So much has changed about our way of life since early in 2020. We spend more time in our homes now, which means we do more online shopping, order more take out and pick up our groceries instead of shopping in person. I can't be the only one who's noticed all of the additional waste that's created from these new routines. More plastic grocery bags (just when we'd all finally gotten used to bringing our reusable bags), more packing materials, more styrofoam to-go containers...and this is just small scale. Think about all of the restaurants that are installing these plastic outdoor dining bubbles that will find their way to the landfill in a year or two. We've already been seeing wildlife adversely affected by the PPE that finds its way into the environment. The pandemic isn't just a public health crisis, it's an environmental crisis. This has me quite concerned.
Your Plastic Waste Isn't Being Recycled
"91% [of the the plastic waste created since 1950] has never been recycled." It has always been cheaper for companies to make new plastic products than to utilize recycling programs to reduce plastic waste, but clever marketing propaganda convinced us all that recycling was the answer. A large majority of that plastic you religiously clean and separate into your recycle bin every week just ends up in the landfill anyway. Or worse places. And the biggest offenders aren't even trying to solve the problem. "The oil and gas industry plans to spend around $400 billion over the next five years on plants to make raw materials for virgin plastic." Read more about this travesty in this amazing work of journalism from Reuters.
Your Dollars Are Your Voice
We have to start showing companies that we want plastic-free and environmentally friendly options. Where you spend your dollars is the loudest way to get the message across. To get you started, I've compiled a small list of companies I've redirected my own purchasing toward in an effort to lessen my personal damage to the environment.
Foaming Hand Soap Refill Pods
Gelo makes these little dissolvable pods that eliminate the need to ever purchase another plastic hand soap bottle. Simply drop 2 pods into your empty soap bottle (you'll need the foaming type of pump for this), add 10 ounces of water, and you've got a fresh bottle of hand soap. You can switch out the scent each time you refill to keep things interesting.
I really appreciate that this company is making an environmentally friendly product that is affordable for everyone. You can take the money you saved and get yourself a fancy decorative pump bottle to add some class to your countertop. Get $2 off your first order when you use this link.
Plastic-Free Laundry Detergent Pods
I used to buy a huge plastic jug of one of the "free from any scents and dyes" laundry detergents. It was my go-to, because I am sensitive to overly fragranced things and have had problems with my skin over the years. Luckily, I spotted an ad on Facebook for these Dropps detergent pods that dissolve in water, and they happen to have a sensitive skin option, so I don't have to buy that stupid plastic jug anymore! These save me so much cupboard space. And as an added bonus, the pods shipped in a reusable cardboard box that I was able to ship out a small order in.
If you'd like to try them for yourself, click this (affiliate) link and use the coupon code to save 30% thru the end of the month:
Environmentally Friendly Tea
My absolute favorite green tea is the Mao Feng green from Teapigs. My husband brought it home one day from a coffee shop near his workplace and now I'm a faithful customer. Teapigs is the first tea company to be certified plastic free and all their packaging (with the exception of the reuseable stand up bags for the loose tea) is either recyclable cardboard or compostable material.
Other reasons I like this company: Teapigs tea is sustainably sourced and they give back to vulnerable youth in Rwanda. They also sell a delicious jasmine green that I order on the regular.
Reusable Sandwich and Snack Bags
I discovered Stasher bags through the recommendation of a friend who knew I was trying to eliminate single use plastics. These bags are pretty amazing, because not only are they fine to use in the dishwasher, microwave, freezer, oven, or a pot of water; they are also made of a material that does not degrade over time. They come in a bunch of different sizes, from little snack sized bags to half gallon sizes. So they are perfect for packing lunches, storing half an onion for later, thawing chicken breasts or marinating meats (I use the biggest size for this), or anything else you might use a plastic zipper bag for.
Personally, I prefer to order bundles of different sizes, so I have all my bases covered. (Stasher Affiliate Links)
Ditch Plastic Water Bottles
I never leave the house without water. When I was 12 I passed out from heat exhaustion once and ever since then I get a little panicky if I'm thirsty and don't have anything to drink. I'd been using one of those hard plastic reusable drinking cups with a straw that was a promotional item from a friend's business, and I loved it because it was dishwasher safe. After it broke, I'd been looking for a stainless steel replacement and finally came across one at New Pioneer Co-op. This Kleen Kanteen cup is insulated so it stays cold for a long time, but that also means it's not dishwasher safe. I decided I was willing to make that tradeoff, though.
Handmade Reusable Solutions for Cleaning
I know Swiffer products are super convenient, but they are also super wasteful. I had a Swiffer duster handle laying around, but felt guilty purchasing anymore of the throwaway refills for it. But I found all kinds of people on Etsy selling washable handmade replacements for those that are made out of fleece. This is now my go-to for dusting. The one pictured here can be purchased from BitsOfFabricByJill.
Kitchen sponges are something I will never appreciate, but they are a necessary evil. They just gross me out. I detest having to retrieve a cold, wet, smelly sponge that has been left in the bottom of the sink overnight. Once they have a funk, they aren't really cleaning anything anymore. It was important to me to find a replacement that I could just toss in the laundry and reuse. Again, Etsy was the answer. The one pictured here can be purchased from HP Boutiques.
I know there are many other ways I could be less wasteful, but this is definitely movement in the right direction. I'm planning to grow some of my own vegetables and start a compost pile in the spring (why do fresh vegetables have to be wrapped in plastic anyway?).
What we really need are government regulations on the corporations who keep producing their products in a way that is damaging to the environment; but until then, individuals have to do the best they can to be less wasteful. How have your buying habits changed? Please share in the comments.