Updated: Sep 12, 2019
This is where I recommend most people start when transitioning to a low waste lifestyle: The Big Four. It's simple; reusable water bottle, reusable coffee cup, reusable shopping bags, and reusable cutlery. These are the most common single use plastic items in anyone's life and making these switches are easy, fairly cheap (will save you money in the long run), and don't require you to make huge lifestyle changes right away which can seem intimidating.
I wanted to give you some statistics to encourage you to reduce your waste:
- It is estimated that .5-1 trillion bags are used each year worldwide, which breaks down to about 1 million a minute. Only 1/200 are recycled.
- In the US alone, 1500 plastic bottles are discarded every second (roughly 38 billion/year). Only 9% of plastic is recycled in the US.
- 16 billion coffee cups are disposed of each year. They are not even recyclable as they are coated in plastic.
- Cutlery is hard to pinpoint but Americans place roughly 2 billion take out orders per year, which all come with plastic cutlery. Not to mention athletic games and fast food.
(All the links are at the bottom if you want to do your own research.)
These stats were hard for me to read and write. They make me sick and make me feel small, like me changing my habits won't help.
But, imagine if I used one plastic water bottle a year and made the switch to reusable. I (one single person) would be saving 365 bottles from being produced and used every year. Now, imagine if I inspired 10 others to switch. That is now an additional 3,650 bottles saved. And then the butterfly effect happens; those 10 people would inspire 10 more people who inspire 10 more people and eventually, plastic waste gets minimized drastically.
Not only is it important for you to make the change but to help and inspire others to do so as well.
Now there is a catch...try your best not to buy these reusable items brand new. Buying brand new items still creates a demand, requires new materials, and requires shipping and production (aka emissions).
So how can you get these items second hand?
- Check your thrift store or Facebook market place. You never know what people might be donating.
- Ask a friend if they have any extras of these items.
- Make your own bags.
- Use silverware you already own.
- Or even find new items from a sustainable company
If I could go back and do it again, I would have tried these five things first before buying new. Even if you have to buy new, in my mind, it is still much better than contributing to those astronomical numbers or plastic waste each year.
For a water bottle, I highly recommend a stainless steel bottle with double layers. This will keep your drinks colder or hotter for longer periods of time, last longer, and can be recycled easier at the end of their life.