Giving Up Plastic for a Week, How Minor Changes Can Go a Long Way

As a South Florida native, it is impossible not to notice how an abundance of plastic is changing the landscape of the coast; beaches are becoming laden with soda cans, bottles, straws, plastic bags and every possible non-recyclable item created by man. It is not uncommon to see videos on the local news channel of some sea-life that has been ensnared in plastic or consumed too much of it, struggling to survive or dying too soon.

In a viral video posted on YouTube, over 34 million people have now seen the disturbing footage of a sea-turtle wincing in pain as marine biologist Christine Flaggner removes a 4-inch plastic straw from its nasal cavity. The response was immediate, with public outcry over the harm single-use plastics are having on the environment and on its wildlife, efforts were made to reduce waste. 

Wanting to contribute in some way, I vowed to eliminate single-use plastic in my everyday life for a week. A feat, I thought, would be a simple task, until I realized how much of my life revolves around a dependency on plastic. From my toothbrush to my shopping trips, the number of times I used plastic in a day was alarming; however, I found that if I made smaller alterations in my purchases, the amount of waste I’d produce would double down. 

I began by collecting reusable bags (most of which are given out in and around campus when the university hosts events such as the Part-Time Job Fair, be sure to keep an eye out for one) and noticed that because grocery stores such as Walmart tend to double bag, the number of plastic bags I had in my home went down immediately. Likewise, during my shopping trip, I became the proud owner of a water filter pitcher and replaced plastic water bottles with reusable water bottles with life-spans of roughly 5 years. These were important steps considering that plastic bags and bottles are the main items found in the 8.8 million tons of plastic trash on beaches and in the ocean.

Courtesy: Green Matters


I was the most prepared to cast away straws. My time working as an usher in a movie theater taught me exactly how much of this plastic menace is thrown away, and as we’ve seen, it has caused enough damage on its own. For the rare occasion where I do need a straw, I bought a metal one for a mere two dollars. Sure, it is a bit of a hassle to carry it around in my purse from time to time, but it’s a small sacrifice to make in the grand scheme of things. Paper straws can also be purchased on-campus during Market Wednesday’s: one vendor, in particular, sells large enough straws that can be used for boba tea.

One item I struggled giving up on was store-bought coffee. Most places use plastic for the containers, and while cafés like Starbucks have created a no-straw lid, the cup itself is still plastic. Instead, I found refuge in a local coffee shop, Calvin’s, located just to the left of the Dunkin’ Donuts on campus. When I had no time to make coffee at home, I found solace at Calvin’s. All of the coffee at Calvin’s is offered in mugs, and while this means that it is not offered to-go, taking your own tumbler proved an easy solution. 

By the end of my week, I found that despite minor inconveniences, there was little reason to go back to using certain single-use plastics. The world as we know it is changing, struggling to live side-by-side with the waste humans have produced. In making small changes to our everyday life, we relieve some of the stress is bares.