How & Why to Go Plastic-Free (for Any Lifestyle)
We’re all aware of the threats and dangers that single-use plastics pose on the environment. But what are you personally doing to prevent plastic waste or combat plastic pollution? If you follow us on Instagram, you might have seen that we’re participating in Plastic Free July— and while July is almost over, it’s never too late to join in!
What & Why: The Plastic-Free Initiative
The goal of the plastic-free movement is to reduce your single-use plastic consumption, waste, and eventual pollution. Whether choosing to take small steps or going all in, remember that any effort can help the environment! Doing what you can, where you can, how you can is the single most important step to reducing or eliminating your single-use plastic waste.
So what should you focus on? Well, not all plastic is “bad”, and in fact, when utilized correctly, plastic can be quite beneficial to life on Earth. But it’s plastic that gets produced for the sole purpose of being used once, then quickly discarded (usually haphazardly) that’s problematic. This is called ‘singe-use’ plastic and accounts for nearly half of the plastics manufactured and consumed. Beyond that, the real issue is what we do with that plastic after it’s been used.
Some examples of single-use plastic include everyday items like plastic straws, ear swabs, food wrappers, to-go coffee lids, and plastic drink bottles. They function to serve one thing, one time. While it takes mere minutes to fully use a single-use plastic, most of these plastics end up spending the vast majority of their lifetime in landfills or scattered around polluting Earth. Since they’re generally not biodegradable, single-use plastics can take nearly 1000 years to decompose! Research estimates that up to 5 trillion plastic bags are consumed annually, and plastic packaging waste makes up nearly half of plastic waste generated! This pollution leads to environmental hazards including land, ocean, animal, and human issues (like negatively contributing to detrimental storms, disease, and even impacting food).
As consumers, it’s our responsibility to ensure harmful plastics are less of a burden on the environment and society. Solving the problem isn’t going to happen quickly but there are simple implementations we can make to start cleaning and greening. The easiest way we can add change into our lives now is to remember the 4 R’s: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, or Recycle. Fitting a plastic item into one of these categories, you can positively affect the future of the ecosystem— as prevention is the driving force to combat pollution. So whenever you’re in a situation where you’re about to buy, consume, or dispose of a plastic, ask yourself, can it be refused, reduced, reused, or recycled properly?
Here at Outside In, we are on a mission to reduce our footprint as much as possible. We use 100% plastic-free and recyclable packaging materials. Our product (plants!) is pretty natural too (quite literally from the earth), with the exception being if your plant comes in a nursery pot. These pots are plastic, but not necessarily as “bad” of a plastic as it’s not generally single-use among our customers. Most plant parents tend to keep their plants in the plastic containers (which is recommended!) until the plant outgrows it. At that time, the container can be sanitized and reused over and over! Beyond that, we strive to further reduce plastic in our home life, work-life, and every-step-in-between life.
Ways To Get Involved
If you’re up for the challenge (which isn’t really that challenging!), here are some ways that we’ve found simple to implement into an everyday lifestyle:
- Refuse plastic drink bottles & instead use reusable bottles.
- Refuse/reduce plastic takeout items.
- Opt-out of plastic cutlery and containers
- Bring your own reusable coffee mug to coffee shops.
- You likely don’t need that straw or drink stirrer either!
- (Re)use compostable garbage bags.
- For instance, upcycling a paper bag to house your discarded recyclables.
- Opt for real dishes over single-use plastic counterparts.
- This one is big during summer when we tend to eat outside more and it seems “easier” to manage.
- Get rid of sandwich bags.
- Use an alternative like eco-bags made of wax paper.
- Get smarter about home products.
- For example, buy bar soap or a large refill bottle of soap, and refill a reusable dispenser (rather than a single-use plastic dispenser)— you'll also save money!
- Bring your own reusable bags to shop
- To go further, stop using those thin, plastic, produce sleeves when grocery shopping. Either bring your own smaller reusable bags, or if it’s just a single item here and there, it doesn’t need an individual bag at all!
- Beach, park, city clean up.
- Joining a community group to clean and restore the environment is a great and active way to directly help. You can go out on your own too, but make sure you know how to properly dispose of your collections afterward! Usually organized groups work with agencies or local governments to ensure optimal waste management.
Overall, pay attention to what you’re buying, consuming, and throwing out. Abiding by and achieving a circular model is a continual process. If you want to make even further changes, consider your policymakers. Are they regulating plastics or making it easy for citizens to dispose of waste in a more eco-friendly manner? They’re responsible too, and it’s their job to make sure we’re living in positively contributable cities. Research and learn about your area’s efforts. Perhaps there’s more you can do locally, and if not reach out to those making laws.
So, how far do you want to go in your plastic-free commitment? There’s no wrong answer; anything and everything helps!