The U.S. is the number one trash-producing country in the world. We produce 1,609 pounds of trash per person, per year. (1).
73% of litter found on beaches worldwide is plastic (2).
Per mile, 2,857 pieces of litter are found along roadways and 2,411 pieces of litter are found along waterways (3).
40,000 pieces of microplastics consumed by humans every week (4).
These facts should disturb you. They should wake you up to the serious problems we have with single-use, non-sustainable items in our world. We all need to do our part to reduce plastic and trash on our planet. But where do you start? We recommend starting very close to home... actually we recommend starting in your home! We’ve compiled a list of easy swaps you can make to reduce the amount of plastic your family uses. These are actual products our family uses and though we have a great list here, it's not all the things you can do to become more sustainable.
The average person uses 540 single-use plastic baggies per year (5). Switch to reusable baggies! We love Stasher bags. They are durable and easy to use (including cleanup). Plus after the initial cost we save money because we aren't buying single-use baggies throughout the year.
In 2021 more than half a trillion plastic bottles were estimated to have been sold. By switching to a glass or metal reusable water bottle you will save an average of 156 plastic bottles a year (and a ton of money) (6). There are a lot of great reusable water bottles out there. Our favorite is this tea infuser water bottle that you can also put fruit in to spice up your daily water!
Most tea bags contain up to 25% plastic. When steeped at traditional temperatures it releases 11.6 billion microplastics and 3.1 billion nanoplastics into your drink (7). Switching to a reusable, metal tea steeper and loose leaf tea is an easy solution to this problem.
When you factor in the production and "maintenance" of resuable napkins, they actually produce less greenhouse gasses than single-use paper napkins. 2.5-5 grams of greenhouse emissions for reusable (depending on material) versus 10 grams for single-use paper. And if you use linen napkins your water usage during their production is only .1 liters versus .3 liters for paper (8). We use these linen napkins and they are durable and easy to clean.
13 billion pounds of paper towels are used every year. And here's the thing, they are usually made of recycled paper pulp but, they tharemselves are not recyclable (9). Switching to reusable clothes is the best way to avoid adding so much paper to our landfills. We use old cloth napkins but you can find rolls of cloth towels on Etsy.
Besides the fact that the top brands of laundry detergent come in big plastic jugs or containers, a lot of those pods are a problem too. A study found that 75% of plastic from detergent pods actually enters the environment, which affects groundwater and can contaminate the human food chain (10). We choose to use eco strips that are not only plastic free but also light enough to pack for travel!
We already know plastics and food packaging is a real problem for our environment. Try making some easy items from scratch to eliminate the extra packaging. We love homemade vegan hot chocolate because it's so darn easy to make! There are a ton of recipes out there!
Containers and packaging contribute over 23% of the material in landfills - some of these being food-related (11). Make a goal of creating waste-free lunches by using reusable containers. And don't forget to bring a reusable water bottle and cloth napkin!
In the first 6 months of 2020, 5.3 million Americans used 10 or more rolls of plastic wrap. While 255.67 million used between less than 1 roll and up to 9 rolls in that same time period (12). And though some places accept plastic wrap, it's often not recycled or rejected from recycling because it is wet or has food contamination. Switch single-use plastic wrap for silicone covers or beeswax wrap.
Plastic trash bags are made of HDPE - High-density polyethylene or LPDE - low-density polyethylene (13). They can easily become microplastics and pollute our waters and soil. Switching to 100% compostable (NOT just biodegradable) bags will help with this problem. You can also get compostable bags for pet waste!
I won't talk your ear off again about how plastic is terrible for the environment. So let's just skip ahead to how to replace body wash (in plastic containers) and your plastic loofah. Simply switch to a bar body soap (that comes in a cardboard box) and a reusable wash cloth!
By switching to plastic-free shampoo, conditioners, and face washes (even dog shampoo) can save so much plastic from being created and entering our environment. Just one Ethique shampoo bar will save 3 bottles of liquid shampoo.
The amount of K-Cups in our landfills would wrap around our earth 10 times (14). But that doesn't mean you have to get rid of your single use coffee maker. There are many reusable coffee maker filters (even those for larger brews) that are widely available. Simply do a search for your machine's make and model and you can easily find reusable filters that will work for you.
We were not compensated in any way for featuring the products in this article.
(5) https://www.onegreenplanet.org/environment/cut-sandwich-bag-waste-save-oceans/ (6) https://www.beyondplastics.org/fact-sheets/plastic-water-bottles (7) https://www.greenchildmagazine.com/plastic-in-tea-bags/ (8) https://www.treehugger.com/are-paper-napkins-more-environmentally-friendly-4858552 (9) https://oceanconservancy.org/blog/2012/10/12/paper-towels-whats-the-big-deal-anyway/
(10) https://www.forbes.com/sites/jeffkart/2021/08/08/study-says-up-to-75-of-plastics-from-detergent-pods-enter-the-environment-industry-says-they-safely-biodegrade/?sh=228b2ea6796a (11) https://www.epa.gov/sites/default/files/2015-08/documents/reducing_wasted_food_pkg_tool.pdf (12) https://www.statista.com/statistics/275956/us-households-quantity-of-rolls-of-plastic-wrap-used-within-6-months/ (13) https://www.epa.gov/facts-and-figures-about-materials-waste-and-recycling/plastics-material-specific-data