There’s no doubt about it: the world has a plastic problem.
Just this last week off the coast of Italy a young, pregnant sperm whale was found dead with 48 pounds of plastic in her stomach. A month before that in the Philippines, a 1,100-pound whale was killed by the 88 pounds of it had ingested. And current research suggests if we don’t act fast, by 2050 there will more plastic than fish in the ocean.
Without major action by corporations and governments around the world, turning the tide is difficult. Thankfully, YOU have the power to ignite that change and curb reckless plastic pollution by being a conscious consumer, using your voice and demanding better—all while you #EatPlantsForAChange!
But before we dive in, let’s address a few simple questions and concerns you may have before we start.
“I recycle, isn’t that enough?” Unfortunately, no. Did you know only 9% of plastic in US recycling bins is actually recycled? This is largely a combination of contamination from poorly cleaned materials, the cost of recycling, inefficiencies in the recycling system itself, and the sheer amount of plastic we produce and consume each year. There’s a reason "recycle" is the last part of the infamous classroom phrase, “reduce, reuse, recycle.”
“That’s not my trash, I don’t litter at the beach!” Actually, only a fraction of plastic that ends up in the ocean comes directly from beachgoers. Much of ocean plastic pollution occurs in the stages before and after consumers use and dispose of their products. Because plastics are made to be so lightweight they’re easily carried by wind and rain out of transportation centers and landfills to drainage networks and rivers that flow directly into open ocean. Further, abandoned fishing nets, which make up the largest percentage of plastic floating in the ocean, occurs directly from the process of catching seafood.
“Won’t plastic just break down at some point?” Sure…after around 400 years or more, depending on the plastic. And with more than 8 million metric tons of plastic entering our ocean every year, marine animals don’t have the time.
The simple matter is: the best way we can reduce our global waste problem as consumers is to produce less of it—much of which comes from our diet. So to help you reach pinnacle eco-warrior status and protect our oceans, here’s our list of 8 low-waste tips you can incorporate in your daily routine!
1. Say Goodbye to Bags
We’re long past the time to get rid of the dreaded plastic bag. (Depending on where you live, they may already be phased out!) Plastic bags are one of the most commonly littered plastics due to how easily they’re caught by the wind, and are notoriously difficult to recycle. If you mix them in with your regular recyclables, you’re likely doing more harm than good. Don’t want to spend money on reusable bags? Don’t. The paper bags you get at the grocery store are perfectly fine to bring back for your next shop. Once they start tearing, add them to your recycling and get some more!
2. Eat More Whole, Plant-Based Foods
Sticking to the produce section as much as possible is your best bet for avoiding unnecessary plastics. While certain stores are better than others at selling produce sans plastic wrap, you can take another step forward by avoiding produce bags. Don’t feel pressured to buy reusable produce bags either, just put the produce right in your cart. Just make sure to wash it at home before you enjoy it! (Which you should be doing, anyway.)
3. Buy in Bulk
We know you hear us say this a lot, but it’s for good reason! Not only do bulk stores keep your shop affordable, but they make it super simple to reduce your waste. Bring your glass containers, mason jars, or cloth bags to fill with all sorts of legumes, grains, and spices!
4. Upcycle Packaging
There are certain packaged foods that you just can’t do without—trust us, we understand! But if you think hard enough, you just might find a way to re-purpose that packaging. Here are some quick ideas: use bread bags to pick up and dispose of pet waste, store your leftovers in a pasta sauce jar, or turn your plant-based butter container into a planter for some fresh basil. While the goal is always to reduce the amount of packaging you purchase, making the most of what you take home can make a big difference.
5. Opt for Paper or Aluminum
If you don’t have interest in upcycling, try to purchase brands that use paper or aluminum to package their products, as they have much higher recyclable rates and values. (Just make sure they are clean—you can’t recycle grease-stained paper or cardboard.) While you're at it, switch from using plastic food wrap and sandwich bags to reusable containers and aluminum foil, which you can reuse and ultimately recycle!
6. Pack a Lunch
It might seem simple, but bringing your own lunch to work instead of getting takeout everyday will substantially reduce the waste you produce. Takeout always seems to come with a plastic bag, paper wrapping, plastic-wrapped plastic utensils, packs of sauce you never wanted—the list goes on. Get yourself a lunchbox or just use some tupperware and make yourself something tasty. Try one of these protein-packed, plant-based lunches if you need inspiration!
7. Avoid Single-Use Napkins, Straws, & Cutlery
If work has you too busy to carry lunch around everyday, or you’re just traveling, worry not: you still can be green! Keeping a wooden utensil set, glass straw, cloth napkin, and stainless steel water bottle in your bag at all times will let you enjoy a meal without creating much waste. The biggest hurdle here is simply remembering to tell the cashier “no straw, plasticware, or napkin please!”
8. Compost Your Food Scraps
Did you know food waste is one of the largest contributors of greenhouse gases? That’s right, not only does the food we eat contribute to climate change, but so does the food that we don’t. Luckily, there is a simple way to solve that: composting! Composting allows us to not only return the nutrients from food waste back to the soil instead of rotting in a landfill, but it also reduces the amount of methane released from food breakdown. You can compost your food at home, through a local farm, or possibly even your town dump! A quick Google search will find you all your local options.
Want more resources like this? Head over to www.plantsforachange.com to sign up yourself, friends, and family for helpful plant-based tips, tricks, recipes, and news!
P.S. Check out and share our friend Sedona Christina’s YouTube video on healthy habits and hacks to #EatPlantsForAChange and reduce your waste!