There are many ways we can be kinder to the environment, but one of the best and easiest ways to make a difference is to make little changes in our everyday lives. At the grocery store and in our homes, there are simple choices we can all make that can have a huge impact. You guessed it—we’re talking about plastic.
Plastic is one of the most ubiquitous environmental pollutants. This material is present in so many single use, everyday products that many of us don’t even realize how our choices are impacting the planet. The good news though is that with a little bit of planning and thoughtfulness, we can all ensure our kitchens are contributing to a more environmentally friendly future.
The Problem With Plastic
There’s a reason plastic is so popular. Developed in 1907, plastic is a synthetic polymer that can be molded to different shapes. While this is excellent for applications that require airtight, watertight or antibacterial uses, plastic has a big downside when it comes to everyday items. Plastic bottles can take at least 450 years to decompose, while plastic bags can require up to 1,000 years. According to EcoWatch, we have produced more plastic in the last ten years than in the last century, and 50% of the plastic we use, we simply use once then throw away.
Our consumption of plastics is overwhelming, but there are many ways we can help stem the flow. The ideal place to start is by reducing the use of plastic in your kitchen—and it’s easier to do than you think.
- Check the packaging. It may seem obvious, but there is usually an option on the shelf for a product with less (or no) plastic that might use paper products instead. Opt for cardboard (more easily recycled), or go for products that don’t require a package (like fresh fruit and vegetables). Most importantly, bring your own bags whenever you go to the grocery store.
- Buy as many items as you can from the bulk section. That nicely packaged bag of flour, walnuts or spices might be marked up a pretty penny over the bulk section, so it pays to do away with labels. Many grocery stores today allow you to bring your own containers for the bulk section, which allows you to avoid using plastic bags.
- When shopping for protein, take note of the labels, and when you have a free minute, look up the supplier’s attitude toward pollution and plastics. Farms like Regal Springs have a strict zero waste policy, which means that all of the waste generated is funneled back into a productive use.
- Invest in bamboo utensils and quality stainless steel or cast iron cooking tools. When sourcing new kitchenware items, consider if you really need an item with plastic, or if you can purchase one without. Did you know that wooden cutting boards “breathe” and thus are safe for all kinds of cooking and chopping? There’s no need for plastic cutting boards as long as you wash your boards well between uses and let them completely air dry before putting them away.
- One great way to reduce plastic use is to simply reduce trash, and therefore your use of garbage bags. When you can, take a second to separate packaging and other waste into recyclable and non-recyclable, and make sure to place it in its proper receptacle. While you’re at it, consider other little swaps: substitute bar soap for plastic pump hand wash, and choose biodegradable sponges over their less eco-friendly counterparts.
Next time you’re in the kitchen, take a look around you and think about what single use plastics you can replace with longer-wearing materials. Use a critical eye when grocery shopping, particularly when looking at packaging, and make choices that will benefit the environment. It’s truly easier than you think to reduce the amount of plastic waste you produce, so make the switch and do your part for planet Earth.
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Photo Credits: ITTIGallery / Shutterstock Inc., Aleksandra Suzi / Shutterstock Inc., Jacob Lund / Shutterstock Inc.