If you’re on the internet a lot, like I am, I’m sure you’ve heard all about what I like to call “The Straw Movement” or more specifically “The Reusable Straw Movement.” It seems like everyone and their mother is talking about straws, and sea turtles, and the ocean.
There has been a call for governments to ban plastic straws all together, or replace all straws with paper straws. Not to mention the promotion and sales of reusable straws going through the roof. With google searches quadrupling for the term “reusable straw” since the year 2017.
Naturally, there are those who support both sides as well as those who are indifferent to the subject, or even annoyed and wish people would just. Quit. talking. About it!
While many influencers are now posting about sustainability and posing with their cute, reusable straws and Starbucks cups, they have also been gaining a lot of hate from the sustainability movement for “not doing enough.” As well as for perpetuating the idea that switching to reusable straws, while maintaining their current levels of plastic and single-use consumption, is going to in anyway, change the planet.
This frustrates me to no end. In regards to the people who are celebrating their new reusable straws I want to say, “Thank you! Thank you for making an effort because it means you’re paying attention!” Is there way more that we all could be doing to help reduce our impact, yes of course, but recognizing that there is a problem and being motivated to do something about it (no matter how small) is a HUGE step in the right direction.
So STOP shaming people for “not doing enough” and START educating them on alternatives they may not be aware of. In honor of that I want to take a minute today to share some of the swaps I have made or plan to make in my life to be a little more sustainable and reduce my consumption.
First, I’m gonna take you all back to Elementary school now and talk about the 3R’s. Yeah you already know them “Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.” Looking back I don’t know why they were so insistent on teaching this to children when it was the adults that truly needed the education, perhaps they knew that that generation was already lost and it was up to us, the kids, to be the change, but I digress. As I have grown older my journey with sustainability has deepened and I have realized the most important of the 3R’s is the first, “Reduce.”
There would be no need to find reusable or recyclable options if the product wasn’t even being produced in the first place.
Since I am an adult this has been helpful on the wallet as well. I want to say that the first two often go hand in hand and here are some examples of how I have changed my consumer habits to be more eco- friendly.
Stop buying (new) clothes
While yes, there are some clothes I will always buy new, like undergarments and swimsuits, I have tried to reduce the amount of clothes that I have in my closet period. Because let’s be honest, I’m just going to wear the same four T-shirts and leggings every day anyway, and no I won’t wear that dress in the back of my closet that doesn’t fit right and isn’t even my style, but I keep “just in case.”
When I do buy clothes I try to buy from local consignment shops or even thrift shops, this is cheaper on the wallet as well as helps to not bring more clothes into the existing market, thus creating more waste.
On the occasional chance that I buy new clothes (because while I try to minimize it, I’m not perfect) I try to shop locally so that my money gets put back into the community I’m in (whether at home or abroad). If I am buying clothes online I try to buy from retailers whose products are both sustainably made, as well as has sustainable packaging and one that I know contributes some of their profit to organizations I am committed to as well.
If you pay attention enough on my Instagram you’ll see that I wear this tee A LOT. This T-shirt is from the brand Wholesome Culture, they have an amazing business model surrounding sustainable packaging and sourcing as well as giving back. Check out more about them on their website and use code WHOLESOME-kbcpph for 10% off your first purchase!
As always, before I buy something I take serious consideration to whether I truly need that item and exactly how long I see myself using it, realistically.
Stop buying online, or buy in bulk
I LOVE Amazon. But they REALLYYY need to get it together when it comes to packaging!! Just the other day I bought some reusable travel utensils which I intended to use at work and keep in my car to replace plastic utensils that I used at fast food restaurants (like where I work).When I opened the package though I found that each one was wrapped in plastic (See photo below). Essentially defeating the purpose of what I was trying to do, reduce my plastic consumption.
Keeping this in mind, when I do purchase online I try to buy things in bulk and have everything shipped at once, instead of in several trips like can sometimes happen. I know in this age of instant gratification, and 2 day shipping, we want our things as soon as possible, but if you can get your items maybe a day or two later but get to help save the planet isn’t it all worth it in the end?
If I don’t have a lot that I need to get from Amazon etc at once I’ll ask my friends if they are looking to get anything and I’ll put it all on my order to reduce the amount of trips the truck has to take delivering the packages as well as reducing the amount of packaging the items are in. It’s 2019 we all have Venmo, so don’t start arguing with me about the money side of it either.
Invest in quality (Shoes, bags, etc)
This is another one that is good on the wallet as well as the environment. It comes back to our number one “R,” reduce. By investing in quality backpacks, jeans, shoes, and winter coats I can use what I have for years to come before needing to buy new ones. This of course means I have more money in my pocket, but again means that the less I am buying the less needs to be produced in the first place. The idea here is to think about the impact of every item you buy. Think about how when you finish with it where is it going? Is it something that can be recycled or repurposed? Or is it something that will just end up in a landfill? So when you’re about to impulse buy, think to yourself “how many years of use am I going to give this product?”
I am ashamed to say I wasn’t a big fan of recycling at first. I grew up with it, my parents had about 3 or 4 garbage bins outside our house for us to separate our trash into. It was honestly a pain and I hated it. Once I grew up and move out however, recycling became much easier for me. Partly, because it grew in popularity and there are now you see recycling bins at universities, offices, and coffee shops all around. The other reason was living alone. Since I am a single 23 year old who lives alone the trash in my apartment is often slim to none. This allows me to not only recycle, but do it properly (yes, there is a right and a wrong way to recycle, stay tuned for my recycling post later this week!). One thing that really helped me was making a system, this meant reusing cardboard boxes I already had to become separate “trash bins” for the different types of recycling that I do (glass, paper/cardboard, and plastic).
Even though my system is homemade there are an abundance of options at various price points available to purchase if you need a more stable system to support a larger household, or you just want your kitchen to look a little nicer. These all come with their own benefits and drawbacks, comment on this post or my instagram if you want to see me do a review of the various systems!
Stop using single-use plastic
I know this gets talked about A LOT, but I want to crunch some numbers for you real quick. I’m an iced coffee kind of gal okay? I get me an iced coffee almost every day of the week, especially if I am going to work or school. So let’s average that out to about 4/week, (lowballing it, honestly) means that I am throwing away 16 straws and 16 plastic cups each month, that’s 192 straws and cups per year (ONLY in iced coffee cups, that doesn’t include going out to eat, or other drinks I may pick up throughout the day etc). Since the average lifetime is around 80, and if we say I started drinking coffee around when I was 20 years old, that means in my lifetime I will single handedly be responsible for nearly 12,000 straws, 12,000 plastic cups. That’s 12,000 cups and straws that will each take 1,000 years to decompose.
Those are the numbers for me ALONE and remember, I’m only talking about iced coffee cups and straws! There is so much more plastic we waste everyday, including plastic utensils you get at fast food restaurants, plastic bags from the grocery store etc. Can you just imagine the damage we are doing to our planet, and ourselves by throwing away the amount of plastic that we do?? It may seem like a small swap or that you “aren’t doing enough” but when you add it up, you are saving not just the planet but saving the future of humanity. The planet will keep on evolving, the true risk is that of our own kind.
As always, the opinions and belief’s posted here are those of my own, I know every is allowed to have their own ideas on sustainability. I’d love to talk! Comment below what your thoughts are! Do you do these things? What more do you do to help reduce your footprint?
Everywhere you go the culture is different, but the people are the same.