Single use plastic is a scourge on our environment, yet we continue to produce and use plastic products that are designed to head straight to the landfill after we use them just one time. Products like plastic straws and baggies are so ingrained in our culture, many of us can't imagine not using them in our day-to-day.
The problem is, all of that convenience is destroying fragile ecosystems and harming our health at the same time.
Many plastic products, like Ziplock bags are not recyclable, because the plastic is of too low a quality. Instead, they're landfill-bound, but often they don't make it that far. Whether they fall off of a trash truck or someone carelessly tosses them on the ground, those plastics make their way into waterways and eventually to the ocean where they become part of one of the huge plastic gyres. These gyres are massive areas of the ocean that are too polluted to support life.
Plastic is no good for our bodies, either. Plasticizers like BPA leach into food and water that they come into contact with. These chemicals are often untested, so we don't full know how they'll impact our health. Others are endocrine disruptors or even carcinogens. No, thank you!
Any time you replace a disposable option with a reusable one, you're making a huge impact on your health and the health of this planet. Here are a few simple ways that you can replace single use plastic with reusable alternatives.
1. Reusable Snack Bag
Just say no to wasteful plastic baggies! There are lots of companies making reusable snack bags, or you can make your own reusable snack bag!
2. Cloth Diapers
You might not think of disposable diapers as a plastic product, but those Huggies use a layer of plastic on the outside to prevent leaks. Cloth diapers have a hefty price tag initially, but you buy them once, and you're set! Compare that to the cost of buying disposables over and over, and you're not only reducing your plastic waste but saving between $900 and $1900 during your child's diaper-wearing years!
3. Glass Straws
Of course, you can skip the straw all together when you're grabbing a drink on the go, but if you don't want to give up your sipping habit, choose a reusable glass straw instead! Most glass straws are dishwasher safe, so they're easy to care for. They're also way cuter than clear disposable straws!
4. Picnic Ware
Next time you're heading to the park for a picnic, pack yourself some proper utensils instead of disposable plastic ones. If you're traveling and don't want to carry dirty dishes with you, opt for more sustainable disposables made from wood or bamboo instead of plastic.
5. To-Go Cups
When you head out to the coffee shop for that next latte, bring your own cup! The cup they put your coffee in may be made from paper, but those paper cups usually have a plastic coating to prevent leaks, and they come with a single use plastic lid. Boo!
What other ways can we replace disposable plastic products with reusable alternatives? I'd love to hear your ideas in the comments!
photos by Becky Striepe