How did it ever become okay to use something once then, throw it away? The answer: great marketing because it makes companies money.
Companies make more money when they are able to sell a product every week, month, or year than if they only sell it to you once. In addition to the financial cost, there is also the cost to our planet. Most things I used once and threw away will still be on this earth long after I am gone. This is not okay. Become a hero for our planet and save money by saying no to single use items.
Plastic does not go away. It just breaks down into smaller and smaller particles. No spot in the ocean has escaped the rain of plastic pollution. Even at the depths of the Mariana Trench at 36,000 feet. It has been found in the stomachs of fish and birds. Recently, traces of microplastics have even been found in human stool.
China doesn’t want our waste anymore
Bottled water was an $18.5 billion industry in the U.S. in 2017. It is now America’s favorite drink surpassing carbonated soft drinks, milk, and beer. At least 50 million plastic bottles are thrown away (not recycled) every day in the U.S. alone.
Even when people think they are “recycling” their plastic, much of it just ends up in landfills, especially since China stopped buying our recyclables in 2017.
What can we do?
I was inspired by Bea Johnson’s Zero Waste Home. My home is not zero-waste, but we’ve come a long way over the past two years at reducing our waste. And it’s also saved us money!
Moneylogue recently wrote a post called Can We Really Live a Zero-Waste Lifestyle. I appreciate that they talk about the “5Rs,” which should be considered in the following order:
Refuse – I no longer accept anything for free that I wouldn’t spend money on. This really helps me think twice about the resources I consume.
Reduce – Want less. Use less.
Reuse – Choose reusable over single-use items.
Repurpose – Find another way to use items. I avoid buying “unitaskers” (i.e., things that only serve one purpose).
Recycle – Recycling is a good thing, but it’s last on this list for a reason. Please don’t use something with the thought that “I’ll just recycle it.” Aluminum and glass are more likely to get recycled. But plastic (even when put in recycle bins) often is not.
Here are some disposable items and their reusable or biodegradable alternatives:
Mom, you may recognize many of these from my recent Christmas lists
- plastic toothbrush vs. Bamboo toothbrush
- Did you know that since the plastic toothbrush was invented, every single one is still on this planet?
- disposable razors vs. Safety Razor
- disposable nursing pads vs. Washable nursing pads
- when no longer nursing, these can be used in place of cotton balls (e.g., for rubbing alcohol)
- disposable coffee cups (which are lined with plastic thus doesn’t get recycled) vs. reusable coffee cups
- disposable coffee filters vs. Permanent coffee filters
- disposable napkins vs. Cloth napkins
- or use old clothes to make your own
- plastic straw vs. Stainless steel straws
- paper towels vs. Kitchen towels
- tissues vs. Handkerchiefs
- plastic wrap vs. Bee’s wrap
- parchment paper or aluminum foil vs. Silpat
- what an amazing invention!
- plastic cups vs. Glass jars
- I use mason jars for our homemade sauces, but also use them as drinking glasses for family get-togethers rather than buying plastic cups
- cheap plastic food storage vs. or oven and microwave-safe Glass Lock containers
- I love these things!
- disposable water bottles vs. filtered water in a Stainless Steel bottle
And of course, if you need something, try your hand at overcoming functional fixedness and upcycle things you already have that can serve another purpose.
Swapping with friends, borrowing/renting, or buying used will also save both the earth’s precious resources as well as your money.
What are reusable or biodegradable alternatives you’ve found for single-use items?