Want to help solve the plastic problem?
In this post we focus on Reduce: How you can reduce your own plastic use and as a result, take a step toward a rejuvenated ocean (and planet).
You may be asking yourself: What’s in it for me? (we’re going to tell you)
You might also harbor one or more of the following misconceptions:
- I’m just one person and my actions will not have an impact.
- It’s too late to make a difference now.
- It’s difficult to eliminate plastic from our lives.
If you’ve ever felt this way, you should know that you’re not alone. In fact, you’re part of a community of millions of people who share a common dream of a sustainable economy and sustainable planet, who feel just like you.
The Problem: We share a misconception that is limiting our ability to fulfill our dreams of the world we want to see.
The Solution: 1) We must understand why we hold these deep-rooted misconceptions so we can overcome them and 2) We must take proactive steps in the right direction, rather than remaining frozen in fear (this is the how).
The good news is, we’re already on our way and you’re welcome to join us. Plus, you’re going to experience some other benefits to reducing your own plastic use along the way:
- Personal health – plastics can directly impact our own wellbeing.
- Plastic reduction – turning off the faucet.
- Perception shift – cultural beliefs.
How do I reduce my plastic footprint?
You can find guides to going plastic free all over the internet, but you don’t find very many people actually going plastic free. Why?
If you want to go cold turkey, that’s ambitious and we support you 100%.
The reality is – that’s very hard, and like most new year’s resolutions, unless you have a rare level of dedication and no distractions like a job or children, it won’t last long.
Don’t be discouraged.
This isn’t a reflection of you as a person. It’s hard to break habits.
The Solution: understand the core concept behind each aspect of plastic reduction. If you know the Why then the How will be much easier to maintain.
Here are three foundational ways to reduce your plastic consumption:
1) Stay in The Pocket (play the long game)
Why: Just like anything, the benefits come from consistency over time, not a complete 180. While “jumping into the deep end” is a commonly used phrase… it really isn’t the best way to learn how to swim.
You’re more likely to be successful if you start slow in the shallow end, learn the fundamentals, then work your way over the diving board as you gain confidence and skill.
Adding to your savings account, training for a marathon, dieting… these are all things that take time and consistency. Reducing your plastic consumption is no different.
Take baby steps.
This week, work on plastic bags – make, find, or buy a reusable bag and keep it with you. Don’t beat yourself up if you can’t completely eliminate all use of plastic bags. Remember that each bag you forego is a bag saved and a step in the right direction.
Tip: Not all reusable bags are created equal. Try to find the ‘breakeven number’ before you buy a reusable bag. Learn more about what makes a good bag here: Reusable vs Disposable Bags
You should also know, if you can reuse the plastic bag for another purpose it will drastically cut down on its negative environmental impact. So when you do have to use one, make the most of it and don’t beat yourself up.
Once you’re comfortable with that, find another way to reduce your plastic impact that is in line with your lifestyle. Good places to start are with cups and bottles. Any time you can reduce single use plastics like water bottles or disposable cups you can have a tremendous impact.
Remember that you don’t have to get too extreme to make a difference. If you’re not ready to start carrying a reusable straw, don’t do it! Instead, find a new place for your lunch break that doesn’t use straws or is more plastic conscious than your go-to spot. That’s easy and doesn’t take much effort on your part.
When you’re ready, you can start rejecting more…
2) Reject More
Why: If you consistently reject plastics you can shift social norms.
Restaurants should, and are starting to find alternatives to plastic straws. Some have implemented a policy where they specifically ask you if you want a straw rather than including one in your drink by default. Others have moved to alternatives like paper, metal, or bamboo.
This didn’t happen because the owner woke up one day and thought it would be nice. They are business owners and their foremost concern is satisfying their customers.
This change came about because their customers indicated they wanted something different.
Now you have a chance to support this revolution and increase the rate of change, simply by changing your own habits.
Rejection is never easy… The social dynamics around most service oriented businesses make it feel more difficult than it really is to reject unnecessary plastics.
But remember, you aren’t (and shouldn’t be) criticizing the waiter when you reject a plastic straw, the cashier when you reject plastic bags, or the barista when you reject their to-go cup.
