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Reduce Your Impact- Plastics (Part 2)

In this series, we’ll discuss topics that are effecting our environment, health, and community.   Plus, we’ll share some practical ideas to help reduce your impact and make choices you can feel good about.

In Part 1 of this series, we shared some staggering facts about plastics and how they’re affecting our health and environment.  Now we’re going to share our ideas to help eliminate plastics from your everyday routine.

Six Practical Ideas to Reduce Your Impact

With minimal effort, you can take steps to reduce your impact on plastic pollution.  Feel good about the choices you’re making for the environment and your health, and you might even save a little money along the way.   Here are some ideas to get you started.

1. Recycle – Recycle, recycle, recycle.  It’s pretty simple, just do it!

2. Dine In – rather than asking for items to-go, which are usually put in single-use containers, slow down and enjoy your meals and coffee breaks in establishments instead.  If you know you’ll have leftovers, bring your own reusable container.  We realize that during the COVID-19 pandemic dining in may not be practical, but hopefully will again soon.

3. Avoid Microbeads and Microfibers – Steer away from products that contain these materials which will immediately enter our waterways.   Check out this infographic on microbeads.

  • Instead of microbeads, look for products with natural exfoliants like sugar, baking soda or coffee, or try your hand at making your own.  
  • Microfibers are primarily used in fabrics for breathability or as a quick-drying element.   Aside from cotton and linen, wool is an increasingly popular alternative, plus its natural microbial properties requires less washing.

4. Reusable Items – This is a big category which means there are a lot of opportunities to reduce your plastic use!  Reusable products are often nicer than disposables, too, so make the switch and treat yourself to a little bit of luxury.  Here are some easy swaps to get you started.

Image Source: Sweet Simple Vegan

  • Water Bottles – Instead of paying for bottled water (which, by the way, leach chemicals into your water as they sit in hot warehouses, delivery trucks and your car), invest in a reusable water bottle.   Insulated stainless steel bottles are durable, don’t need ice, and don’t sweat.  Glass is another great option.  Fill up your bottle before leaving home and refill at a water filter station, which are quickly replacing water fountains.  
  • Grocery Bags – I love these for many reasons.   Most stores offer a discount if you bring your own bags.  They’re sturdier than plastic or paper, and some are insulated to keep your food cold on the way home, too.  Try keeping one in your car for unplanned trips, but if you find yourself at the store without a bag simply ask for paper instead of plastic.
  • Produce Bags – Invest in a set of organic cotton produce bags to stash in your reusable   grocery bag.  Skip the choking hazard, thin plastic bags that you’ll immediately throw away when you get home.  The produce you so carefully picked out deserves a nice bag!
  • Coffee Cups – If you drink your coffee on the go, bring an insulated mug to fill instead of using disposable cups (often Styrofoam) with plastic lids.  Did you know that many coffee shops offer a discount if you bring your own vessel?   If you’re enjoying a cup at a local shop, ask for a mug, or bring your own and enjoy the discount, too.  At home or in your office, you can brew your choice of beans in a reusable pod instead of K-cups.
  • Food Containers – Invest in glass food storage containers to reduce your exposure to plastic.  They’re more versatile (oven, microwave and dishwasher safe) and don’t come with all the negative health concerns of heated plastic exposure.  
  • Sandwich/Snack Bags – There are lots of alternatives to single use plastic storage bags –  silicone bags, washable sandwich bags (bonus: kids love these), beeswax food wraps, etc.  Sure, it’s an investment up front, but in the long run you’ll save money over baggies and you’re reducing your food’s exposure to plastic and harmful chemicals.
  • Straws – I once read that drinking from a straw will cause wrinkles around your mouth, but if you think that’s a hoax and prefer them (or need them for kids) look for paper, silicone or steel straws instead.   With the recent straw bans, these trendy straws have become easy to find.
  • Travel Items – Skip the pre-packaged travel sized items and refill your own travel containers instead.  Or try shampoo bars and toothpaste tablets for plastic and liquid free travel, which are often made of healthier ingredients, too.

5. Buy In Bulk – While you may have a need for 30 lbs. of rice, buying in bulk doesn’t just mean getting a massive quantity of something.  This category can save lots of money and reduce your plastic consumption.

  • Larger Packages – Instead of buying multiple small containers of items you use often, consider buying bigger packages.   Packaging is expensive, so bigger packages are often cheaper by volume and produce less waste.  Wholesale clubs like Costco and Sams are great for this, but other stores often have larger packages, too.   Go ahead, stock up!
  • Bulk Bins – Whether you need a little or a lot, buying from bulk bins for your reusable containers can be cost effective and reduce waste.  You’ll primarily find dry goods like flours, coffee, nuts and spices, but household items are becoming available in bulk, too.   Check out this list of local stores where you can purchase in bulk.

6. Zero Waste Stores – I love that these stores are popping up across the country!  Refill or zero-waste stores are on a mission to improve our environment and our health, offering a great selection of reusable products and refills on household items.  Most of them will ship to you and some offer local delivery on product refills.  

Image Source: Fill More Waste Less, Cincinnati, OH

Start with something simple like reusable grocery bags and water bottles.  Challenge yourself to try a few more ideas from the list.  Every little bit makes a difference, truly.  

We’d love to hear your practical tips to reducing plastic use.  #reduceyourimpact #nomoreplastics

Written by Susan Rudolph, Client Engagement Specialist at Ohana Wealth & Life Planning.   Ohana is based in Cincinnati, OH and specializes in life and financial planning along with ESG (Environmental, Social, Governance) investing principles.    The firm is an independent financial advisor and a fee-only fiduciary.  Susan and the Ohana team also enjoy volunteering and giving back to their local communities.  You can reach Susan at susan@ohanaplanning.com.