#1: Buy Metal Straws (and refuse all others).
Stainless steel straws only cost $8-10 for a pack of 4-6, and you can even get them in different colors, in the ‘bendy’ position, or personalized with your name! That one quick swap will keep hundreds of plastic straws from being created. During beach clean up days, straws are one of the top items found along the shore. Unfortunately, straws can look like food, and turtles, like the one in the video below, can end up in horrifying situations. It does take awhile to get in the habit of keeping a straw with you when you go out, but the habit is worth the effort. And, if you do forget you could even drink straight out of the glass without a straw at all! *gasp*
#2: Buy a reusable (preferably glass) water bottle that you love.
The “that you love” is important because I want you to actually use the thing! If it’s too small or too bulky or too girly for your taste, you’ll never be seen refilling it. There are many benefits of banning plastic bottles, apart from environmental. There are studies (like this one and this one) that the average American’s tap water is actually just as clean as bottled water. Plus, tap water costs a fraction of what bottled water does. Unfortunately, bottled water companies have some great marketing. Don’t fall prey for their fancy campaigns, and don’t buy bottled water. The bottles end up in the ocean, and their caps end up being food for birds and mammals that mistake them for food.
(formerly, a healthy bird)
#3: Buy a few reusable bags.
Heck, you probably have a bunch sitting around your house already that were given to you! Don’t let them just sit around – put them to work! The rate at which plastic bags are created and used is staggering (1 trillion per year!!!). These bags are often used just once, then find their way to the trash. They are also among the top items found during beach clean up days. When they do make their way into the water, they are highly dangerous to sea life because they look so similar to jellyfish and other food. The bags pictured below are from the stomach of whale so sick that he had to be euthanized. A total of 30 bags were removed, in addition to other sea trash.
#3a: Leave Plastic Produce Bags On the Roll
This is kind of part of #3, but a big source of single-use bags is in the produce section. Stop it! For years now, if I have to buy 6 lemons, 3 tomatoes and a head of broccoli, I go to the produce section and pick up 6 lemons, 3 tomatoes and a head of broccoli. They sit in my cart, all friendly like. I do try to segregate them once their on the conveyor belt, to make it easier for the cashier. But they all go into my reusable bag together. I’ve never heard them arguing, or seen one squash or poke another. They get along just fine. You’ll wash them at home anyway (I hope!), so germaphobes – no excuses ;) There is no reason to grab a bag for every last produce item. If you absolutely must, invest in these bags. But really, unless you’re buying small potatoes or cherry tomatoes, there is no need.
#4: Eat In or Go Out
No more takeout. Each time a family orders food to go, it is typically packed in Styrofoam or plastic containers, paired with plastic utensils, wrapped in plastic wrap, put into a plastic bag and some restaurants go crazy including a month's supply of napkins. Let’s say you go through the drive-thru instead. You are given a paper bag (a bit of an improvement!), with each item in its own chemically-laden wrapper, complete with a non-compostable cup, a plastic lid and a plastic straw. And that all-important month's supply of napkins. Often there are packets of condiments that may or may not get used, and again plastic utensils wrapped in plastic wrap. The pile of trash grows with each order. If you eat at home, you can choose how big a footprint you leave on the environment by choosing where to shop and what to shop for. And if you do eat out, choose a restaurant with real plates and silverware. Save money by ordering an appetizer only or splitting a meal. With American portion sizes, you will not leave hungry.
Do you have any other simple, inexpensive tips that you use in your household? I'm sure you do! Share your expertise below by leaving a comment with your #1 tip for creating less trash. Let's all help, together, to keep our oceans cleaner!