How to Use Less Plastic

How to Use Less Plastic

By Makaela Willis, Marketing & Owner Services Assistant

Around 380 million metric tons of plastic are produced yearly, and only a small segment of that plastic is ever recycled. Even when it is recycled, sometimes the used plastics do not meet the appropriate quality standard, so it sits or gets thrown into the land fill anyway. Because of this, one of the best ways to help the planet is to not just to recycle, but reduce how much plastic you use in your daily life. Thankfully, there are many easy ways to reduce the amount of plastic you use.

Reduce Single Use Plastics:

There are a lot opportunities in our daily lives to reduce how many single use plastics we use. When considering alternatives to single use items, no matter the material, one key factor is the ‘cost per use’. Reusable items may cost more at the initial purchase, but over time they offer significant savings. A plastic shopping bag costs about $.05, while a multi-use Chico Bag may cost $7. But if you use that Chico Bag twice a week for 10 years (they really can last that long, or longer) the cost per use goes down to about half a penny per shopping trip! You would need to use more than $50 worth of plastic bags for the same number of shopping trips.

  • Pick up a reusable metal or glass straw. They are an affordable alternative to single use plastic straws. There are many different types available, including some with angled silicone tops suitable for people with disabilities. Plus, they look cool, so if you start using them you may start a trend!
  • Opt out of disposable plastic silverware. You can either use regular silverware (if the restaurant or event has it) or you can start carrying your own silverware set with you! There are some awesome travel silverware sets from companies like To-Go Ware. And you can do the same for your events – have reusable silverware on hand, or opt for finger foods instead! Washing silverware does take time, but you are also keeping a lot of plastic out of our landfills.
  • Use reusable lunch containers or bags. Using reusable sandwich bags and snack bags for lunches or travel snacks is another great alternative to single use plastics. It costs about the same to buy a quart Stasher bag as it does to buy a 30-pack of name brand quart bags. However, you can use that dishwasher safe Stasher bag hundreds of times and you’ll save money in the long run! As an added bonus, if your Stasher bag is ever torn or damaged, the company will send you a free shipping label so you can send it back to them for recycling!
  • Buy a reusable water bottle and mug. Americans purchase about 50 billion water bottles per year, averaging about 13 bottles per month for every person in the US! That means by using a reusable water bottle, you could save an average of 156 plastic bottles annually. And when you get to-go coffee, that lid and cup could take up to 100 years to biodegrade. Try asking your local coffee shop to use your reusable mug to make your coffee instead. At GreenTree, we offer a $.10 discount for using your own mug!
  • Invest in a refillable or electric lighter or opt for matches over the plastic disposable lighters you can pick up at most grocery stores.

How to Reduce your plastic at the Grocery Store:

Here are some easy ways to reduce the use of plastics when shopping (and save a few dollars too):

  • Reusable grocery bags: You can buy some new, fun, reusable grocery bags, or use whatever tote bags or big bags you have at home to reduce the amount of plastic used to carry your groceries. (We also offer paper bags at the Co-op.) And reusable bags aren’t just for the grocery store – you can use them wherever you shop – they’re handy for traveling too!
  • Buy non-packaged produce when you can.* Reduce the amount of plastic you consume when you are getting your produce by opting for non-packaged produce. If you like to keep your produce separate, you can also buy washable, reusable produce bags to carry your fresh produce.
  • Shop the bulk department. You can reduce the amount of plastic packaging you are buying by purchasing your dry goods like rice, cereal, and nuts in our bulk department! You can even get creative and reuse jars or containers. Bring in your clean, empty containers and spice jars to the Co-op, get them weighed at the registers when empty, and just refill the container instead of throwing them away and buying a new bottle!
  • In every department you can look for products that are not packaged in plastic. Items like laundry detergent and body care items can often be found packaged in cardboard. Some hair care and bath product brands have started offering products in refillable metal containers too. In the grocery and refrigerated areas you can also look for products in glass jars.  
  • Buy plastic-free bar soap or refill your soaps containers when you can. You can even buy bar soap that’s good for doing your dishes.

There are so many great ways to reduce how much plastic you use in your daily life. And these ideas are only the tip of the iceberg! Think about saving and reusing glass jars to store leftovers as well as for buying bulk items at the Co-op. Start small by bringing a water bottle with you to work or school. (You can even buy bottles with filters in them if you are concerned about the quality of the water around you.) We can help you on your journey too. GreenTree carries lots of reusable and/or Eco-friendly packaged products so you can easily start reducing plastic use on your next shopping trip! Every small action helps reduce the world’s plastic consumption.

For even more ideas check out these articles:

Green Education Foundation: Tips to Use Less Plastic

Reef Relief: 51 Ways to Reduce Plastic Use or Completely Eliminate it

For more information on plastic and why you might want to reduce your plastic consumption check out this list:

Earth Day: fact Sheet on Single Use Plastic

*Pre-packaged produce can be more accessible for people who are unable to cut and process their own produce. Luckily, a lot of pre-packaged produce containers are recyclable!

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