today… in five years, we would see such a vast improvement. Many more companies would stop producing containers that fill our landfills, poison our soil, and take hundreds of years to break down.
Commit to reducing garbage today. The Earth, your children, and grand-children will thank you