College Sustainability: Five Single Use Plastics to Ditch Forever

By now everyone and their mother has heard about how horrible plastic straws are for the environment, resulting in a pretty widespread semi-controversial ban on straws. It surprises me though that people are so worked up about straws but ignores the fact that their entire cup and lid that are plastic as well. 

Plastic is literally everywhere and is practically unavoidable, but the effect it has on our planet is devastating. It never truly breaks down, but when it does it becomes tiny pieces of microplastic that end up in fish that we can potentially ingest. There is an estimated 270,000 tons of plastic in the ocean according to a 2018 study. 

Although plastic is practically unavoidable in everyday life, cutting out single-use plastics is an easy but effective way to reduce your plastic waste. Here are a few items you can replace with reusable and sustainable alternatives.

 

  1. 1. Single-use plastic utensils

    To avoid single-use plastic utensils when you're on the go, opt for a reusable bamboo utensil set

  2. 2. Water bottles

    Reusable water bottles are everywhere nowadays and seem like a bit of a no-brainer when it comes to sustainability and reducing your plastic waste. There are a billion water bottle brands out there, but my favorite is Hydroflask because I'm basic (they really are the best though!). They really do make an impact on the environment and can last for years, so they're a great investment! The same can also be done with reusable ceramic coffee cups for your essential daily Starbucks stop. You even get a discount if you bring your own cup!

  3. 3. Plastic grocery bags

    Another easy alternative is to bring your own bags to the grocery store - which is another huge trend but truly is useful. And you don't need to buy a fancy cloth grocery bag, just save your paper or plastic bags for the next time you shop! You can also save the little plastic bags used for produce at grocery stores and reuse them, or buy reusable mesh bags

  4. 4. Takeout containers

    Something that I hadn't thought about until I read it in an article recently is bringing your own Tupperware to restaurants in case you have leftovers. Takeout containers are incredibly wasteful, even when they're paper they are typically lined with plastic that makes them impossible to compost. 

  5. 5. Plastic wrap

    I'm sure that this everyday kitchen item totally escapes your mind when you think about single-use plastics, but plastic wrap is literally impossible to use more than once. It's such a common item that the amount of waste it creates must be devastating, but it's easily replaceable with beeswax food wraps, which are super user-friendly. They're easy to wash and reuse and totally come in hand to wrap up any food item you need to pop in the fridge. 

There are a lot of other little plastic items that can be replaced with sustainable alternatives, but this list is just a few things to get you started! I’ve recently been fascinated with sustainable living and have been making small changes in my own personal life that have made me feel better about my environmental impact. While individual consumers aren’t the ones that are completely to blame for climate change (cough cough massive corporations that aren’t held accountable), companies will respond to what consumers buy, and if they see that people are interested in more environmentally products, they may change their production practices and have a better impact overall.

So go out there and try your best to live plastic-free, even a little bit makes a difference and who knows, maybe your friends will catch on and living ‘zero’ waste will become the new norm!