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5 Easy Ways to Be More Environmentally Conscious

butterfly in hand on grass
Romolo Tavani/Shutterstock

The message is clear—we need to do something to clean up the environment. But it doesn’t have to be complicated. Here are five quick things you can do right now to start living a more environmentally conscious lifestyle.

We’re here to tell you that the simplest changes can shift things in the right direction. You don’t need to make drastic lifestyle alterations; just keep living your life while adding in a few new steps.

Ditch the Plastic Straw

Plastic straws are everywhere. Many people use them to prevent cold drinks from hurting their teeth or to easily sip drinks while driving. Kids often need straws at restaurants to prevent spilling their drinks.

However, the U.S. currently uses around 390 million plastic straws a day. When it comes to ocean trash, the plastic straw ranks in eighth place. It can take up to 200 years for a plastic straw to break down, and it never fully biodegrades. Instead, it breaks down into little pieces, releasing harmful chemicals in the process. And sadly, most places don’t recycle them.

So every time you reach for that piece of plastic, think about where it’ll be 100 years from now—floating around in the ocean or hanging out in a landfill. Yuck.

The good news is that there are plenty of alternatives. Some restaurants and bars have started offering paper straws, which have mixed reviews. You can also ditch the straw altogether, drinking straight from the cup. And then there are metal straws. These are affordable, easy to use, and a breeze to clean. Slip them into your purse, backpack, or diaper bag, and off you go.

Check out this eight-pack of stainless steel metal straws (cleaning brushes included) or this collapsible design that comes in a nifty keychain box. We recommend buying several so that you can stash them everywhere. And if you compost, you can pick up a pack of 200 compostable straws for under $10.

Believe us; this simple change will make a difference.

Say No to Plastic Bags

Plastic shopping bag full of other plastic bags
Ruslan Kokarev/Shutterstock

Luckily, many stores are banning the use of plastic bags. Even though many people reuse them for other purposes, like lining trash cans, most of these bags eventually end up in the landfill.

It’s estimated that the entire world uses around one trillion disposable plastic bags each year. Every bag is created with fossil fuels, requiring water and energy to manufacture, as well as resources to ship. They never break down completely, and many recycling centers don’t accept them.

It’s easy to invest in cloth bags for shopping purposes instead. This six-pack set folds into little pouches, and this four-pack set has a handy keyring that clips to your backpack or purse. Stash them in your car, purse, backpack, and by the front door. You have to be vigilant about remembering them, but as long as you have extra bags stored everywhere, it should be easy.

But when it comes to eliminating plastic bags around your home, such as in your trash can, it can be a bit trickier. Lindsay Miles, a writer who has been living plastic-free since 2012, suggests five ways to deal with trash without using plastic bags. She points out that plastic bags were invented in the 1960s and that we somehow managed before then. So it’s possible to give up plastic bags entirely if you’re dedicated enough.

Try Alternative Food Storage Solutions

Think about all the plastic you use for food storage, such as Ziploc bags, plastic wrap, and Tupperware. Most plastic wrap is made from polyvinyl chloride (PVC), which is single-use, non-recyclable, and believed to release chemicals that may be bad for our health.

Here are some alternatives for storing your food:

  • Beeswax wraps: These usually come in a variety of sizes, allowing you to mold the wrapping to the top of a bowl, or to wrap a piece of used fruit or vegetable inside it. They are easy to clean with a bit of water and soap. You can even make your own!
  • Glass storage containers: Even though these usually come with plastic lids, you’ll get more use out of these than you would from a roll of plastic wrap. Get a multi-pack, which has plenty of size options.
  • Silicone lids: These are a great alternative to plastic, and are believed to be safer for human health. Also, silicone breaks down into inorganic, harmless ingredients. Read more about why you should choose silicone over plastic. Order a pack with different sizes to match various-sized bowls.
  • Reusable snack bags: The perfect solution for kids on the go! These reusable bags can be tossed in the dishwasher or even added to a load of laundry.

Skip the Disposable Water Bottles

water bottles on manufacturing line

Think about all the fossil fuels, water, and resources needed to ship plastic water bottles around the world. They are never fully biodegradable because there’s only so much you can do with plastic.

Even with our recycling efforts, many of these bottles still end up in the landfill. A lot of manufactured water bottles use regular tap water, making it a ridiculous and unnecessary purchase. There are also many harmful chemicals in plastic, even after removing BPA, which are believed to have health consequences.

It’s easy to invest in some reusable water bottles instead, such as stainless steel or glass ones. You can even get smart water bottles that help you track your water intake if you’re so inclined.

Bring Your Own Takeout Container

Lots of energy goes into making single-use plastic containers to carry your food in. Sometimes you’re just transporting food from the restaurant to your office, where you have bowls, forks, napkins, and everything else you need for your meal. Consider investing in a reusable container for takeout, or simply walk to the restaurant with a bowl from your office.

If you’re worried about drawing unnecessary attention, explain that you’re trying to reduce the amount of plastic floating around in the world. Plus, this simple move will save restaurants in the long run since they have to pay for all those plastic containers.

If your food is getting paid for by weight, have staff weigh the container first. In restaurants, you frequent often, develop a rapport with the staff about this issue, so they’ll know what to expect when you come in.

These silicone containers are collapsible, making them easy to stash in your purse, backpack, or desk at work. Learn more about how to reduce takeout trash.

Even if you only tackle one item on this list, the environment will thank you. Every little change makes a significant difference. And over time, we hope these habits will become second nature.

Jill A. Chafin Jill A. Chafin
Jill A. Chafin is a freelance writer, aerialist, dancer, food enthusiast, outdoor adventurer, and mama, based in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. Read Full Bio »
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