By Mary Ann Garwood
When did this journey start for me? Thanks to the opening of a Whole Foods in my home town in 2004 that encouraged you to bring your own bags, I purchased my first reusable grocery bag. I still have and use that bag today. It was a catalyst for me to use them everywhere. A local coffee shop soon after started allowing you to bring in your own mug (bring a clean mug people, don’t be gross!) and this kicked off my habit of using reusable coffee mugs, a habit that then turned in to me traveling with my own coffee/water bottle, silverware and reusable bag to keep up the effort wherever I go. Reducing my footprint to the best of my ability is my ultimate goal. While I am by no means perfect, I make sure sustainability is a factor in all my purchase decisions and something I continually work at.
At Commvault, our CMO, Chris Powell, recently set forth a challenge for Plastic-Free July and given my passion for this initiative, I wanted to share my thoughts and lessons I have learned over the years of working toward being as sustainable as possible.
My passion toward this initiative stems from one simple fact – plastic is harmful. It is made from petroleum, which is a limited resource, it doesn’t biodegrade, it just breaks up into smaller pieces, and many plastics are made to be used only once and then thrown away – or recycled if we are lucky.
What is even more appalling is the amount of this harmful stuff we produce in a year. According to research stated by Plastic Oceans, we are producing more than 300 million tons of plastic every year, 50 percent of which is for single-use purposes. Even worse is that most of this plastic ends up in our Oceans, polluting them and hurting the sea life. So, what can you do to help?
Tip No. 1: Take it Slow
Going plastic free, you might be initially tempted to throw out everything plastic in your house and start fresh with “greener” options. Please avoid this temptation! Having these items end up in a landfill when they still have useful life in them doesn’t help the environment. Instead, replace items with more sustainable choices when your old items wear out.
Tip No. 2 Reduce Your Food Waste
Are you in a rush, so you are always grabbing to-go items? Besides bringing your own mugs and containers, think about food prep as a way to cut down on plastic use. According to Project Drawdown, reducing food waste is the No. 1 thing a person can do to reduce their climate impact. If you actually put those leftovers in a reusable container and bring them for lunch the next day – think of the impact of that! And, honestly, it is probably healthier for you and will save you money.
Tip No. 3 Reduce Your Office Plastic
Annoyed that we have plastic at work? Change starts with you! Bring your own plates, cups and silverware. Just make sure you keep your items clean!
Tip No. 4: Be Aware of Sneaky Plastic
Food packaging is a huge area of single use plastic that often gets overlooked. For example, tea bags are individually wrapped in plastic. This list could go on and on. Buying loose items and purchasing in bulk, along with bringing your own containers, goes a long way in the fight against plastic.
Tip No. 5: Tame That Online Shopping Addiction
Two day shipping is super convenient, but you get a mountain of plastic that surrounds your items – which is actually hard, if not impossible, to recycle even though it says it is! Try finding those items locally instead. Even better if they are second hand! It keeps the item out of a landfill. Second-hand goods have no packaging, nothing to assemble (bonus!) and are typically cheaper. It is what all the cool kids are doing! Seriously, entire blogs and Instagram accounts focus on how to find the best “vintage” items or mend clothing instead of buying new.
Tip No. 6: Know Your Recycling
When buying items, consider if the containers can even be recycled in your area. While an item may have a recycle symbol on it, not every local facility can accommodate. For example, those boxed waters… sure the outside is paper, but inside is a layer of polyethylene plastic and aluminum. A lot of facilities can’t handle them and they end up in the landfill anyways. You can mail some of these items into a recycling program, but most people don’t. Glass was always a good choice, but is also becoming harder to recycle due to costs. Try reusing glass containers for something else, like your bulk goods. Aluminum is a good alternative because it can be recycled over and over again, requires less energy and doesn’t use petroleum like plastic does. But lately, even aluminum recycling is coming into question because of a huge drop in the price of recycling. So the short of it is, don’t rely on recycling as an answer regardless of the material.
What’s next? I love lists, so take inventory while you are doing this challenge of where plastic pops up in your life. What sticks out the most to you? Are there certain areas that you notice where single use plastics could be eliminated? How about plastic in general? What about other non-reusable items?
Use this list to start on your sustainability journey. And remember, every little bit counts!
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