The transition to a sustainable lifestyle can be daunting. Many of us are so accustomed to plastic products that it’s hard to imagine life without them. But if we make changes step-by-step, the transition becomes a lot easier. Here are some basic steps to avoid plastics and other single-use items.
Plastic avoidance is important because plastics do not decompose quickly, unlike most natural materials. The decomposition of organic material actually aids ecosystems, which is the basis of composting. However, plastic’s slow rate of decomposition became a huge problem with the dawn of single-use items. About 40% of all plastic produced is used for short-life products. These plastics, sometimes used for only minutes, can stick around in nature for hundreds of years. Plastic clogs oceans, kills wildlife, disrupts ecosystems, and sometimes even breaks down and enters our drinking water.
To do your part for the earth, the first step is to identify what plastics you’re currently using and eliminate those you don’t actually need. There are some items that many have already substituted. Aluminum water bottles and cloth shopping bags are popular and easy to find. But most of us are still using much more plastic than this. Go room by room in your current living space—most of your single-use items are likely in the kitchen and the bathroom. Do you need Ziploc bags? What about body wash in a plastic container? Do you need straws? Based on your needs, the answer to any of these could be yes or no (some disabled people need straws, for instance), but deciding what is needed and what is merely a force of habit is the first important step.
Once you’ve weeded out items you don’t need, you can focus on how to substitute your single-use items that you do need with more sustainable options. Instead of paper towels, you can use regular cotton towels. Instead of plastic wrap, you can use a cotton-based alternative. Instead of shampoo in a single-use plastic container, buy from a seller who provides refillable containers. All of these examples, and many more, are now readily available on the market.
Food is another single-use culprit. Focus first on plastic-packaged edibles. Things like cereal, pre-washed lettuce, and pre-packaged deli meat. Some of these are easily substituted at the grocery, but some items may necessitate special trips to eco-friendly stores. An Oasa community could also coordinate to buy food in bulk. Purchasing items at commercial quantities, such as cereal, means less packaging and more sustainable living.
Even your clothing can add to microplastic pollution. If it has synthetic fibers, it can be broken down into harmful particles. Instead, buy natural materials such as cotton, wool, silk, and hemp. Some things, like toothpaste, can be difficult to replace. For these items, you can actually make your own.
Sustainability begins with thoughtfulness about the products you use. When you’re part of a community of like-minded people, you’ll find that the substitutions aren’t so difficult at all.
Sources:The world's plastic pollution crisis explained