Be proactive. Know what you’re going to say or do before you go in. Depending on where you go and who you’re interacting with, this could be an unusual request for the other person. If you know how you’re going to tell them you don’t want a straw with your drink ahead of time it will be much less awkward.
Don’t get confrontational. Be polite. Realize that there will be times when you specifically ask for no straw or no bag and you get it anyways. Don’t take it out on the other person – most of the time they are trying to do their job and are following the protocol they were trained on.
Give it back. Sometimes you can’t beat the cashier to the punch and they’ve already placed your lunch in a plastic bag. Calmly take them out, smile, and return the bag to them.
Just Say No … Here are the biggest offenders you should be rejecting regularly:
- Produce wrapped in plastic – Simply don’t buy it.
- Plastic bags in the checkout isle – Take your own and kindly say, “Oh, I have my own” or “I don’t need a bag today, thank you”
- Takeaway coffee cups - Bring your own instead and present it during the order.
- Plastic straws – “I’ll have a ginger ale… and… no straw please. Thank you.”
- Water bottles – Just… don’t. Unless you’re in a place where the tap water is questionable, order a glass of tap water or use a water fountain.
3) Buy Less
Why: We have to turn off the faucet.
If your house is flooding the first thing you need to do is stop the water it’s source. Then you can begin to clean up the mess. Right now we need to stop plastic pollution at its source.
The less we buy, the less demand there is for production of new goods and the less refuse there is that may eventually find its way into our oceans.
Also, the more alternatives we buy, the more we show support for companies that are actively trying to solve the plastic problem.
It’s going to take a little more effort to buy less, which is why it’s our final recommendation.
You might find it’s actually not that hard once you get used to it – it’s usually the first step that’s the hardest.
You might find it easier to shop at a new store all together… and if you aren’t already doing some of these recommended practices, you can always people watch and see how others are getting by without plastics.
Here are some immediate things you can do:
Refill – some communities have refill stores where you can refill a bottle of shampoo, body wash, lotion, etc. rather than having to buy a new bottle each time.
Buy Bulk – produce, nuts, dried fruits, even baked goods… all the good stuff you should probably be eating more of. Usually you can take your own reusable bag. Don’t mess with the pre filled, single-use containers.
Steer Clear – most individually wrapped goods are not necessary. Improving the packaging for foods has served its sanitary purpose, but lately companies have been going way overboard. Individually wrapping each cookie inside a box of cookies is unnecessary. Specifically look for egregious over-packaging and avoid it at all costs.
Benefits of Reducing Plastic In Your Life
Studies are continually revealing the impact plastics are having on us. Since plastics been around for less than 100 years we haven’t had much time to know how they will affect human health.
What we do know for sure: Plastics are ubiquitous and they are not natural.
It’s safe to say that reducing your exposure to plastics will improve your physical health in the long run (and possibly the short term too).
Reduce your plastic consumption and you reduce the world’s consumption.
Realizing our goal of restoring our oceans and waterways will come one step at a time. One bag at a time, one plastic bottle at a time, and one straw at a time.
Thank you for doing your part in reducing plastic waste. You should feel good about it!
Take a load off.
Instead of feeling stressed or helpless every time you go to the store because you know how much plastic you’re using, feel good about how much plastic you’re not using. When you implement the plastic reducing techniques we’ve reviewed here you’ll see a huge reduction in plastic consumption and that’s something you should feel good about.
I used to feel terrible every time I went to the store and came home with multiple plastic bags. Then I did something about it. I started using my own. At first I thought it would be weird and difficult. Instead I found that it was easy and to my surprise, most cashiers were happy and helpful about it. Now I feel good every time I go to the store instead of feeling deflated and helpless.
To The Next Step!
Reducing your personal plastic consumption is a big deal. We’re glad you’ve taken the time to learn about why it’s important and how you can contribute to restoring our oceans.
If you want to learn more about solving the plastic problem check out these resources:
Who are we? We are two surfers with a mission to reduce plastic pollution. Single use plastics are our first target, but we won’t stop there. Learn more about us here.