Did you know that each year, every New Zealander consumes roughly 31kg of plastic and only recycles less than 6kg ? Plastic accounts for nearly 8% of the waste produced in New Zealand but occupies almost 20% of landfill space, and a whopping 252,000 tons of plastic is sent to landfills every single year . The nature of petroleum-based plastics means they’re not biodegradable and therefore cannot be recycled, so naturally, they usually end up in the landfill.
Despite seeming like relatively small changes, small steps eventually add up to a big step in the long run, which can, believe it or not, make a significant impact on both your life and the health of the planet. Not only will you be replacing your plastic with reusable alternatives, but you’ll also be reducing your impact on the environment every time you purchase a product or buy a meal.
Here are 9 easy tips to help you move towards a plastic-free and environmentally friendly lifestyle.
1. Bring your own containers or vessels
Whether you’re buying food or drinks, bringing your own vessel is a great way to reduce your plastic use. This includes coffee cups, containers, glass jars, or whatever tickles your fancy. If you’re buying lunch on the go, ask the store if they can serve it in your own container. Many bulk food stores allow you to bring your own containers, too. For the most part, stores and cafes are very accommodating. Some shops even offer a discount if you bring your own vessel, so always be sure to ask!
2. Say no to straws
This one has been in the headlines a lot, so it’s definitely going to be included here. Did you know that hundreds of millions of plastic straws are used every day around the world? Not only are they incredibly difficult to recycle, but they wreak havoc on sea life as well. When you order a drink, whether it’s at a smoothie shop or a bar, tell them to skip the straw. Now if you’re dead set on having a straw, buy some metal reusable ones and keep them in your purse or car so you will always have it handy! Alternatively, paper straws are becoming available in more shops so always ask if they have paper straws.
3. Grow a garden
Growing your own produce helps the environment by reducing the emissions and fossil fuel pollution used to transport foods to the supermarket. If you grow your plants organically, that is without pesticides and herbicides, then you’re helping the planet by ensuring that the earth will return to its natural state without damaging the soil. Less soil damage also ensures the growth of healthy plants in the future. Another positive? It also means that you don't have to buy herbs and vegetables which are packaged in plastic.
4. Reduce your at-home plastic use
Plastic wrap and plastic bags are two of the biggest things used in the home to store food — but they don’t have to be. Beeswax wraps are one of the latest things to hit the market and can be used as a direct replacement for aluminium foil and plastic wrap. And for times when you need to cover something that the wraps may not fit, use the corresponding lids to a glass container, or better yet, leave it uncovered if you’ll be using it relatively soon.
Did you know that there are anywhere between 30 meters to 300 meters of plastic in your standard roll of plastic wrap, which is enough to cover most backyards? Instead of lining your bin with plastic bin liners, use old newspaper instead.
5. Check out the farmer’s market and shop local
Making small simple changes can add up over the long run. Many cities nowadays have local farmer’s markets from the spring to the fall where there are a variety of products and produce available to purchase. Buying local not only supports communities and farmers, but it means you’re not purchasing products that are shipped from the other side of the world and packaged in copious amounts of plastic for extended conservation. For example, buy a loaf of bread from your local bakery instead of buying one at the supermarket that’s wrapped in plastic.
6. All aboard the DIY train
Things like toothpaste, shampoo, and body lotion are generally sold in plastic containers, but most of these products can easily be made at home using non-plastic containers and more natural ingredients. For example, toothpaste can be made with things like coconut oil, baking soda and peppermint essential oil. Body lotion or oil can be made by combining certain skin-soothing oils like coconut or grapeseed with cacao butter, shea, and your favourite essential oils. If you’re not sure where to start, browse the web and you’ll find hundreds of DIY cosmetic recipes.
The same goes for cleaners. Most household cleaning products are not only packaged in plastic, but they’re loaded with chemicals. By making them at home, you’re reducing your waste, saving money, and using healthier ingredients.
7. Ban the bottles
You can pretty much buy reusable water bottles everywhere you look, but even though they’re reusable, they may still be made of plastic; granted, you’re not disposing of it like you would a single-use plastic water bottle. There are many eco-friendly options available such as glass, stainless steel and bamboo that keep beverages hot for up to 12-hours or cold for up to 24-hours. They’re generally lightweight, durable, easy to clean and you’ll never have to waste money on single-use plastic again.
8. Hit the actual stores rather than online
Online companies, such as Amazon, are notoriously bad for over-doing it on the packaging, which is usually both large cardboard boxes, plastic bubble wrap or styrofoam peanuts. Instead, hit the brick-and-mortar store to save on shipping time as well as reduce the amount of waste you consume through shipping.
Alternatively, buy from brands like Go Good, that use plastic-free packaging. Our protein powder canisters are 100% plastic-free, even the serving scoop is made of paper. Our shipping boxes have been designed to perfectly match the size of our products and are made from FSC recycled cardboard and our sealing tape is paper-based.
9. Opt for fresh over frozen
In most cases, processed foods — or even simply frozen fruit or vegetables — come with a side of much more plastic or paper waste than their fresh counterparts. While we know that sometimes ease and convenience drives us to the frozen section, shop fresh whenever possible. Not only does fresh food mean there is less waste associated with packaging it, but it usually contains much fewer ingredients and is therefore much healthier for consumption.
Changing up things to reduce your waste doesn’t mean you have to do a 180 on your life. Start with small changes like getting a reusable water bottle or bringing jars to the bulk food store, and then work up to larger more lifestyle-based changes like altering your shopping patterns. In the present age, plastic is everywhere, but while you can’t control what everyone else does, you can do your part to make the world a little bit of a more sustainable, plastic-free place.