Reducing Everyday Plastic Use
by Lily Bernhard
When I think about sustainability in my life I focus mainly on reducing the amount of waste I produce, specifically when it comes to single-use plastic. Last summer I worked at a small convenience store on Martha’s Vineyard. The town where I worked had recently passed a law that starting in 2020 no store could sell any plastic bottle under 1 litre, and as a result stores were beginning to sell alternatives to plastic bottles, such as drinks in aluminium or cardboard instead. People would often come in and completely miss the water in the cooler because they weren’t used to the aluminium bottle, and explaining the upcoming ban on plastic bottles on a daily basis made me reevaluate how much plastic I was using in my own life. Everything from apples to shampoo is packaged in plastic, and as I thought about it more I became increasingly aware that I was using a massive amount of plastic that would never go away.
Now, as I continue to work on decreasing my plastic waste, I focus primarily on food and toiletries, as I have found that those were the two areas of my life where I use the most plastic. One change I have made in order to reduce the amount of food I buy with plastic packaging is refilling foods like nuts, dried pulses, and coffee in glass jars. Stores like Planet Organic and Whole Foods have large bulk sections and make it really easy to refill jars or buy food in paper bags as opposed to plastic.
Another way I have tried to decrease my plastic use is by finding plastic free alternatives to toiletries. I’ve been using bar shampoo and conditioner (which sounds strange, but I promise it works), toothpaste from a glass jar, floss made from cornstarch, and basically everything else I use comes in a glass jar or biodegradable cardboard.
Obviously right now it is difficult to go shopping but if you happen to live near a store with a bulk section see if anything you usually buy in a package is available for refills instead. At home, you can wash and save glass jars (from things like peanut butter and pasta sauce) and repurpose them, whether that is for refilling with food, organising your desk, and more. You could also experiment with more sustainable toiletries. Essentially, use this time at home to think about the waste you produce and the little ways that you can reduce that waste. In no way do you have to change drastically or eradicate waste completely, but if we all make small changes by being more conscious of our waste then we can make a difference.