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Ways To Switch To More Eco-Friendly Products

More and more people recently have been able to understand the unfortunate and ongoing plastic pollution problem haunting our oceans and ecosystems. An obvious solution to this issue would be for people to start taking awareness of their carbon footprint and use of single-use plastics, but many people don’t know where to begin. We start asking ourselves questions. How do we reduce the number of plastics in our lives when it feels like plastic is everywhere? How easy is it to find eco-friendly alternatives for common everyday plastic products? What sort of eco-friendly products should I start out with? If these are common questions that you find yourself asking, then I hope that this article can help you to answer some of them!

The obvious one: straws

We are all aware by now of the “save the turtles” movement where people are starting to wake up and say goodbye to plastic straws. This is a great thing, but it’s only part of the single-use plastic problem. Did you know those plastic straws actually only contribute 0.025% of the plastic that enters the ocean annually? It’s crazy to think that although these do produce a negative impact on marine life and contribute to the microplastic issue, that there is a lot more that can be done to make a change! Regardless, it is always okay to start small!

Although they are single-use, paper is always better than plastic! Still wanna be able to dispose of that straw when you’re done? Buy yourself a pack of paper straws to keep in your glove box. They are inexpensive and easy to use.

Most people though prefer a more reusable option. Metal and silicone straws have both become very popularized within the past few years. Can’t choose one? Try both! My favorite type of straw to use is metal straws with a silicone tip. They are easy to poke through the top of the drink and keep stable, and they aren’t uncomfortable biting down on.

Don’t forget that there are portable options! I hear a lot of people regularly mention to me that they wish they would use reusable straw options more often, but it is difficult to both remember to bring and to lug around a straw all day. My new favorite thing is my straw keychain! You can find these almost anywhere and especially on amazon. Its just a small case that can hang off of your keys that can hold a retractable or telescopic straw inside. There are both metal and silicone options for these out there.

Cutlery

This one is quite similar to straws and also becoming quite popularized. Many many food places give out single-use plastic cutlery to their customers. Clearly a contributor to the plastic pollution issue. Much like straws, these products are also unfortunately almost impossible to recycle. But good news! There are plenty of easy-to-find reusable cutlery options out there! Some of these options are even portable too! I would definitely recommend checking out the 4Ocean website, they have a great eco-friendly portable and reusable cutlery set that goes for $15 and every purchase pulls a pound of plastic out of the ocean! Can’t get any better than that.

Shower products

Everybody showers and everybody needs shower products. But how often when reaching for something to wash off with are you touching a piece of plastic? From razors to shampoo bottles to loofas, there’s plastic all over the inside of our showers. This may make it seem extremely difficult to find sustainable and plastic-free shower products, but they are actually very accessible! You can gradually make simple switches by going out to stores like TJ Maxx and trading your plastic loofa for a cotton one, or shopping online and switching your shampoo bottles for a shampoo bar.

shopping bags

Produce bags, grocery bags, and shopping bags are all single-use plastic. While these can be seen as convenient at times, finding eco-friendly options like reusable tote bags is probably the easiest out of all of these products to find. Near the checkout sections of almost any store imaginable, you are likely to find some inexpensive reusable bag options. Most of these are incredibly easy and lightweight to carry around. Also, choosing grocery stores that have paper bag options is a very sustainable way to go.

Toothbrushes

Ever think about how many single-use plastic products you touch each day? The first thing that you are likely to reach for in the morning is your toothbrush. Start your morning right and feel better about your carbon footprint by swapping your plastic toothbrush for a bamboo one. These are much better for the environment, and in my opinion, they look better too! On top of that, there are also a number of plastic-free floss picks as well! You can find options like this almost anywhere lately. Try browsing around your local drug store or Target or Walmart and you will absolutely find options to make yourself feel better about your steps toward a plastic-free life.

Beauty/Hygiene products

Simple, everyday beauty products can unfortunately sometimes be a detriment to the environment. Things like cotton swabs, cotton balls, cotton pads, and period products, are all things that there are nice eco-friendly alternatives to. Just making a simple switch from regular cotton product options to organic cotton products can be a sustainable choice. It’s also good to pay attention to the packaging that your products are coming in, products that come in a small cardboard box or probably slightly better for the environment than the ones that come in thin plastic bags. You can find things like cotton swabs with bamboo sticks instead of paper or plastic ones, or a reusable diva cup instead of a package of pads or tampons. All of these are great options to consider switching over to, to make a difference in the environment.

Nicole Rooney

Winthrop '24

Nicole Helton Rooney sophomore environmental studies major from surfside beach South Carolina.
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