5 Easy Ways to Reduce Your Use of Single-Use Plastic

Monday, February 3rd, 2020

Being kind to the environment is a collective effort and every little bit counts. One of the key ways to leave behind a lower carbon footprint is by reducing single-use plastic usage. Plastic is part of our everyday lives, but there are ways we can start to limit how much we use. With everyone putting forth their best effort and being conscious of alternatives to single-use plastic that deliver the same convenience, the greater chance we have at sustaining a greener, cleaner planet. 

Following a reduce, reuse, recycle and repurpose mentality lengthens the shelf life of many of the everyday items we need and use. It also sparks new sustainable living ideas that we can integrate into our daily lives. Once you get started with a few, simple habits, you may find it easier than you initially thought. It’s a benefit to you, your community and the environment every time you reduce or eliminate single-use plastic consumption.

Want to learn more about how to reduce single-use plastic usage on a day-to-day level? We have five easy ways for you to get started. Making it part of your lifestyle creates habits that can create additional opportunities to reduce your plastic use in the future. 

#1: Swap Out Single-Use Plastic Water Bottles for Stainless Steel

Single-use plastic water bottles are convenient to grab-and-go in a pinch, but aren’t a sustainable option to get your daily water intake. Having a single, go-to water bottle provides convenience wherever you are and reduces your use of plastic. S’well bottles and drink containers are made of vacuum-insulated, 18/8 stainless steel with a unique technology designed to keep beverages hot or cold for longer. If you’re taking the reusable bottle with you outdoors for a hike or bike ride, for example, the water will stay at a refreshing temperature, a welcome relief on a warm day. 

Swapping a single-use plastic water bottle is a sustainable option that helps you stay hydrated on road trips, at work, and any other daily routines and activities by allowing you to refill it as much as necessary. By using a S’well beverage container, you’re reducing the amount of plastic waste that ends up in landfills and the ocean. Plus, you can customize your water bottle to match your style preference and personal needs.

Don’t stop at bottles alone, though. Replace your regular plastic food containers with stainless steel options as well. S’well Eats™ products keep food cold for 12 hours or hot for 7, which makes them perfect to take to work or the park and not worry about having to stick food in the refrigerator right away or pack a cooler full of ice to keep food at an ideal temperature – like a plastic container would require. Plan a picnic with pasta salad and fruits, plus cheese and crackers. You’ll have the perfect excuse to sit outdoors and snack al fresco without the need for single-use plastic packaging.

#2: Skip the Straws at Restaurants and Drive-Thrus

Some states, such as California, have eliminated the use of plastic straws in restaurants unless requested. When ordering food delivery, stopping at a drive-thru or frequenting your favorite eatery, opt out of using plastic straws. Many establishments are now offering paper straws as an alternative, if necessary. And some people choose to carry a reusable straw with them wherever they go.

It may seem like a small effort to save on single-use plastic straws, but there are an estimated 500 million plastic straws used every day. If everyone switched to drinking without a straw or using a sustainable alternative, it would create quite the impact.

The first step is to stay mindful of use. For example, when ordering a beverage at a restaurant, specifically request no straw in your drink. Or when ordering takeout or delivery through popular food apps, decline the plastic silverware. Use your at-home utensils instead. In addition to cutting out the use of plastic straws, you’re eliminating the use of single-use plastic cutlery and its plastic packaging as well. For any plastic items you do accumulate, put them in a separate at-home bin for recycling. 

#3: Carry Reusable Bags When Possible

As with single-use plastic straws, the use of plastic bags have also been restricted in some states. While they are currently available again due to Covid-19 in grocery stores, you can still carry reusable bags made of cloth or other sustainable material to the farmers market or when running errands. This allows you to save on the amount of single-use plastic needed for the exchange while maintaining a higher level of sanitation. 

When you must use plastic bags, repurpose them as trash can liners or use them to create cushioning for shipping or packing. Giving plastic bags new life will help to reduce the amount that’s circulated. Lastly, check your local neighborhood stores for recycling bins that accept single-use plastic bags. Often, this is separate from what is allowed in citywide pickups. Dedicate at least one day a month to collect all of your plastic recyclables and take them to the recycling drop-off at once. It’ll feel like a huge accomplishment without much work. 

#4: Schedule Fewer Shipments for Online Orders 

While it’s best to buy local when possible to support vendors in your own community, the need for online delivery will arise. When ordering several items from one place at once, many stores will give you the option of having everything shipped at the same time versus having items shipped as they are available. Usually, this doesn’t alter the time it takes for you to receive your order and will save substantially on packaging costs, including plastic wrap and other materials. 

When you go to the checkout part of your order, brands and retailers that offer this solution will provide a check box to allow you get everything in a larger, single shipment. In addition to the reduced amount of single-use plastic materials necessary, it also saves on fuel needed for transport as well. Shop from your neighborhood stores when possible to support small business, but when you need something shipped, it’s easy to reduce how much plastic is used to wrap your products.

#5: Seek Out and Support Sustainable Brands 

Through technology and innovation, an increasing number of brands are sourcing ways to manufacture sustainable products in an effort to use less virgin plastic. This is achieved through how they package their products, the materials or ingredients used in the product itself or company initiatives that focus on how to reduce plastic usage. Certifications like B Corp highlights companies that are making a positive impact on the environment. 

It’s becoming easier to align with sustainable brands as companies move forward with their own efforts of giving back to the environment. They are becoming more transparent with regards to where the product is made and if their packaging can be recycled. You’ll also know if they make any donations toward environmentally-friendly efforts to boost sustainable best practices.

Additionally, outdoor festivals, concerts and other organized events have taken big strides in their efforts to provide alternative resources at events to reduce plastic usage. From offering filtered water stations, free reusable swag, promoting single-use plastic-free products and utensils, and setting up recycling stations throughout the venue, it has become easier to get by without heavy plastic consumption, while still enjoying things you love. 

Once you start to change your habits in these small increments, you’ll notice how easy it is to make the switch and reduce your use of single-use plastic. There are either alternatives available or you may realize you don’t need as much plastic as you originally thought to carry out your regular activities. It doesn’t cause a disruption to your day; plus, it gives back to the environment in a favorable way. 

Encouraging Others to Reduce Their Single-Use Plastic Usage

Cities are creating ways to encourage everyone to reduce their single-use plastic consumption. Many public spaces have recycling bins, while others take initiatives even further by separating out the recyclables into different compartments so you know where to throw your plastic, paper and compostable materials. Airports have automatic recycling areas to put your used products and city cleanup efforts help to prevent single-use plastic waste from cluttering neighborhoods. 

Another easy way to help others learn how to reduce use of plastic is to treat them to gifts made out of sustainable materials. Popular, purposeful gifts include reusable water bottles, cloth tote bags, and clothing made out of recycled materials. Introducing alternatives eases people into the idea of going plastic-free. It may make them fall in love with a brand they didn’t know about before and inspire them to share the goodness with others.

Each step you take toward reducing your own single-use plastic usage has lasting positive effects on your community and the environment. Plus, it allows you to walk away with less clutter in your home, car and office. Start small and build upon the ways that make sense for you to cut back on your use of single-use plastic products. You may not be able to or even want to try everything at once, but choose the way or ways that you can stick to for long-lasting and impactful results.